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Community. Every day I hear the word. But what does it mean to be a community? The dictionary defines it as “a social group whose members reside in a specific locality, share government and often have a common cultural and historical heritage”. Sure, that’s an okay definition but it also sounds pretty boring right?
At North York Harvest, we focus on community as part of our mission. It means more than just a boring definition – it means people coming together to make something incredible happen. It’s about respect, sharing, thoughtfulness and dignity.
One such community group in the NYH family has shown those incredible qualities and more.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Norma who resides in Lawrence Heights. This amazing woman brought her community together and is making a huge impact in the lives of others. Norma saw a need in her neighbourhood. She noticed that many of the seniors living in the area survive on very low incomes and, living alone, dealt with fear, depression, rejection and isolation. She realized that she could make a difference.
From gardening and grocery shopping, to coming for a visit and having a cup of coffee with them, Norma has been volunteering to support seniors in Lawrence Heights for years.
Quickly she realized she could bring her community together through the joy of food. When I asked her why food was so important, she told me, “The isolation these seniors feel can cause malnutrition. They are depressed and lonely so having them get together for a meal nourishes more than their bodies, it nourishes their hearts. I try to put myself in their shoes. I hope there is a program for me when I am that age.”
With the help of her neighbours, she put together a social lunch on Mondays for the seniors in her community. She reached out to NYH for food support – and because of your generosity, we were able to provide the ingredients for these meals. They were provided with fresh produce, meat, dairy and canned goods. Your support has also given them the opportunity to start a Wednesday coffee club as well as put on a couple of community barbecues.
I didn’t realize that many of the members of this group suffer from strokes, diabetes, mental illness or do not have the ability to cook for themselves. Norma told me how important the lunches and coffee dates are for seniors to get together in a place that is safe and welcoming.
“Many of the residents are afraid of getting out there because of their age, vulnerability, illness, mobility, depression or isolation. This type of activity gets them out of the house so they can interact with others who understand them. They feel respected.” This is what building community is really about.
She told me about the first meal the group had together and they enjoyed chicken noodle soup. They were delighted to enjoy a fresh cooked meal. “I was almost in tears when a client told me she couldn’t remember the last time she had homemade soup.” The idea of having a homemade bowl of soup may not seem like much, but to others it can mean the world.
As I listened to Norma share, I could hear her passion for these seniors and the role this program plays in their lives. “At the Canada Day barbecue, one of the seniors known for not being very interactive with others was dancing and having a great time. Another lady that can barely walk was dancing and holding hands with her son.”
I asked her how long she’d like to keep this program going – her answer … FOREVER. Her goal is to continue this program as long as the program has the resources to do so.
“We have a social responsibility to our seniors. We were dependent on our elders as children and one day we will be dependent on others. Every bit helps. Everyone involved can do wonders.”
Thanks to your generous support, NYH is able to welcome wonderful initiatives and community programs into our family. Programs like this prove what a community really is.
That’s so much more touching than a boring definition.
To support programs just like this one, please make a gift today!