The City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department has recognized Upper Beach resident Marie Perrotta and the 10-member Jimmie Simpson Youth Council for their invaluable volunteer service to the community.
The annual awards honour groups and individuals for their generous contribution of time, leadership and effort to enhance city services and provide increased opportunities for residents to become engaged in their communities.
“We at Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation are honoured to celebrate our volunteers and the achievements that each of you has made to support the delivery of services to our communities,” said Jim Hart, the department’s manager, in a Nov. 3 letter.
“...I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of you whose volunteerism continues to make a difference in the lives of residents. Every one of you has varied personal experience, talent and background, but you all have a common commitment to parks, forestry and recreation.”
Perrotta, the founder and executive director of Pegasus Community Project, a local organization that provides programming for young adults with developmental disabilities, is the 2011 Individual of the Year for the Toronto and East York District.
Back in 1994, she created Pegasus Community Project with the goal of providing programming for young adults (aged 21 and older) with developmental disabilities.
The registered charity started off small at one location with five individuals. Today, it serves more than 40 and their families at three sites and operates a thrift store on Kingston Road in the Upper Beach.
Prior to founding Pegasus, Perrotta, whose 39-year-old son has autism, worked at The Hospital for Sick Children as a research coordinator as well as a French teacher.
She also volunteered in local schools advocating for an increase in support for disabled children and their families.
The 2004 Beach Citizen of the year, Perrotta is a recipient of the East Toronto Women of Distinction honour, the St. George Medal and most recently the Queen’s 60th Anniversary medal.
Born and raised in Buffalo, she’s called the Beach area home for more than 30 years.
The Jimmie Simpson Youth Council was also honoured at the Nov. 3 event as the Toronto and East York District’s 2011 Youth Group of the Year.
Created in 2009, the 10-member council has been an active force in the community creating positive change through volunteerism and programming at the Leslieville-area community centre.
The group, whose members have volunteered at several community events and have come up with numerous new outside-the-box programs at the Jimmie Simpson Community Recreation Centre, is made up of youth from high-risk environments.
Some of the youth council’s most notable achievements include combining literacy with hip hop to create a free program for teens, hosting a Police-Peace barbecue and helping establish The Society of Independent Sisters - Team Amazon, AKA SISTA, which aims to empower girls ages 12 to 16 and give them the tools they need to succeed in life.
- Joanna Lavoie