The journey to bettering the community in 2013 doesn’t have to be an insurmountable or intimidating task.
It just takes a steadfast commitment to respecting one another and a desire for a better future for all.
“I think these days we have so many big problems now. I feel people are feeling overwhelmed,” said Wendy Sung-Aad, development manager at Nellie’s Shelter for Women and Children in Riverdale.
“I think it’s really important in the new year for everyone to take a breath and remember you can contribute in your own way.”
Sung-Aad said bettering one’s community can be as simple as being a bit kinder like looking people in the eye as you pass them on the street.
“It’s all about connecting on a personal level. Just that is a contribution,” she said.
And while worthy organizations such as Nellie’s always appreciate those who donate funds and/or volunteer their time, Sung-Aad said it’s especially important we talk, listen and connect with each other.
Like Sung-Aad, Sister Gwen Smith, director of Riverside’s Mustard Seed outreach centre, spoke about the transformational powers of kindness.
“Smiling and saying hello as you pass people on the street can make all the difference,” she said, adding taking ownership of one’s community can begin with supporting local charities, even if it’s in a small way.
“Get involved, get out in your community,” she said, crediting local merchants and restaurateurs for doing their part to better the community by supporting local charitable groups and beautifying the neighbourhood.
For Susana Molinolo, a Little India-area mother and wife and an engaged Torontonian, the one thing she said helps improve communities is when people pick a cause that is near and dear to their hearts and commit to it for the long run.
“For example, you might want to clean and revitalize a local park. Know that you can’t do it alone, and that the changes won’t happen overnight,” Molinolo said.
“Enlist the help of family, friends, neighbours and your local councillor and host cleanup days, movie-in-the-park nights, picnics, and, yes, even more days of simply picking up other people’s garbage.”
Molinolo said the road might not be easy but in the long run it will all be worth it.
“Don’t despair. Just know it takes a village and years and years of love of nurturing, and eventually you will begin to see change,” she wrote in an email to The Mirror.
“Another powerful thing to do is sign petitions, write to your local political representatives...to tell them what’s important to you and your neighbours – i.e. save our pool, save our community centres, save our libraries.”
Molinolo, who created the Cupcakes 4 Haiti campaign to raise funds for the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean nation, said another way to better communities on macro and micro levels is to shop local.
“It empowers the community because it is a wonderful way to engage with your shop-owner neighbours, and because you can walk instead of drive. Every time you attend local bake sales, craft fairs, or garage sales or school fundraisers you are helping your neighbours, and by helping our neighbours is how we build strong communities.”