With the dawn of every new year, the residents of Etobicoke, Toronto and beyond often look toward resolutions of self betterment – from weight loss promises, to smoking cessation pledges, to vows to spend less and save more.
This year, The Guardian decided to explore what might happen if, as a community, the residents of Etobicoke took all that motivation and turned it outwards, towards their neighbours.
We asked three community leaders who spend their days working towards the betterment of Etobicoke – from the social service, faith, and police community – for advice on what Etobians can do to make their community better in 2013.
For Staff Sgt. Kim Scanlan, who headed 23 Division’s TAVIS initiative this year, it’s all about paying it forward – especially when it comes to employment opportunities for local youth.
“We have all this industry out here, and there’s got to be job opportunities, whether it’s co-op or whether it’s apprenticeships,” she said. “Whatever it is, I’d like to see employers recognize that people from this community are looking for work, they want to work, and we’d love to see that happen.”
Over at Albion Neighbourhood Services, director of programs and services Lisa Kostakis said improving the community is as simple as recognizing the assets already present in the community and working collaboratively to build upon them.
In order to do so, Kostakis said all stakeholders – from residents, to volunteers, agencies, school boards, police, politicians, business owners – must all band together to make a difference.
“As soon as we start focusing on our asset building and what we already have in our community – which is a wealth of vital, skilled, committed, dedicated people and families – then I think we can make a lot of positive changes. If we have our politicians, our institutions, our businesses, our agencies, all working together, that’s how we can better improve our community in 2013,” she said. “I think a lot of those partnerships are already happening, we just need to formalize them and I think we’re on our way. The groundwork has already been done.”
For Rev. Canon Andrew Sheldon, parish priest at All Saints’ Kingsway Anglican Church, communities are defined by their collections of individuals. So to better the self is to better the community.
“I think one of the best ways to make a better community is to focus on making yourself the best self you can be. A community is a collection of individuals, and if every individual in the community made their commitment to be the best that they can be, then that tells me that what you’ll have is a better community. If you have better individuals, you’ll have a better community,” he said. “Arguably, some of our communities are in the mess they’re in because individuals chose not to be their best, but to be their worst – whether that’s through greed or violence.
“When individuals do their worst, communities suffer. When individuals do their best, communities thrive.”