Improving Scarborough starts with a smile for a stranger, or a kind word, say two people who have seen the results.
Anne Gloger says community building can begin with helping someone with their groceries or feeding someone who is hungry.
And community building is contagious. It is groups of residents picking up garbage together at a community clean up day; it is a community choir, an art project and a festival,” said Gloger, director of the East Scarborough Storefront, an agency partnership so admired it is now teaching its model to others.
The students, she wrote, “are always surprised to learn that community building isn’t just one type of activity, it isn’t just for a select few. It can be done every day by everyone.”
In the 12 years Gloger has worked in East Scarborough, she has seen it growing into real change.
“It is local businesses mentoring and employing local youth, it is neighbourhood groups working together to tackle big issues like transit and social assistance rates and it is tenant associations making change in apartment buildings.”
Gloger said there “is a role for all of us in making a better Scarborough” in 2013, a potential “breakthrough year” when thousands more local youth gain employment, hundreds of resident groups improve their neighbourhoods and dozens of new businesses set up shop.
Murray Hedges, chairperson of the Scarborough Association of Seniors, said he’s concerned about the “rude and dirty” impression others have of our city.
“I don’t think we mean to be rude. It just happens when people are distanced from one another by language and culture,” said Hedges, a resident since 1960 who recalls he once knew everyone living on his street, while many today don’t know their next-door neighbours.
“I think we need to move more towards pride in our neighbourhoods again. It is something we can all share,” said Hedges, adding each year he talks to more people who regularly walk along Huntingwood Drive.
“Some just stop and watch me destroy dandelions and give me a thumbs up. I also get honking horns for my efforts and one man actually stopped his truck and took me to Tim Hortons for a coffee. I was honoured. He lives in Brampton.”
It’s not entirely up to police to control bad behaviour or up to the city to get rid of litter - residents also have to do their part, said Hedges, who was a key organizer of local displays of gratitude on bridges over Hwy. 401 through Scarborough which paid tribute to fallen Canadian soldiers returning from Afghanistan on the Highway of Heroes.
“We need to smile more and make others feel good. We should get back to respecting our laws and bylaws instead of ignoring them or trying to find ways to get around them,” Hedges added.
“There is no reason for Scarborough not to be the most desired part of the city to live in again if we pull together. Would it not be nice to be known as ‘Scarborough the Clean and Courteous’?”