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Jan 03, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Neighbourhood association volunteer benched - literally

Ashley Upjohn heads project to bring unique benches to Gerrard Street merchants

Beach Mirror

East Toronto resident Ashley Upjohn’s hobby of refinishing furniture and home decorating is helping beautify her Gerrard/Woodbine neighbourhood.

Upjohn, who has lived in the emerging area with her equally handy husband, Kyle, for about two and a half years, is the coordinator of the Beach Hill Bench Project, an initiative of the recently rebranded Beach Hill Neighbourhood Association (BHNA).

The project began this past summer when the residents group started talking about installing new benches along the strip.

Instead, Upjohn thought it would be nice to do something a little bit different and took on the task of approaching several local merchants about the possibility of investing in a cost-sharing effort with the BHNA to install one-of-a-kind benches outside their stores and restaurants.

A member of the BHNA’s steering committee, Upjohn scoured online classified sites as well as yard/garage sales for old benches that would work well outside the various local businesses who had signed on to the project’s first phase.

“I looked for benches that fit with their store,” said Upjohn, the mother of an infant daughter named Brooklyn, adding she took into consideration sidewalk conditions as well as what colours and styles worked best.

At one point, she had eight benches waiting to be refinished in her backyard.

To date seven have been installed outside UK–Halsey Toronto Sailmaker, 1869 Gerrard St. E.; McCarthy’s Irish Pub, 1801 Gerrard St. E.; KS Piano Studio, 1975 Gerrard St. E.; Harry’s Variety, 1877 Gerrard St. E.; Grant Electronics, 1927 Gerrard St. E.; Upper Beach Café, 1917 Gerrard St. E.; and Atisha Buddist Centre, 1823 Gerrard St. E.

Upjohn credits her husband Kyle as well as area residents Nigel Burnett and Dani Gagnon for their invaluable help on the project, which is now done for the winter but is set to start up again in the spring.

Upjohn said she already has a few more local businesses in mind to approach.

“The benches give that special touch to the area and bring a sense of community,” said the social worker by day.

“(The project) has been so well received and the businesses love their benches.”

Visit www.beachhill.org or email bhnacontact@gmail.com for more information or to get involved in the Beach Hill Bench Project.

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