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2017/03/08

Women's Day 2017

 

Every year on March 8th we celebrate International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange, to advocate for a better working world that is inclusive and gender equal. Since 2004, nearly 200 women have worked tirelessly to transform their lives in WoodGreen’s award winning Homeward Bound program. The women of Homeward Bound truly are Bold for Change. 

Homeward Bound is a comprehensive four year program that helps homeless or inadequately housed single mothers achieve lasting economic self-sufficiency. The program provides holistic support through housing, child care, access to a tuition paid college education, career track internships and job search support. 

During the last phase of Homeward Bound, there is a guaranteed career-track internship with members of The Homeward Bound Industry Council. This private sector partnership is made up of senior level human resource executives from banks, law firms, and IT corporations. 

During their internships, participants gain the hands on experience they need to be competitive in their job search in a wide variety of sectors like IT and computer programming, finance, law and in childcare. 

In a recent article published in the Toronto Star, Homeward Bound alumni Pauline Bogle credits Homeward Bound with providing her with the support and educational opportunities she needed to avoid the “poverty sinkhole”. Since graduating from Homeward Bound, Pauline has found employment in the banking industry and has been able to buy a condo. 

Homeward Bound truly engenders the concept of being “Bold for Change”. In 2013, WoodGreen partnered with The Boston Consulting Group to complete a Social Return on Investment analysis for the Homeward Bound program. BCG looked at the pre- and post-program socioeconomic status of the initial participant cohort. The results were incredible: BCG found that for every one dollar invested, the Homeward Bound program returned $4 back to society. 

Since the program began in 2004, 189 women and 299 children have lived at the Homeward Bound campus. With donor support, we hope to triple the impact and reach of the Homeward Bound program over the next three years. It takes $50,000 to change one life and transform an entire family. 

If you would like to be an advocate for change, and help us bring Homeward Bound to more women and their children, please consider donating to: 

http://www.woodgreen.org/GetInvolved/Donate.aspx

 


 

2017/03/08

A Testimonial: Working With Internationally Trained Professionals is a Rewarding Management Experience

 

Over the course of my career, I’ve relied on a network of University and PWC alumni colleagues and friends for help with hiring, career progression for ourselves and our mentees. Many of us coach and mentor youth finishing university degrees and also advocate for finance and accounting professionals who are newcomers to Canada. Within this group, many of our parents (or in some cases we ourselves) went through the experience of being new to Canada and having to restart established professional careers. We love to create first professional opportunities for youth and also for new immigrants to Canada. This practice of mentoring others has also helped all of us fill vacancies in our teams and hire great talent.

In one of these settings, I expressed a need to hire contract staff. My good friend introduced me to WoodGreen. She mentioned she had volunteered her time at WoodGreen earlier and had been impressed by the caliber of candidates and the level of training and mentorship offered to them by WoodGreen’s professional programs. I contacted the organisation and received several great profiles for hire and the rest of it is now history!

WoodGreen was very attentive to my hiring needs. My contact Nadjib, an employment consultant at WoodGreen, helped identify key areas of focus for the roles. He also helped me understand the profile of individuals who were available for hire. I met with Nadjib shortly after receiving several profiles to discuss partnering opportunities with WoodGreen and found him to be a great advocate for the community of job seekers that he represented.

Candidates who we hired at WoodGreen have received a lot of coaching and mentoring on the topic of working within the Canadian corporate sector. While English was not the first language of the individuals who I hired from there, they were all well versed in business communication thanks to the WoodGreen program. These candidates were more in tune with the Canadian work culture than other new immigrants who I had worked with in my career.

WoodGreen’s representative made it easy for me to understand the profile of the candidates who we were considering. They highlighted key strengths and development areas for each candidate which helped me optimize training and onboarding for the candidates we chose. There was no cost to using their service which was another bonus given the recruitment fees for trained professionals can be quite high.

I highly recommend WoodGreen as an efficient source of hiring.

Working with internationally trained professionals is a rewarding management experience. Many professionals come to Canada having fine-tuned their trade. Especially in the accounting and finance realm, many of the foreign designations and qualifications can translate easily into our Canadian hiring needs. Most foreign professionals are eager to obtain a first role in Canada and once obtaining it, they are incredibly open to coaching and development. This has been a key positive for me as a hiring manager because the combination of well-developed technical skillsets and open-ness to coaching on soft skills development often creates a great employee-employer relationship.

 

Saeideh Fard, CPA-CA, CPA (IL) Chief Financial Officer, Traveledge

 


 

2017/01/12

A New Season of Hope

This time of year can be a gloomy time. Things are bad for a lot of people, whether it’s economically (growing inequality), socially (fear and vulnerability), municipally (city budget!) or internationally (you-name-it).

However, one of the wonderful things about a place like WoodGreen is we see solutions every day, whether it’s in our hallways or down at City Hall, at the local park or over at Queen’s Park. Like Mr. Roger’s mother said to him when he was scared, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

 

Here are some of the things that make us feel optimistic:

• Toronto is one of the safest cities in the world. We even do well in comparison to many other Canadian cities. Crime rates are down. Most people believe that most people can be trusted.

• Civic Institutions like the Public Library and the public school boards shaping our city for the better. Our library is one of the busiest in the world and still finds time to put on art shows and deliver to shut-ins. Our schools are raising the academic achievement bar, at the same time they are levelling it so that all students have an opportunity to succeed.

• Government has been pushing forward small but important policies for the people we serve: As of this month, single parents on social assistance will not have their spousal and child support deducted from their monthly payments. Students from low and middle-income families soon will be attending college and university tuition-free. Children under 12 now can ride our city’s transit free. Legislation to curtail the amount payday lenders can charge has been introduced.

• 95% of people believe they can make their community a better place to live. Polls show growing confidence in charities, non-profits, private sector organizations and, yes, government. One-third of Canadians volunteered their time to a charity or non-profit in the past 12 months. The average is 110 hours (or just over 2 hours a week!). Two-thirds made a financial donation, and most of them gave to multiple charities.

Our city’s residents and institutions are proving that good people are everywhere. We just have to look for them.

Diane Dyson is Director, Research & Public Policy at WoodGreen

 


 

2016/11/29

A Season of Hope

 This is a season of hope. New ideas are springing up and taking hold: ideas such as poverty reduction, a basic income for all, a new national housing strategy, children’s wellbeing, immigrant resilience, decent workplace standards, community hubs, and seniors’ access to homecare services. WoodGreen is working on all these issues, pushing for a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

A place where everyone has a fair chance. It’s a very Toronto idea. It’s a very Canadian idea. It underpins much of this change we are seeing around us, from local communities organizing to national politics.

#GivingTuesday kicks off a season where we are collectively more conscious about those around us who need a little more. Whether it’s shopping ethically, contributing to a government consultation, making a donation or simply learning more about the issues, there are many ways we can work to make the world a better place.

Here are some ways WoodGreen – and you! – can make a difference now:

• We’re hosting a Holiday Pop-Up Shop Saturday, Dec. 10, 10- 4p.m. at our 835 Queen St. East site. Large retailers donated many items for this annual sale, including housewares, holiday decorations, linens, décor, toiletries and more! Come shop for a good cause.

• Wear a button! East York residents have produced am “East York Everyone Belongs” campaign against the racist posters which appeared in local parks. Pick up one at Old’s Cool General Store (250 Westlake, at Lumsden )

• Drop off a food donation at a local charity. Caring Village is collecting along Danforth. Riverdale Share’s 24th annual concert will collect food items.

• Check on a neighbour or call an older relative to chat.

• Help United Way Toronto and York Region reach their campaign goal for the year.

• Push for poverty elimination when in government consultations. Each level of government consults with citizens on a range of issues online or in-person. A directory of current government consultations are available here: Municipal (Toronto). Provincial (Ontario, see it for the Basic Income consultation), and Federal (Canada). They need to hear we care.

Join in! We are all working together to find solutions to complex social problems, and we’re seeing progress.

Diane Dyson is Director, Research & Public Policy at WoodGreen


2016/11/02

Expansion of Walk-in Counselling Service

As of November 15, 2016 the WoodGreen Walk-in Counselling Service will provide immediate, no cost walk-in counselling on Tuesdays from 4:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. in addition to the current Wednesday evening. All members of the community will be served with no restrictions based on age or address. No appointment or referral is necessary. We’re located at 815 Danforth Ave., Suite 100. The service is offered by the qualified mental health professionals of WoodGreen Community Services.  

The WoodGreen Walk-in Counselling Service will address clients’ pressing social/emotional concerns such as the effects of stress, depression and anxiety, issues related to separation and divorce, family violence, problems with anger, difficulties at work or school, relationship issues, parenting concerns, issues related to gender identity/sexual orientation, etc. The aim is to assist clients in clarifying issues, setting practical goals and taking effective steps that will lead to positive change. Information about other community resources is also provided.  

The service will be of interest to people who are seeking immediate support for their concerns. It’s appropriate for people who are on a waiting list for other services, already receiving help, or who have had no contact with other community supports.

Julia Chao is Director, Mental Health, Addictions, and Developmental Services at WoodGreen

 


 

2016/10/03

WoodGreen Launches Client Satisfaction Survey for 2016

To support a culture of innovation, WoodGreen believes in listening to our clients. Our Client Satisfaction Survey is an important way to hear back from the people we serve, to improve the service quality, effectiveness and efficiency of our programs and services, and to demonstrate our commitment to provide better solutions to social need.

 

We are currently seeking client feedback as part of this year’s client satisfaction survey.  If you are a WoodGreen client and would like to complete this year’s survey, simply click on this link:

 

WoodGreen Client Satisfaction Survey 2016

 

The survey is very short and all answers will remain confidential.  No personal identifiers will be recorded. All information is used for evaluation purposes only.  If you have any questions about this survey, please feel free to contact Bruce Graham, Senior Manager of Compliance and Innovation (bgraham@woodgreen.org).

 

When the survey is completed, the results will be shared on the WoodGreen website.

 

Thanks in advance for all of your help in improving WoodGreen Community Services!

 

Bruce Graham is Senior Manager of Compliance and Innovation at WoodGreen

 


 

2016/07/12

A wonderful success story about coming to Canada as a Syrian refugee, written by a WoodGreen client.

Congratulations, Nazo!
----------------------------------------------------------------
My name is Nazo C. I am a 27 years old dynamic young man, I am a General Accountant and have a Bachelor’s Degree in Banking and Finance.

I was granted the opportunity to come to Canada through the Syrian Refugee Program and this is my success story.

I landed in Canada along with my brother on the evening of December 30, 2015 where I stayed for about a month at my Sponsor’s House in Vaughan which was difficult for me to commute to the city. Therefore, my brother and I moved to North York on February the 1st to start our lives in Canada.

At the end of January 2016, I attended a career fair at The Armenian Community Center where I met Antoinette S. who was representing the ELT program of WoodGreen Community Services. I had a one on one discussion with her for around 15 minutes. She introduced me to the program and replied to my concerns.

In the beginning of February, I started to attend the ELT classes with Roma S. (the instructor), she was well prepared and I benefited a lot from the material and references she used to train us and familiarize us with the Canadian culture and business environment necessities, amongst other things.

Marjeta B. was my Employment consultant, she was more than just an employment consultant, I could go to Marjeta with any issue and she would find a way to resolve it for me or refer me to the right person; Adriana P. worked on polishing my resume and interview skills, she is very professional and prepares you for the real world; and Antoinette S., the program’s job developer, she is highly motivated and experienced recruitment specialist, she referred me to many recruitment agencies, she presented me in front of employers, she worked so hard trying to place me in a job within my field, she could have just matched me with a volunteer position, but she did more, she believed in me and matched me with a job any person in the General Accounting domain would love to have.

I am now working as an Accounting Clerk in Toronto since June 3, 2016 and actively pursuing my CPA Designation, with WoodGreen’s continuous support and coaching, and my hard work I made it this far. And therefore, I consider myself a successful newcomer.

It was not an easy experience, settling in a new country, not knowing whether everything is going to be fine, whether I will find a job that matches with my set of skills and qualifications, but I never gave up, I approached any job opportunity fully prepared, and eventually I made it there.

To my friends who are out there and came recently to Canada, you will conduct interviews, talk to recruiters, network with people, you may get tens of rejections but you only need one acceptance, so DO NOT GIVE UP and you will get there. The way I see it, in Canada, you can be whoever you want to be, there are lots of opportunities out there, you only need to be ready to grasp it when it knocks on your door.

Thank you Canada for getting me here, thank you WoodGreen and ELT Staff for doing the rest.

Nazo C.

 


 

2016/07/06

It may be the summer lull, but a few government initiatives have got us excited:


•    This week the Toronto Board of Health unanimously adopted the idea of three safe injection sites, one at South Riverdale Community Health Centre, along Queen Street East. The final decision goes to City Council at its July meeting. Through our work with street-involved people at our drop-in in the neighbourhood, we have seen too many people die. These new sites will make our neighbourhoods safer for everyone.

•    The provincial government is moving forward new legislation to rename Elderly Persons Centres to Seniors Active Living Centres! WoodGreen operated the first generation of EPCs since 1966 under the EPCs Act. At present, we have five EPCs funded by the OSS and serve thousands of seniors in east Toronto from different cultural-linguistic backgrounds and neighbourhoods. WoodGreen has actively participated in the entire EPC Program Review process initiated by the OSS that led to this new legislation. In early 2015, our Wellness Program Manager joined an OSS focus group and provided inputs to the design of the provincial-wide survey for all funded EPCs. Later, all our five EPCs completed the survey. In the summer of 2015, WoodGreen’s CEO and V.P met with OSS senior staff and provided inputs on the future development of EPCs in Ontario. Our management staff, members of our EPCs and Seniors Advisory Council also joined the Ontario EPC Program Review Regional Consultation Day and provided feedbacks and suggestions on the future of EPCs in our province. We are delighted by this new initiative which will directly affect the wellness of many thousands of senior Ontarians in the future.

•    At the end of June, the federal government announced its consultations on a National Housing Strategy. When one in four Canadian households cannot afford their housing, homelessness persists, and social housing has fallen into a terrible state of disrepair, this is a vital step forward.

Lots more is coming down the pipeline too, such as the new Ontario Income Security Reform workgroup, the pending report from the Changing Workplace Review, or the City report on Rooming Houses. We’re keeping busy!


2016/06/06

WoodGreen is walking with Pride!

Join WoodGreen and the Toronto Neighbourhood Centres for the 35th annual Toronto Pride Parade on Sunday, July 3rd!

WoodGreen staff, volunteers, and program participants are invited to join the parade, celebrate gender identity and sexual orientation victories, honour our history, continue the fight for justice, and dance in the streets!

Fifteen Toronto Neighbourhood Centre agencies, including WoodGreen, have signed up. Each marcher will wear a T-shirt from their own neighbourhood house (to be provided). A vehicle for music, ferrying water, and any people who need a ride is being organized. Bring your own hat and sun screen.

So if you want to join the Parade, we need you to register by June 15 – so we can bring enough water, get an emergency contact (it’s going to be hot, hot, hot), and so we can make sure we have the correct permit.

Those people who register will receive the instructions of where and when to meet! Please ONLY register if you are committed to going – rain or shine!

For more information, contact Diane Dyson, 416-645-6000 x1252, or Bruce Graham, 416-645-6000 x5276.


2016/04/29

From Shelter to Transformation: WoodGreen’s Homeward Bound Partnerships

Shelters are a necessary short term solution for some vulnerable women and their children, but what about meaningful long term change for these families? How do highly motivated women facing seemingly insurmountable barriers overcome them?

How can we as a collective shift our thinking from band aid solutions to a new way of engaging – one where families have what they need to thrive and where the potential for the next generation is truly limitless?
                                                                                                                                      
One answer is WoodGreen Community Services’ Homeward Bound program and province-wide Homeward Bound partnerships. First launched in Toronto in 2004, Homeward Bound is a 4-year holistic job-readiness program that integrates key supports such as safe, affordable housing, childcare, skills training and college education to help under-housed and homeless single mothers change their lives. Participants earn tuition-paid college diplomas, complete internships through an innovative Industry Council and begin careers within fields of study targeted to the local labour market.

More than 150 women and more than 180 children have benefitted from Homeward Bound. In fact, the program has been so effective that 80% of the women who have entered Homeward Bound have either successfully completed the program, or are currently on track to meeting the program’s milestones.

In 2013, a pro bono analysis by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that Homeward Bound is not only effective for the families in the program; it also provides an economic and social benefit to society. For every dollar invested in the program, BCG found that there is a $4 return to society.

Homeward Bound provides direct savings to Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services with a significant number of participants exiting social assistance programs permanently as opposed to the estimated 40% of recipients who leave OW only to return within 1-2 years. By averaging the annual OW cost for a mother-led family with one child and a mother-led family with two children, WoodGreen has calculated an annual annuity of $13,572 for every family that becomes economically self-sufficient by participating in Homeward Bound. If all 76 women currently in the program become self-sufficient, this grows to an annual annuity of $1.03 million.

The Homeward Bound model is now spreading across Ontario, as WoodGreen partners with local lead agencies and inter-sectoral partners to develop new programs. Homeward Bound Halton, led by Home Suite Hope in collaboration with Halton Region, Sheridan College and other key partners, launched in 2014. Homeward Bound programs are also in development in Peterborough and Brockville, ON, where Peterborough Housing Corporation and the Brockville Employment and Education Centre are the local leads.

Recognizing the unique cultural, historical and demographic context of Ontario’s urban Aboriginal communities, and in particular the challenges faced by urban Aboriginal single mothers living in poverty, WoodGreen has also partnered with the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) and 5 Friendship Centre communities (Dryden, Timmins, London, Niagara and Hamilton) to explore feasibility and develop an adapted Urban Aboriginal Homeward Bound model.

All communities involved in the Urban Aboriginal Homeward Bound project have had significant engagement from diverse stakeholders, including local Indigenous organizations, municipalities, colleges, potential funders and community members. Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services, in particular, is in talks with WoodGreen, OFIFC and the Friendship Centres about developing housing for families in the Urban Aboriginal Homeward Bound program. There is also a prospect of affordable home ownership for the participants following graduation from the program.

Dr. Marie Wilson, one of the Commissioners of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission said, “We must be honest about the real two solitudes in this country, that between Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens, and commit to doing tangible things to close the divide in awareness, understanding and relationships.” Beyond Homeward Bound as a program model, the Urban Aboriginal Homeward Bound initiative is an example of how Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals, organizations and service providers are coming together to close the divide and to promote the health and wellbeing of mother-led families today, and for future generations.

Among many assets, there is one thing that every Homeward Bound participant has that we need to remember if we are truly going to create a better future; whatever obstacles you’ve faced, and whatever impact you seek to make, hold strong in an unwavering sense of hope that anything is possible. 

Written by Sydney Blum, Director of Community Impact & Strategic Relations, WoodGreen Community Services


2016/03/31

Norm Kelly, Peace Collective & WoodGreen!

Earlier this year, WoodGreen was approached by a very popular and successful group of young entrepreneurs about a project they wanted to launch that would support WoodGreen’s Newcomer Youth Settlement Program.

Peace Collective has produced the wildly popular “Toronto Vs. Everybody” line of apparel, as well as “Home is Toronto” and most recently launched the Canadian Built series featuring the likeness of Toronto City Councillor Norm Kelly – also known as the #6dad to his 280,000 Twitter followers.  All of the proceeds from this line of apparel will be donated to WoodGreen’s Newcomer Youth Settlement programs!

A group from Peace Collective will be joining our newcomer youth on a bowling field trip later this month. They will be bringing care packages to that event and have also donated 500 Home Is Toronto tees to the Immigrant Services staff & clients.

Check out the news coverage about the project:

http://www.toronto24hours.ca/2016/03/30/norm-kelly-gear-hits-toronto

and

http://www.insidetoronto.com/news-story/6412455-woodgreen-youth-program-benefits-from-norm-kelly-capsule-collection/

PS - If you aren’t following us on Twitter already, please do! @WoodGreenDotOrg


2016/01/30

 

It’s that time again…Tax Season

Did you know that WoodGreen offers a FREE income tax clinic? In partnership with the Canada Revenue Agency’s Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, WoodGreen’s Income Tax Clinic prepares returns for clients who have a low income and a simple tax situation. If you are a senior, student, newcomer, are unemployed, or have a low income, you may be eligible for tax services.

Starting February 1st, you can book an appointment for March or April. Tax clinics are offered at 3 main sites: 815 Danforth Avenue (3rd Floor), 1533 Victoria Park Avenue, and a seniors only clinic at 840 Coxwell Avenue (3rd Floor) and satellite sites.

Our service has impact! Last year WoodGreen served more than 4000 clients with the help of over 150 volunteers at multiple locations. Clients accessed over $6 million worth of refunds and benefits.

Call now to book an appointment to have your taxes completed:
Phone: 416-645-6000 Ext 1187
Email: taxclinic@woodgreen.org

Debbie Leith is the Supervisor of Financial Wellness Services at WoodGreen


2016/01/21

East Toronto Families for Syria Hub

The Pop-up Shop project’s latest “shop” is the East Toronto Families for Syria Hub (ETF4Syria Hub,) located at 1803 Danforth Avenue. The Hub is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6pm, or by appointment during the week.

The Hub will be popping up in the neighbourhood for three months (until March 31) and the storefront space provides the local community with opportunities to gather and be a part of welcoming newcomer families. It also operates as a donation drop off/pick-up location for household goods and small furniture in good to excellent condition. Please note that due to the large number of items already donated, The Hub is only accepting donations for specific items. Please check their Facebook page to see what items they are looking for.

The Hub is a grassroots volunteer effort and is counting on volunteers to help staff the space. If you’d like to volunteer (shifts are around 3 hours,) please sign-up here. Volunteering will likely involve some sorting, organizing and display of donations, and children and babies are welcome and encouraged to come along.

Volunteers at the hub are also creating welcome baskets and organizing activities to connect sponsoring families. Everyone is welcome at the Grand Opening Event on January 23, noon to 6pm. The following Saturday, January 30, they are hosting a Syrian Refugee Sponsor Group Mixer. Please spread the word in your networks. The space is a 5-10min walk, east of Coxwell subway station at 1803 Danforth Avenue.

ET4Syria Hub wishes to thank Remax Hallmark Realty for their generosity with this initiative, and DECA/WoodGreen’s Pop Up Shop program for their assistance in helping secure a storefront.

If you have any questions please contact ET4Syria’s Admin Team, Email address: Info.easttorontofamilies4syria@gmail.com

Gay Stephenson is a Community Economic Development Co-ordinator at WoodGreen

 


 

2015/11/25

Vibrant main streets fettered by vacant stores

This is a presentation made by WoodGreen staff to the City’s Economic Development Committee on November 24th

 

Having worked as a community economic development coordinator on the Pop-up Shop project along Danforth Ave, I have seen the impact of persistent commercial vacancies on neighbourhoods. Long stretches of empty storefronts discourages pedestrians and shoppers, contributing to the decline of the local economy. The Danforth East Community Association’s pop-up shop project has sought to reverse this trend, convincing owners of vacant properties to offer up their spaces and infuse the area with new energy. As a local community service agency, WoodGreen has stepped up to support this work with funding from the Metcalf Foundation. Since 2012, this project has hosted 29 pop-up shops, incubated 6 new businesses, and we have seen commercial vacancies drop from 17% to less than 9% in a one and half year period.

 

We are glad to see the work that has been done to date on the vacant unit rebate issue by both the province and the City. There is currently an appetite for the City to shift towards a policy that encourages creative solutions that address local economic development. For instance, on Nov 10, we hosted over 150 people from across the city, and other municipalities at an event called “Building Vibrant Main Streets and the Power of Local.” One of the key policy questions discussed there was the vacancy unit rebate. People from across Toronto, the GTA and provincial organizations expressed their frustration with the rebate and its effect on main street commercial areas.

 

Within our own pop-up shop project, the Vacancy Unit Rebate has worked against our efforts to activate empty storefronts with short term businesses. We have direct experience with two well-intentioned property owners who have indicated that the commercial vacancy tax rebate prevented them from readily participating in our project. While they appreciate the efforts to bring new energy to the street, they are challenged to find a way to participate if it doesn’t make financial sense. In particular, one developer cited these challenges in a letter recently submitted to the COTA legislation review

 

As the zoning and sales process for redevelopment projects can be quite lengthy, there is often a one to two year time gap between the acquisition of the property and the start of construction. In most cases, developers, such as myself, struggle to lease out the vacant space in effort to obtain even a minimal amount of rent through the utilization of short term leases. However, the barrier is set quite high, and in many cases, the tradeoff between receiving the minimal rent and the fear of losing the vacant unit tax rebate often dissuades us from pursuing any effort to lease the space at all. This leaves developers with stretches of vacant storefronts under-utilized as they await years for demolition.

 

Appealing to a property owner’s goodwill can only go so far when financial incentives don’t support the public good. In my experience, the commercial vacancy tax rebate was cited by at least one other Danforth property owner who declined participation in the project and is most certainly a factor with other property owners who are not so bold as to mention it.

 

At the local level, the very existence of this tax rebate is often cited by retailers and residents as a frustrating policy, feeding the perception that it contributes to the economic decline of commercial main streets. Opinions to this effect have even been echoed from the other side of the world. Author of “Creating Cities” and empty space innovator, Marcus Westbury, whose vision helped transform Newcastle, Australia from a shell of a city to being listed on Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 cities to visit in 2011, recently tweeted “The tax incentives to keep buildings empty in Ontario is pretty much the stupidest thing I have ever seen in all my travels!”

 

Given the current City of Toronto (COTA) legislative review, we are at an exciting time with real opportunity to develop new and creative ways to address local economic development issues. Persistently vacant commercial properties are like gaps in the toothy smile of a main street; more than one or two just doesn’t look good. Vacant storefronts also undermine local businesses who are trying to make a go of it, the efforts of budding entrepreneurs looking for a way to break in, and the welcomingness of our city’s main streets.

 

We need policies that encourage and incent property owners to adopt innovative uses for their vacant storefronts, such as our pop-up shop model. Or what about putting those rebates to a better use? Fund local community economic development committees who would work at the local level to best meet the needs of that particular neighbourhood?

 

The city has offered in the past to bring together a working group who could examine ideas such as these more closely. Let’s see some action on this. Bring together creative thinkers to help shape this opportunity in front of us, working together to build a city with strong and vibrant main streets. Neighbourhood retail contributes to resilient, sustainable neighbourhoods, let’s do everything we can to foster this and ensure we develop Toronto-focused solutions that will meet the specific needs of Toronto neighbourhoods.

Tina Scherz is a Community Economic Development Co-ordinator at WoodGreen

 


 

2015/10/26

Report to the Community from the CEO

WoodGreen is one of the largest social service agencies in Toronto. WoodGreen now has 75 programs operating out of 36 locations across the city and serves 37,000 people each year.

We are a founding United Way of Toronto Member and our programs span the spectrum of social services – from childcare to affordable housing, from employment supports to seniors services, mental health and developmental services.

WoodGreen’s innovative programs are helping to break the cycle of poverty, building strong communities and supporting independence by creating opportunities for our clients.

Earlier this year, our Board and senior staff spent a great deal of time working together to develop a new Strategic Plan that will guide the organization through the next 5 years.

The new Strategic Plan is the roadmap we will use to further evolve WoodGreen into a client-centric agency and a continued leader in social innovation, using our expertise to influence and develop public policy.

The five main objectives of the new Strategic Plan are:
1. Driving Social Innovation
2. Influencing Public Policy
3. Putting Clients at the Core
4. Building a High Performance Organization
5. Increasing Capacity

To support this work, I launched a new internal unit called Innovation Development in April.

Staff in this group lead WoodGreen’s incredible work on new collective impact solutions like developing a new approach for crown wards Aging Out of Care, and replicating Homeward Bound in other communities across Ontario.

In addition to the Homeward Bound replication work, WoodGreen, the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) and Friendship Centres in Timmins, Niagara, Dryden, Hamilton and London are continuing to move forward with developing an adapted Urban Aboriginal Homeward Bound program model.

To further WoodGreen’s vision of a city where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, we have championed the elimination of poverty at the municipal and provincial levels, co-authored reports on employment precarity, and been the provincial community partner for the development of a framework for community hubs by the Ontario Government.

WoodGreen also offers a Financial Wellness Program that involves over 200 volunteers giving their time to programs like WoodGreen’s amazing free income tax clinic. This year, the Income tax clinic returned over $3.5 million dollars back to low income individuals and families through tax refunds and credits.

WoodGreen’s staff and volunteers have been working very hard to deliver our incredible programs to some of Toronto’s most vulnerable people even in the face of funding constraints. Our team is always working on ways to do more work with less resources, because as the funding continues to shrink, the need continues to grow.

Anne Babcock is WoodGreen's President and CEO.

2015/09/04

Evaluating Community Hubs as Social Networking Sites

This summer I asked recent immigrants whether they felt their local community hub helped them build their social network. The answer was an overwhelming yes.

They identified the hub as a meeting place for people of all ages who came from diverse backgrounds. All participants felt welcome at the hub and felt the hub supported them in building their social networks, as all participants said they had met new people they did not previously know. They all said that the hub made it easy to meet new people and said they had made new friends through the use of hub services and programs. One participant stated that the people she met at the hub were closer friends than the ones she had in her native country. This same participant stated she is alone when at home, but has many people to interact with at the hub.

While most of the participants said they do not view Scarborough as home, they all said that the hub helped them in their settlement to the Scarborough community. These ladies wished they could spend more time at the hub but faced challenges due to familial obligations (such as helping with the care of grandchildren) and transportation difficulties.

There were suggestions of networking with other hubs and that a transportation service would increase their involvement in hub programs. All participants said the hub provided good services and the hub was very receptive to their feedback and sought the involvement of users to improve their program delivery.

Community hubs are meeting places. They provides a focal point for people with similar interests to connect and collaborate, fostering social networks that improve the quality of life in the community where the hub is located. The services provided by each hub are catered to the needs of the neighbourhood it is located in and the diverse population it is providing services for. Beyond offering programs and meeting local needs, they act as spaces for users to connect with others and develop friendships.

As a Master’s student in Ryerson’s Public Administration program, Jasmine Dunston did a research placement this summer with WoodGreen through the RBC Immigrant, Diversity & Inclusion Project. To see the longer community report, see WoodGreen’s publications page.

 

2015/07/28

This is the RIGHT PLACE OF CARE

Caring for the aging population in Ontario is a major priority, and across the province significant efforts are underway to better understand how to provide the right care in a client-centred and economically sustainable manner. As a result, the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (TC LHIN) and the Provincial government have been reviewing the health care system to find the right place of care to try to meet the complex care needs of seniors in Toronto.

As one of the largest providers of homecare services for seniors within the Community Support Services (CSS) sector, WoodGreen is one of 8 agencies participating in this new community-based service delivery program.

Since March 1, 2012, as part of the TC LHIN’s plan to enable the community sector to meet the changes in our clients’ needs, the Toronto Central Community Care Access Centre (TC CCAC) has been transitioning the care of clients with “low care needs” to agencies like WoodGreen through the Right Place of Care initiative. Examples of low care needs could be assistance with bathing, dressing, mouth and skin care, toileting, laundry/bed making due to incontinence, washroom cleaning after bathing and other such low care needs. Clients who are referred to WoodGreen can also access our complete basket of services including Meals on Wheels, Adult Day Programs, Transportation, Mental Health supports, Crisis Counselling, Security Checks, Elderly Persons Centres and many other local programs.

Until very recently, many of the seniors we now support at home would have been receiving care in hospitals or long term care. Working collaboratively with TC CCAC to transition low-risk clients to community agencies is creating greater capacity in our health care system.

WoodGreen is dedicated to providing our clients with excellent care and support, as well as implementing services for clients and families to remain independent and connected to their homes and communities. Moving forward, we believe the sector will need to explore more of this type of collaboration in order to properly care for Ontario’s seniors.

(This piece was written in response to the July 2015 Globe and Mail series on home care in Ontario.)

Ashnoor Rahim, Vice President of Community Care, WoodGreen Community Services

 


2015/07/02

 

WoodGreen's Client Satisfaction Survey now closed

Thank you to all of our clients who took the time to complete this year’s client satisfaction survey. We had a great response rate and have received over 1,100 surveys completed!

Your input is important to us and assists us in improving the quality of our programs and services.

Results of the survey will be posted on our website in the fall.

If you have any questions about this survey, please contact Bruce Graham, Senior Manager of Compliance and Innovation (bgraham@woodgreen.org).

Thank you again for your contribution to improving the quality of WoodGreen’s programs and services.

Bruce Graham is Senior Manager of Compliance and Innovation at WoodGreen

 


 

2015/06/23

Client Satisfaction

To support a culture of innovation, WoodGreen believes in listening to our clients. Our Client Satisfaction Survey is an important way to hear back from the people we serve, to improve the service quality, effectiveness and efficiency of our programs and services, and to demonstrate our commitment to provide better solutions to social need.

We are currently seeking client feedback as part of this year’s client satisfaction survey. If you are a WoodGreen client and would like to complete this year’s survey, simply click on this link:
WoodGreen Client Satisfaction Survey 2015

The survey is very short and all answers will remain confidential. No personal identifiers will be recorded. All information is used for evaluation purposes only. If you have any questions about this survey, please feel free to contact Bruce Graham, Senior Manager of Compliance and Innovation (bgraham@woodgreen.org).

When the survey is completed, the results will be shared on the WoodGreen website.

Thanks in advance for all of your help in improving WoodGreen Community Services!

Bruce Graham is Senior Manager of Compliance and Innovation at WoodGreen


 

2015/06/04

Gems of the East End

On May 14, the Danforth East Community Association (DECA) came together to crown DECA’s Winning Gem. DECA Gems is the latest initiative between WoodGreen and the Danforth East Community Association’s partnership. WoodGreen’s two community economic development coordinators worked closely with over a dozen DECA volunteers to help share the love, stories and “hidden gems” of the small independent businesses operating within DECA’s boundaries.

This project falls under WoodGreen and DECA’s flagship Pop-up Shop Project, which aims to provide entrepreneurship opportunities by filling empty storefronts with eye-catching, foot traffic building businesses. Thanks to the strong community support and the financial support of the Metcalf Foundation, the area has been labeled a Neighbourhood Lab, and we are experimenting with a range of grassroots revitalization efforts. DECA Gems is one such initiative, rallying support for local businesses.

Local residents had three weeks to nominate local businesses as a neighbourhood “Gem”. Over 400 nominations poured in for 100 businesses via email, Facebook and Twitter. The success of this initiative was highlighted by the sharing of personal stories highlighting incredible customer service, commitment to the area, and unique products and services available locally. As these stories were shared with the rest of community, many businesses experienced an increase in sales as a result of this initiative, and all felt the love of a community that wants to see them supported and successful.

And which local business was crowned DECA’s Winning Gem, benefitting from a range of services offered as part of a marketing prize pack? Of the 100 nominations received, four local businesses made it to the final round: Face to Face Games, Gerrard Pizza and Spaghetti House, Sunny’s Auto Clinic, and Vincenzo’s Supermarket. On May 14, the DECA Gems judging panel toured these businesses, finishing the evening at local Ethiopian restaurant Hirut where the community was invited to watch the judges make their final decision. After 47 years in business and with three generations at the helm, the majority of the judges decided that Gerrard Pizza would benefit the most from the prize pack. Vito and his family are looking forward to working with an expert team of volunteers who will help rebrand their look, polish up the inside with a coat of paint, and develop new marketing materials for this local gem.

Gerrard Pizza

Gerrard Pizza and Spaghetti House being awarded the prize with the judges looking on.

Tina Scherz is a Community Economic Development Co-ordinator at WoodGreen

 


2015/05/14

 

Services, Space, & Synergy:
Neighbourhood Centres and the magic of community hubs

 Community hubs are a good thing. There is little disagreement on the importance of places for local residents to meet, mix and mingle. United Way Toronto and the City made building hubs a key plank in their Strong Neighbourhood strategies.

Founded as a community centre in 1937, out of the Settlement House tradition, WoodGreen understands the synergy created when people get together, when services wrap around them, and stronger social networks emerge.

For the past two years, WoodGreen worked with partners, like the SPACE Coalition, to actively push for system-level change. We knew many of us agree community hubs are a good idea; the hard part, that we don’t usually get to, was figuring out how things like “place-based delivery” of services, “integrated service delivery” and “the settlement house advantage” could be brought to every Ontario community. Cathy Dandy, a former school trustees for this area, led our small group of determined folk. We met across the street at The Only Café.

Then, in May 2014, , through a grant from the Heart & Stroke Foundation, this small group, now called CAFE, hosted a symposium which brought decision-makers from school boards, non-profits, municipal and provincial governments together to talk about how this might be done. It was a strong demonstration of the political will ready to move the idea of hubs forward.

This past March, Premier Kathleen Wynne, having named community hubs as a priority to several of her Ministers, appointed CAFE member and east-ender Karen Pitre as her Special Advisor on Community Hubs. WoodGreen is delighted to see this work lifted outside the siloes of different Ministries and levels of government.

This new provincial conversation recognizes the good work already being done across the province by many local heroes, and WoodGreen will continue to support the work.

For updates, and to give input, see www.ontario.ca/communityhubs.

Diane Dyson is Director, Research & Public Policy at WoodGreen


 

2015/04/02

Precarious Employment does not have to be our fate

Just-in-Time Jobs: Getting by in a world of part-time, contract and precarious work
CBC Town Hall discussion on Precarious Employment
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Glen Gould Studio

What is ‘precarious employment’? Matt Galloway started the CBC Town Hall event by asking the panelists to define it. Each member had a different definition: lack of job security, no benefits, increase in stress and losing confidence in yourself but also a more positive take on this new economy, the creation of “Me, Inc”. However, the most poignant definition of precarious employment came from an audience member who said, “It means you have no life.” Work comes first - you have to take the hours you can get, be always ready on short notice and change your plans to accommodate a work shift.

The cost of precarious work goes beyond the personal and societal economics, it affects our health, our mental health our community participation and our quality of life. This foresees a very different society than the one we live in currently, one where unstable jobs are the norm and people scramble to piece together enough hours to cover their most basic expenses.

Traditionally, it is lower income positions that are the most precarious (contract, part-time, no benefits and no job security). However, we are seeing a clear increase in job precarity of middle income and professional positions. It is no longer an issue faced only by those working for temporary agencies.

The recent strike action by University of Toronto and York University contract staff is the perfect example – they are fighting for job security and the changes in faculty as professors retire and universities are not maintaining tenured positions. Stable, full time positions are being replaced by less secure part time contracts. A significant shift in how our universities value their faculty members.

We do not have to accept this as our fate. The panelists discussed several successful innovative programs from around the world including:

• the more precarious the employment is, the higher premium employers must pay
• have drug and dental plans NOT tied to an employer
• we can demand decent jobs and security when we are offering tax and job subsidies to employers, and
• groundbreaking employment laws in Denmark that offer 2 years of employment insurance and guaranteed re-training when someone leaves, changes or loses their job.

One panelist noted, ‘we cannot rely on the free-market’ to fix our labour market – it can only be fixed by strengthening our systems - and at the front of this fight are our unions who are advocating for better jobs, stronger laws and fairer policies.

WoodGreen has been participating in these conversations about the changing labour market through several research projects over the past couple of years. As a partner in the PEPSO (Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario) research group, we collaborate on a working group that has published several reports on employment precarity. ‘Poverty is not a new issue in our communities; however the combination of low pay and new forms of insecure employment may be having effects beyond the workplace….’

Also, as a partner in the Toronto South Local Immigration Partnership, WoodGreen supports a workgroup looking at some of these wider systemic issues and has published research on the topic. Shadow Economies: Economic Survival Strategies of Toronto Immigrant Communities explores how immigrants are not only blocked from working in their skilled professions, but are working in jobs that don’t even meet provincial standards.

Even now, WoodGreen is setting up a partnership with other Toronto agencies and unions in the human services field, to replicate a project done New York City agencies looking at the working conditions of those in the sector.

So what does the future hold? Panelists predicted that jobs will be more secure, more flexible, but with a better, stronger social safety net. Yes, maybe so, but only if we plan it that way.

Sandra Guerra is Partnership Coordinator for the Toronto South Local Immigration Partnership.


 

2015/03/16

Pop-Update

The WoodGreen-DECA Pop-up Shop project got a lift at City Hall last month. Cllr McMahon amended a motion, as part of a report to the Economic Development Committee, to include the feasibility of expanding the Danforth East Pop-up Shop model to other parts of the city. The motion (made by Cllr Palacio) requests “…Economic Development and Culture [city staff] examine policies and programs to promote economic revitalization in significantly distressed retail areas…” was passed by city council on Feb 10th.

This represents a significant contribution to our goal of expanding the Pop-up Shop project to other areas in the city. WoodGreen’s Community Economic Development Coordinators have already been meeting with city staff to explore ways for BIAs to initiate Pop-up Shops, modeled after the Danforth East Pop-up Project.

Through these initial meetings, we are beginning a process to identify other areas of the city that would be a good fit, and have been in contact with a number of areas who have expressed interest in using the Pop-up Shop project model in their own neighbourhoods.

The Pop-up Shop project, funded by the Metcalf Foundation, aims to activate empty storefronts by filling them with small businesses on a short-term basis. The project is win-win: local communities benefit by seeing their struggling commercial areas infused with new energy, property owners benefit from having their spaces occupied, and Pop-up retailers get the opportunity to test their business plan in a low-risk way. It is exciting to see this model being recognized at the city level, with possible support to expand to other areas in the city.

Storefronts
Before and After: This shop sat empty for over 5 years before being filled with a beautiful lighting store. The transformation of commercial space significantly improves the pedestrian experience along Danforth Ave.

Tina Scherz is a Community Economic Development Co-ordinator.


2014/12/22

The Ice Storm: One year ago a closer look at how community helps

Over the past year, as part of a new research project looking at adults, over the age of 65, in East York, WoodGreen interviewed 360 older adults about how they are managing. Who do older East Yorkers call when they need something? Do they use community services? Do they know their neighbours? What are their needs as they age, and what can they offer?
 Last year’s ice storm provided a perfect lens for these questions. When the ice storm hit Toronto, thousands of east-end residents were without power, heat and sometimes water. In “Toronto the Good,” we had to pull together as a community.
In a brief report, released to coincide with the one year anniversary of the storm, we found a lot of goodwill in the community, and a lot of folks who are still isolated and vulnerable.
We found:
•    78% of the older adults reported being affected by the storm, most frequently for 3-4 days (44%). Places like Leaside and Benning Heights/Governors Bridge were the most likely to be affected, but usually for a shorter time period. Those in apartment buildings had a harder time coping.
•    East Yorkers looked out for its older residents. 40% of the seniors reported asking for help during the storm, usually things like food, phones or batteries. 39% reported being given help, even though they had not asked. One in five (21%) of older adults were able to offer help to others.
•    The best source for information during the storm was through the media.  43% older adults said they relied on radio or TV. One in ten seniors said they did not get any information. 6% relied on community supports or strangers.
•    28% of the older adults said they had to move, to find temporary shelter and warmth elsewhere, most often with family.
•    When asked how they coped overall with the challenges they faced, 27% said they did very well. 30% said they did well, and the remainder (42%) said they did fairly or poorly.  Those who had lived longest in their neighbourhood or who had higher incomes were the most likely to report coping well.
To see more preliminary findings, see here.

The full report will be out in the new year, but these findings tell us that strong community connections are important for all, and most especially for those more vulnerable around us. These bonds we share kept us all safe. 


2014/12/08

Holiday markets

WoodGreen’s partnership with the Danforth East Community Association (DECA) is going downtown for the holiday season! Check out the #localTOmrkt market at Yonge and Gould and help support local Toronto vendors.
Organizers have been working since October to turn this dream into reality. To provide more opportunities for micro-entrepreneurs, Adhoc has transformed an empty lot at Yonge and Gould into a marketplace. The holiday market’s focus provides small scale, local vendors, affordable access to a high-foot traffic area during the busy holiday shopping period.

WoodGreen also recruited other community agency program participants to join in, in some cases, offering access to artists who otherwise might not be able to afford it. A former participant of the Newcomer Women’s Services, Green Entrepreneur Program, Enca Designs will be selling hand-made bags, some of which are made from upcycled leather goods at the downtown holiday market Dec 10 & 11. In addition, former Pop-Up Shop, Asiri’s Treasures (until Dec 28) and ongoing Pop-up Project volunteers, Queenie’s Cards (Dec 13 & 14) and Little Kitchen Gourmet (Dec 20 & 21)are also participating in the market. WoodGreen is excited to be supporting this market, providing opportunities to showcase a range of products to the general public, and generating important feedback on the vendor’s market experience.

Access to the market is free and market hours are noon – 9pm daily through to December 28th, 2014.

The DECA-WoodGreen Pop-up Project is funded by the Metcalf Foundation and continues to work with a number of local organizations this holiday season.


2014/11/17

Brian F.C. Smith

WoodGreen would like to thank Brian F.C. Smith for his 36 years of service. His commitment to serving the people of Toronto has changed countless lives.

Brian would like to continue his legacy by launching “Brian’s Fund to End Homelessness.” To make an online contribution please click here or send a cheque to

Brian’s Fund
Attn Ann Rosenfield
The WoodGreen Foundation
815 Danforth Ave, 4th Floor
Toronto, ON
M4J 1L2

Or call 416-645-6000 x4004

Please make cheques payable to “The WoodGreen Foundation” and indicate “Brian’s Fund to End Homelessness” on the notes line.


2014/09/10

Everything you ever wanted to know about Bed Bugs

Cimex lectulariusBed Bugs. Not a topic of conversation everyone likes – but one that is a fact of life, all over the world, and has been for hundreds of years. Being able to identify bed bugs and understanding how they survive and reproduce is the best defense.

WoodGreen has spent years working with community members and partner agencies to develop resources for tenants, staff, agencies and landlords. And we have done it again.

Our newest resource is a set of four wallet-sized factsheets designed for easy distribution and to share crucial information and quick tips. Each fact sheet is designed for a specific audience including one for: the General Public, Frontline Staff, Landlords and Tenants.

Cimex lectulariusGeneral Public
This factsheet contains General Bed Bug information including: how to identify them, their life cycle, 10 things to know about Bed Bugs and a list of references for more information.

Cimex lectulariusFrontline Staff
A guide for frontline staff and includes information about how to talk to your clients about Bed Bugs, how to take precautions if you think you will be in a place with Bed Bugs and how to help your clients prepare for fumigation.

Cimex lectulariusLandlords
A guide for landlords explains their responsibilities, working with a fumigator and how to minimize the spread of Bed Bugs to other units.

Cimex lectulariusTenants
A guide for tenants that outlines how to reduce the risk, what to do if you find Bed Bugs, what your landlord should do and how to prepare your unit and work with the exterminator.

These resources, and many more including information on Organizational Policies, Resource manuals and links to Public Health information, can be found on the All About Bed Bugs page on the WoodGreen website.

Over the years, WoodGreen has participated on committees and working groups developing policies, recommendations and strategies that our city and provincial officials can use to help with public education, risk reduction and effective legislation to fight bed bugs. We have fought for and won stable funding for City bed bug programs. We have worked with the province on wider scale.

Bed bugs haven’t disappeared, but neither have we.

Diane Dyson is WoodGreen's Director of Research and Public Policy. 


2014/08/05

All-party report on developmental disabilities, looks promising

The report by the Select Committee on Developmental Services, mentioned here, which promises to eliminate waitlists for services for people with developmental disabilities, looks very promising.

At WoodGreen Community Services, we have seen firsthand the effects of long waitlists on our clients with developmental disabilities. The lack of adequate funding, supportive housing and day program options is an ongoing challenge for our clients in regards to having their basic needs met.

The commitment outlined by the all-party Select Committee Report is a positive step towards creating a sense of security for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. For example, an increase in funding could mean that “John” can afford transportation to visit food banks, to attend day programs and to participate more fully in the community. Eliminating waitlists will create opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to lead more fulfilling lives.

We are confident that the proposed investment represents a long-term commitment to increased funding for the developmental services sector. The hope is that this funding will lead to ongoing, increased community participation and an increased sense of security for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families

WoodGreen's Adult Protective Service Workers work with people with developmental disabilities, and their families. 


2014/07/07

Strangers at your door

Knocking on doors from Leaside to Crescent Town and throughout Old East York, WoodGreen community researchers are interviewing in seniors about aging in East York. At one time, East York was the municipality with the second highest portion of older adults (65+), after only Victoria, British Columbia.

So you may still see our researchers in your neighbourhood. Carefully screened and trained, the researchers also carry WoodGreen ID.

The project, Our Home, East York, is one of the positive results from the merger between Community Care East York and WoodGreen. Toronto East General Hospital, Station 54, and the University of Toronto are all participating in this effort to obtain a deeper understanding of older adults in Toronto neighbourhoods, what community connections exist and what supports are needed, including housing.

The Our Home, East York project team has already completed a global review of academic and grey literature before developing the survey. This is now posted on the WoodGreen site. Further results will be posted as they become available. 

Diane Dyson is WoodGreen's Director of Research and Public Policy. 


2014/06/12 

Reimagining the Laneway: a collective, creative brainstorming session

Had you walked through the laneway at Coxwell subway station on Saturday May 10, you might have wondered why a group of people were busy creating chalk drawings throughout the public space. This event “Re-imagining the Laneway” was part of Art of the Danforth and supported by WoodGreen’s economic development initiative and the Danforth East Community Association. Participants developed a range of ideas to improve the space, from the whimsical: giant hopscotches, murals, and the addition of living fences and walls, to the more practical: addition of a garbage can, better lighting, and signage to direct pedestrians to nearby amenities. Capturing these ideas in chalk, and leaving them on display as part of Art of the Danforth, allowed participants to share these ideas with the public –at least until the next rainfall.

Over the course of the afternoon, over 30 people helped to identify how the laneway is used, who uses it, and ways to improve it. A summary report of the day’s activities has been prepared and passed on to the local councilor, the TTC and GreenP parking authority. This event was co-sponsored by the Danforth East Community Association (DECA), a local residents association who is also looking forward to seeing some of these ideas turned into reality, as station improvements at Coxwell subway station have been initiated. DECA and WoodGreen were excited to be a part of Art of the Danforth, and assist in developing a collective, creative process for renewing public spaces.

Tina Scherz is a Community Economic Development Co-ordinator at WoodGreen. 


2014/05/25

East York Neighbourhood Initiatives

WoodGreen Community Services has joined South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Toronto Public Health, East York East Toronto Family Resources, Councillor Mary Fragedakis and a number of local residents to form the East York Neighbourhood Initiatives.

Local residents began meeting in June of 2013 developing the East York Community Kitchen. The goal of the Community Kitchen is to create a space where residents can come together to cook once a month, share skills and information, and foster connections. The Community Kitchen promotes sourcing food locally to help make good food more physically and financially accessible for residents. The program is free and child minding and tokens are provided. It is planned and run by community members with the support of local agencies. All sessions take place at the East York Community Centre (1081 ½ Pape Ave).

Over the past year, we have added other initiatives to meet the needs of residents and with the support of local agencies and the leadership of South Riverdale Community Health Centre, we have development the East York Neighbourhood Initiatives. We run a bi-weekly Good Food Box stop from FoodShare Toronto out of the community centre, we plan to have a canning workshop from Bernardin in July, we will have an arts program for youth ages 6 and up during the Community Kitchens, we will be assisting with the new Children’s Community Garden at the corner of Pape Ave and Torrens Ave over the summer and we are exploring the possibility of an intergenerational youth art mural project on the south wall of the East York Community Centre.

If you are interested in learning more, visit our website at: http://eyckitchen.wordpress.com

Sandra Guerra, MSc CED, is the Partnership Coordinator for the Toronto South Local Immigration Partnership (LIP). 


2014/04/10

A Volunteer by any other name

It was 7:30am on Wednesday and I was on a conference call meeting for the WoodGreen Foundation Board. Just 30 minutes later, our volunteers for the Audit & Finance committee were beginning a 2 hour meeting.

I'm always blown away at how busy, busy leaders will find the time, energy, and focus to give back to the community by serving on a Board or Committee. Far from the spotlight, most of the work of a senior volunteer is detailed and deep - it's critical to WoodGreen's success.

So whether it's at 7:30am or 7:30pm, here's thanks to you, WoodGreen volunteers, for giving your time and talent to making opportunity for our Toronto neighbours.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own. 


2014/03/24

Municipal poverty strategy

As an organizational member of the Alliance for a Poverty-free Toronto (APT), WoodGreen staff met for three years with others concerned about the same issue in our city.

We met both in small monthly working groups and in biannual wider check-ins with allies and advocates in the childcare, food housing, labour, social assistance and poverty sectors, to push for a municipal strategy to fight poverty.

On March 17, the City’s Community Development and Recreation Committee considered a motion to develop a strategy to address poverty. The motion passed and will now go to City Council at the beginning of April.

Our recent ad campaign for Homeward Bound, donated pro bono by DDB Canada, asked a powerful question: What if we cared about those living in poverty as much as we care about celebrities?

Poverty is a desperate, sad thing. It damns us all, hurts some of us much more. Single mothers face twice the poverty rate of couples with children. New immigrants, First Nations people and People of Colour find the labour and housing markets exclude them in very similar and harsh ways. Youth now enter a re-shaped labour market with limited prospects for success. People are travelling further in Toronto for poorer jobs, bad food and scarce housing. These are terrible awful things which we all well know.

So, then, as the great Torontonian Ursula Franklin reminded us, “After you have finished awfulizing, then what?”

The answer to that question is up to us.

Last fall, the Alliance for a Poverty-free Toronto produced a report, delivered to every City Councillor, which builds a strong case for change and then points the way. This second half of the report, the call for action, offers some possibilities for the conversation which is about to begin. In it, the Alliance put forward some very specific recommendations for many of the ‘wicked’ problems which face low income people.

The APT report, Towards a Poverty Elimination Strategy for the City of Toronto, calls for actions in the areas of:

1. Employment  (e.g. living wage policy, stronger employment equity, paid internships for youth and newcomers, advocacy for a provincial/national jobs strategy)
2. Income support (advocacy for more adequate provincial income support programs and improved access to Employment Insurance)
3. Housing (address provincial wait list, TCHC repairs, inclusionary zoning, upgrade shelter services, enhance Housing Stabilization Fund)
4. Transit (increased operating support for TTC, barring fare hikes, discounting transit passes for low-income residents, advocacy for adequate provincial funding)
5. Community Services (increased access to mental health, addictions, disability supports; better funding for non-profit and community organizations, better access to affordable child care) 

APT also offered a few broad recommendations:

? The first is that a coordinated approach is needed. These problems are complex and intertwined and so one-off solutions will not work. 
? The second is that a poverty lense has to be used on every decision brought before Council – will this make poverty better or worsen it? How can any decision improve the lot of those without?  

It seems now that Strategies are sexy, the new way for governments to respond, to demonstrate their commitment to respond. Last week the Director of Poverty at the Rowntree Foundation in the U.K. posted a cynical blog post about a new Child Poverty strategy. A strategy has to be more than priorities, he cautioned, but connect to specific targets and spark action; otherwise it is simply window-dressing.

The time for action is now. Why? Here’s why:

In an anecdote about his childhood, Mayor Naheed Nenshi explains the difference a city can make. He explained, that while he was from a low income family, they were not poor. The library with any book he wanted was up the street, the City pool was down and around the corner. For him, downtown was an easy transit ride away. At school, he would have enjoyed a daily snack (something particularly poignant in Toronto given the recent testimony by a pediatric nutritionist on how the school snack program saved Jeffrey Baldwin’s sister from starvation).

Poverty is not inevitable, but it is a choice, of our own economic and social priorities. The City has a chance to make a difference. We should do that.

Diane Dyson is WoodGreen's Director of Research and Public Policy.


2014/03/17

Satisfaction Survey

Every year, WoodGreen asks clients for their feedback about our programs and services by inviting them to complete our client satisfaction survey. This survey is made available on our website and is distributed in hard copy to clients through mail outs and drop off at our various locations.

As part of the survey process, we set targets by program or service area to ensure that we receive a representative sample of client responses across WoodGreen. The results of the survey are used by Directors at WoodGreen to identify areas where client experience can be improved.

The general results for client satisfaction are posted here and also under the “What’s New” Section of our website. This survey is completely anonymous and confidential and as a result, no individual client responses are included.

Thanks to all who filled out this year’s survey for helping us to improve our programs and services! Your feedback is always welcome.

Bruce Graham is WoodGreen's Senior Manager Compliance and Innovation.


2014/02/26

Playing for Keeps

With the Olympics just behind us, WoodGreen is proud to be part of Playing for Keeps. Playing for Keeps is an initiative that is developing healthier, more active, and better connected communities through play starting with the 2012 Ontario Summer Games towards the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games and beyond.

Why Playing for Keeps? WoodGreen and the other P4K partners are interested in building more active communities at the grassroots level. As part of this effort, we’ll be recruiting volunteers with an interest in building their leadership skills and in helping their neighbors get active. Best of all, these programs are being generously organized and funded by our partners at the Toronto Community Foundation.

Playing for Keeps Logo

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2014/01/20

How Dr. King’s work is still unfinished

Our neighbors to the south will pause today to remember one of the great men of our era – January 20 was Martin Luther King Day in the US.

While many things are better in both Canada and the US, the fact remains that youth of African descent in Toronto still have a 40% high school drop-out rate. And dropping out of high school is highly correlated to poor life outcomes – lower employment, higher incarceration, worse health.

WoodGreen’s award-winning Rites of Passage program helps youth of African descent develop into responsible adults. Based on a well-tested program developed in the US, over 90% of the young people in our Rites of Passage program graduate high school and over 80% go on to post-secondary school. Last year, after 2 years of fundraising, some of the youth went on a service trip to Ghana where they built latrines for a school in a village.

WoodGreen’s Rites of Passage program helps connect our young neighbors to their sense of purpose and gives them the opportunity to thrive..

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2014/01/20

It’s going to be a long winter

The recent ice storm left over 500,000 people struggling without heat and electricity. People were scrambling for a place to stay – somewhere warm and dry – as well as trying to figure out how to eat with no stove and no open restaurants nearby. The City of Toronto opened up warming stations in many areas to give people a place to warm up and get a meal.

WoodGreen’s 650 Queen Street East location is essentially an ongoing warming station for folks who are homeless or whose housing is inadequate. Being cold, hungry, and not sure where the next meal is coming from is common for some of our most vulnerable neighbors. The 650 location brings a whole range of services directly to folks including breakfast & lunch, washers & dryers, showers, a lounge where people can rest and warm up, as well a host of services including medical care (in partnership with St. Mike’s hospital and South Riverdale Health Services), legal support, and social work services (by WoodGreen staff and in partnership with COPA). All these supports help keep people safe and can assist in helping them reconnect with society.

For a brief moment, many of us experienced life without the basic necessities of life – thankfully WoodGreen helps those who live this way every day.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2014/01/13

What if we cared about those living in poverty as much as we care about celebrities?

Thanks to the amazing folks at DDB, you will be seeing an amazing campaign they did pro bono focusing attention on the single moms on social assistance. WoodGreen’s award-winning Homeward Bound program gives moms the supports they need to be able to change their own lives and get family-sustaining work.

Please help keep the conversation going in the way that fits for you – here are 4 ways to help

sign the petition
• spread the word by liking the WoodGreenDotOrg Facebook page
follow WoodGreenDotOrg on Twitter or follow the hashtag #ChangeTheConversation
make a donation to support Homeward Bound

This campaign asks a provocative question – we hope you’ll help us provide the answer

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2014/01/06

!!!! made here

One of the inspiring things for me about working at WoodGreen are my co-workers. Holy smokes are they ever passionate about making a better Toronto for all our neighbors. I know they are true opportunity makers because they connect with me with ideas, requests, or simply to share some great news – and the news is always punctuated with happy !!!!

There are a lot of e-mails that have happy exclamations !!!! in the subject line. So when one of the women in our Homeward Bound program gets a job, there is an e-mail with !!!!!! because we are so happy to share in their happiness at attaining the milestone of family-sustaining employment. Or one of the seniors in our First Step to Home program transitions to fully independent housing, there is another !!!!. Or when a youth from Rites of Passage gets into the university of their choice - !!!!

So hearty !!!! to our team here for helping make opportunity.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2013/12/30

It takes more than an icestorm to stop WoodGreen

WoodGreen keeps working – especially when the power is off for vulnerable clients. The day after the icestorm, social workers (who slip-slided into work one way or another) were busy checking all our clients had appropriate heat and electricity. In many cases, they did home visits to help make sure all was well or to help make other arrangements. The Monday Meals on Wheels delivery went ahead with WoodGreen staff pitching in when volunteers were unable to make it out to help – Meals on Wheels was another great way to make sure that clients were doing ok. And our team provided extra staffing for clients living at our 1420 Victoria Park supportive housing location until the power came back on very late Monday night.

Here’s hoping that you, and all our Toronto neighbours, are safe and warm in 2014.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2013/12/02

Giving Tuesday

Tuesday, December 3 kicks off the first Giving Tuesday in Canada. Giving Tuesday was developed in response to the intensely commercial Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday attempts to give us all a bit of balance by focusing on philanthropy.

For most, Giving Tuesday is just another Tuesday – over 80% of Canadians give to charity every year. Even if you already give to charity, consider this a chance to see if there is something else you can do. For example, if you already volunteer and give to charity, maybe you should consider registering as an organ donor.

If you are thinking of how you can make an even bigger impact on our community this Giving Tuesday, feel free to contact me.

This Giving Tuesday, let’s see if we can all give a bit more.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2013/11/25

Thanksmukkah

This week on Thursday is the one-time-only-in-our-lifetime holiday of Thanksmukkah. That’s right, American Thanksgiving and the first night of the Jewish festival of lights Hanukkah fall on exactly the same night. I love how Thanksmukkah mashes up 2 traditions in a way that is fun and enriches different cultural traditions.

Cultural mash-ups can also lead to great food and I recently read an article about the passing of Kadir Nurman, a Turkish immigrant in Germany who took the popular Middle Eastern dish of sliced grilled meat and served it in a flat bread to create the doner kebab. According to Mirror News (UK) Mr Nurman claimed to have noticed the fast pace of city life and thought busy Berliners might like a meal they could carry with them.

These fun examples are in sharp contrast to the findings of the report written by WoodGreen’s own Diane Dyson about how much new Canadians struggle to find decent work. One statistic particularly struck me – of 185 people who worked as professionals in their home country, only 4 work as professionals in Canada.

Kadir Nurman showed how much an immigrant can blend two cultures for a great outcome. In a spirit of Thanskmukkah, surely we can do better to harness the skills and talents of the newest members of our community?

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2013/11/18

Not just smart, super smart, volunteers

Last week I was at an 8am Audit and Finance committee meetings. Evidently numbers are most fresh early in the morning.

As I sat listening to the various members of the committee discuss key points, ask smart questions, raise pertinent clarifications, I kept thinking “Wow, we are so lucky to have such great volunteers.”

I am always impressed that people are willing to take time out of their very busy day to volunteer for a charity, not just WoodGreen. I’m inspired by those who bring their skills, time, and talent to help us do our work better.

We have a truly have great group of volunteers at WoodGreen – and I am lucky enough to get to work with many of them.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


 

2013/11/12

Philanthropy includes all of us

In honour of National Philanthropy Day (Friday, November 15), the following excerpt by Holly Wagg summarizes why inclusive giving matters.
 
“Last week was the sixth workshop in AFP's Inclusive Giving project and the focus is on Women and Philanthropy. Over the past eight months a dedicated group of volunteers has shaped a vision for the discussions - everything from women's motivations for giving to insights into the challenges female philanthropists face.”
 
The AFP series on inclusive giving has also already included individual sessions on Chinese, South Asian, Jewish, African Caribbean, Indigenous Philanthropy.
 
If you are interested in joining the conversation, get in touch and let’s have coffee. Or join me at one of the upcoming sessions in 2014 – topic will be Next Generation, Francophone Ontarian, LGBTQ, Differently abled, Islamic, and Hispanic Philanthropy.
 
The ways of expressing philanthropy may vary by culture, age, religion, language, or personal situation but the human desire to help build a better community is universal.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.

2013/11/11

WoodGreen, community, and WWII

Today at 11am, we mark Remembrance Day and I'll be thinking of many folks including WoodGreen founder, Ray McCleary, who served so tirelessly in WWII.

While serving in Europe, McCleary asked community leader and philanthropist, Garfield Weston, to donate 1000 "wireless sets" to the Canadian Forces to help boost morale. Weston was very glad to help.

As we remember all those who served, I'll be thinking of Ray McCleary and how he found innovative ways to work with all members of the community to make lives better, even in the midst of war.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.
 



2013/11/03 

The “rich” homeless

I was chatting with one of the guys who often asks for spare change outside the local drug store – we had happened to meet at the library. Once he left, one of the people in the library said “you know, many homeless people are actually quite well off.”

That sure is not my experience.

The homeless or inadequately housed people I meet through WoodGreen are barely scraping by. I have not yet met a person who likes to ask for handouts – I meet people who want to contribute to society and do their part by sweeping a. I also meet people all the time who didn’t want to be homeless but life circumstances threw them a huge, huge curve call.

I’m proud that WoodGreen works to help folks who are homeless get back on their feet and also helps prevent people from becoming homelessness. Because from where I sit, being homeless isn’t my definition of financially secure. At all.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2013/10/28

Treat!

When my kids were young, I would take them trick or treating. They were little and when we would go to the door, they would often demand “Treat!” instead of asking politely.

As we head into the holiday season, I worry a lot about charities and fundraising. Too often I think charities take donors for granted and like small children we seem to simply demand support.

So, if no one else remembers – allow me to say on behalf of all charities, Thank you for making a difference in your neighbourhood. Because even if no one thanks you properly, your support to charity, really does make a difference.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2013/10/21

Your United Way donation builds community - right here at WoodGreen

Like your office, WoodGreen runs a campaign to support United Way. As a United Way agency, WoodGreen provides the direct services that your United Way donations support.

Thanks to your help through United Way, your gift helps support people like Michelle, who is one of the moms in our Homeward Bound program. Your gift doesn’t just stop at WoodGreen – you help support great services across Toronto.

So if you are in the neighborhood this Wednesday, October 23 around lunchtime and you may very well see Brian’s Bagel Brigade for United Way. We will be joining you in making Toronto a better city through supporting United Way.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2013/10/14

Thanks & Giving

If you are a nice neighbor who shovels the sidewalk for the senior next door, person who leans over and hands a quarter to a homeless person, hard-working employee who fills in a pledge form to support your office United Way campaign, active citizen who votes in elections, or an ordinary someone who participates in helping making life better in any one of the countless ways that make Toronto stronger.

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.


2013/10/07

Matching your interests to Toronto’s urgent needs

Toronto Community Foundation

The Toronto Community Foundation gave a great overview of the state of the city recently with the release of their annual Vital Signs report. What you may have missed is their profile on page 4, talking about Barb and Peter Halsall, showing how donors, like you, can work collaboratively with TCF to match your own interests to pressing civic concerns.

The Toronto Community Foundation is a great resource if you are looking to make an impact in an area of particular interest. The TCF Community Knowledge Centre is a robust resource to connect your own interests to the work of local groups, like WoodGreen. WoodGreen is one of only 200 charities featured on the TCF Community Knowledge Centre. Our listing includes details on our TCF award-winning Rites of Passage program for African-descended youth.

Giving wisely and strategically based on your personal passion can be hard. The Toronto Community Foundation is one place to get solid advice.

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Executive Director of The WoodGreen Foundation. She also serves as the Chair of the Imagine Canada Ethical Code Advisory Committee. Opinions expressed here are her own.

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