RESIDENTS HIT NEIGHBOURHOOD STREETS TO COLLECT, DISPOSE OF WASTE
By Justin Crann
As part of the mayor’s city-wide initiative, Harbord Village residents have come together with local businesses to clean up their community.
“We started a few years ago with no sponsors, and then we had Pizza Nova,” said organizer Neil Stephenson, “In 2011, it started [to be] a Harbord Village neighbourhood thing, and of course now it’s really grown into something larger.”
The clean-up, which occurred on Apr. 21, was organized with the assistance of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) ,and sponsored by 37 neighbourhood businesses, banks and restaurants, including Scotiabank, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, Mirvish Productions, and Loire restaurant (119 Harbord St.), which hosted a catered after-party for participants.
“[We] wanted to do something for the neighbourhood because we’ve been here for four years and we get very good support,” said Sylvain Brissonnet, co-owner of Loire. “And so we decided this year to organize the party here, just to thank the neighbourhood.”
The event drew a crowd of more than 80 people, including MPP Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina), who emphasized the importance of community-wide clean-ups.
“It’s part of a community service. It’s part of showing people that we care about keeping our streets clean, and if they see many of us in the streets, hopefully many people will realize that throwing garbage or recyclables [on the street] is not the right thing to do,” Marchese said.
Marchese was also pleased to see the level of involvement from businesses in the area.
“It means it’s a community. It’s not just those of us who go out and clean, but it’s the businesses who realize this is an important part of community service,” he said, “It’s good to see it all come together.”
The spring clean-up was the second community-wide event, following in the footsteps of one that Stephenson had organized last fall, but was substantially larger, involving more than triple the sponsors and volunteer participants.
Stephenson has also been working with Central Technical School (725 Bathurst St.) to involve students in the community events.
“[Neil] knocked on the door,” said Sheryl Freeman, principal of Central Tech. “I have to say that Neil’s been the one who has been persistent, because it’s busy every day here… but I think as a school and as a school staff, we’re very committed to this idea of connectivity in the neighbourhood.”
Part of Stephenson’s endeavour to involve Central Tech students in their community was to get them out to help clean up last fall, Freeman said.
“That was Neil’s idea… last fall, Neil said, ‘Hey, this is what we can do,’ and then he was the one that went out and got community support,” said Freeman. “That worked very, very well.”
This year, Stephenson organized the student clean-up for the day prior to the community-wide event, Freeman said, but students and staff of Central Tech remained enthused.
The same was true for community members who expressed enthusiasm about cleaning up their neighbourhood.
“I think it’s a great initiative,” said Simon Bennett, “I think if we get the community to clean up, then we’ll get other people to clean up as well, and to think twice about littering.”
It is in the spirit of involving others that Stephenson hopes the HVRA endeavour spreads to other neighbourhoods in Toronto.
“Harbord Village is quite a strong group … I think that we would like to use our influence in the city as a pretty high-profile group to influence other people so that they can get involved and do something similar,” he said.
“There’s not much point in us having a really clean neighbourhood [if] the rest of the city isn’t doing the same.”
For those thinking of organizing an event, Stephenson had a few words of encouragement.
“What we did here is really simple. We just went around to all of the businesses and all of the companies and shops and restaurants and said, ‘Look, this is something that’s really great for the community. It brings everyone together, it’s a social opportunity to network and connect with people,’” he said.
“And when I went around to all of the sponsors, the restaurants, the bank, Splendido and Mirvish … nobody said no … any group in the city could do something similar with their local businesses, neighbours and community organizations, and I would imagine most people would probably get pretty excited about it.”
“People just need to be asked to do it,” he said, “and then they’ll do it.”