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EDITORIAL: Local heroes (Apr. 2020)

May 1st, 2020 · 4 Comments

“Canadians are kind and generous.” The Prime Minsister tells us this in his daily briefings on the COVID-19 crisis. In reality, this statement is part truth and part aspirational. Fortunately in the Annex, and in a great many other parts of our city, this is proving to be true. Many residents are acting as model citizens: staying home, sharing positive messages, and helping each other out.

This crisis is allowing us to see who is prepared to give and to be helpful. In the Gleaner’s distribution area it’s hard to find a neighbourhood where residents are not stepping up to help those who are vulnerable and in need. 

Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) has launched the Harbord Village Mutual Aid Network to help each other during the COVID-19 global pandemic. To help the community and each other, HVRA started delivering flyers with HVRA names and contact information, so people could either email the association directly and get matched with a volunteer – or they could take up the offer of the person whose name was on the flyer. The volunteers pick up medication, groceries, and act as a listening ear on the other end of the line. 

“I must say that has been one of the main points, to say you know, I’m here, I’m ready and I really want to help my neighbours,” said Margaret Procter who spearheaded the initiative. “That’s really very touching to see a sense of responsibility towards people, and older people especially,” she said. There are so many volunteers signed up to help in Harbord Village that they outnumber those who need it.

North of Bloor Street, the Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) has launched a similar initiative. Gleaner columnist and ARA Parks Committee chair Terri Chu launched the Annex Help Group at the start of the lockdown out of concern for seniors. “I got a lot of very nice notes, saying they just appreciate knowing there is somebody they can call, should something happen,” said Chu. “It helped them to feel better, just to know there was a backup plan.” At press time, the group numbered 106 volunteers and has dropped 3,500 leaflets

West of Bathurst Street, the Palmerston Area Residents Association (PARA) has launched a Community Mask Initiative to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19. 

“You might actually have COVID-19 — you don’t realize that you don’t really have any symptoms, but you could be passing it along. And the idea of wearing a fabric mask, so they are not taking any resources away from healthcare professionals, but the fact that you could wear a mask that would cut down on your droplets that you’re sending out there,” said Ingrid Nasager, PARA Membership Coordinator and Board Member. PARA has also provided a community service for seniors like grocery shopping or picking up medications. 

Thirty-six restaurants on Bloor St. between Bathurst and Madison are doing take-out, pick-up and delivery, and trying their best to stay alive. Pauper’s Pub is one of them, but has also added groceries to the menu, and they’ve made those groceries available at reasonable prices. How creative and thoughtful is that? The Victory Cafe dropped its prices by 40% for take-out of its gourmet pizzas (less than its cost). Owner Nick Ndreka said, “this is an emergency and we have to help people.”

Clearly, neither business has chosen to profit from this pandemic. They each want you to remember how they acted in your hour of need.

This time will be remembered as an existential moment for many.  How we recall the way we have treated others and how others have treated you will speak to the core of our value systems. We’ve realized who is “essential” and how we treat them. It’s far more than first-responders and health care workers, it’s the cooks, cleaners, grocery store staff, truck drivers, and the Uber Eats cyclist bringing you dinner tonight. We should reassert the good will we’ve summoned in this crisis and think about how we can create a more equitable society in the future.

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Tags: Annex · Editorial

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