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article imageInside the life of a Toronto community centre Special

By KJ Mullins     Mar 22, 2010 in Lifestyle
Toronto - Harbourfront Community Centre in Toronto provides local residents with a place to gather, find friends and services and belong.
First established in 1991 the centre gives the community a common location meeting the changing needs of the area.
The neighbourhood has changed since the beginning. Condos are rapidly towering over smaller co-ops and city housing. There's a bank down here, just added in the last year. The community has a corner store and a gas station but that in the past was about it. In the downtown the neighbour was fairly isolated, making it a great place to raise a family.
Leona Rodall, Executive Director and Kelly McClure, Assistant Executive Director sat down for a talk about the need for community centres in Toronto and in the Harbourfront neighbourhood in particular.
Harbourfront Community Centre Celebration
Harbourfront Community Centre Celebration
KJ Mullins
KJ:Why do we need a community center in this area of town?
Rodall: The community really wanted a community centre that was a neutral place to go. For meetings, to meet a friend for coffee. Someplace to go.
It's a growing community with lots of people coming in not knowing anyone so it's a place to meet someone.
The Harbourfront Community Centre is the heart of this Toronto neighbourhood.
The Harbourfront Community Centre is the heart of this Toronto neighbourhood.
KJ:Do you see the community here changing? There's a lot more condos coming. It's a mixed community with those with money and then a mixed area with city housing and co-op housing.
Rodall: Someone with Regent's Park asked in the last year or two what was needed for the middle class....(Regent Park is being rebuilt into a mixed community)
I don't think they need anything different than the lower class. Everyone needs a place to connect with each other.
In some ways it's Peter who can pay Paul, people like giving back. Just be a friend. It's an exciting opportunity we have in this neighbourhood.
People who are lower income may not stand out as much. No one wants others to know they are poor. I haven't heard anyone saying that they aren't getting the services that are needed.
McClure: I have heard that there is gaps with seniors. CCAC is trying to develop a cluster model within housing unit areas. They are providing one service provider for the homes to make the needs more customized.
We have received funding through New Horizons. We are now an elderly care centre. Now with more funding we are providing more programming for seniors. We have a lot of people coming to the programs.
The core group of seniors have became a great support group. Close friendships are developing.
It is very isolating down here for seniors. It's much better now but it's still isolating.
The Harbourfront Community Centre is the heart of this Toronto neighbourhood.
The Harbourfront Community Centre is the heart of this Toronto neighbourhood.
KJ: I know that the centre has been in the forefront with the Mother Mentoring program and others, pushing to get more senior involvement. Has the Mother Mentoring program changed?
McClure: It changes every year. There are different types of fitness programs. We are continuing with the cooking programs. We are adding social clubs.
Last year a group of senior women came together with the community garden program at Fort York. They have put together a cookbook, Grandmothers in the Garden, which will be for sale soon.
This year the group wanted to learn more about arts. Either in the centre and at art studios.
The Harbourfront Community Centre is the heart of this Toronto neighbourhood.
The Harbourfront Community Centre is the heart of this Toronto neighbourhood.
KJ:We have a huge artist population in this area. The artist population came way before the yuppies came. Is that reflective of this community centre?
McClure: We have a lot of art programs.
We have a program with the RCP to work with youth to work on murals throughout Toronto.
Rodall: For nineteen years there is a art therapy program for women that has been going on. It's a very private, rock solid group.
The Harbourfront Community Centre is the heart of this Toronto neighbourhood.
The Harbourfront Community Centre is the heart of this Toronto neighbourhood.
KJ: We also have a lot of little kids coming into the area.....
McClure: Babies everywhere.
Rodall: A question we have to ask is will the condo dwellers stay here with their children? We will see if they are here when they are four, five, kindergarten age.
The entire interview is on split between the two videos.
The Harbourside Community Centre is much more than just a building. That building houses the centre, a day care centre and two schools. It takes a host of employees to run this community hub. The centre employees about 71, a lot of whom are part-time students.
From a small group of the first community activists that started Harbourfront to today's diverse community the centre has been the heart.
Harbourfront Community Centre Celebration
Harbourfront Community Centre Celebration
KJ Mullins
It is the heart of the community. It's where seniors go to meet friends, it's where children go for primary school, it's an alternative school. Residents gather to listen to their local politicians. For those in this community it's a part of our home, where you know a smiling face will be waiting.
We are one, we are a community.
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