This week we’re talking about community hubs, our new ILEO report, a success story of an inclusive employment program, and the unequal impacts of climate change.
So often now at podiums, on panels, in presentations, I find myself talking about our local neighbourhood work—community coordination tables, ILEO, inclusive communities. And while these manifestations are more recent, we have always been here, rooted in neighbourhoods. One key pillar of that work is our community hubs.
We started working on the hub model over a decade ago, after recognizing that often, community services were fragmented or inaccessible. Hubs bring services closer to home and provide residents with easier access to a broad range of programs and supports as well as a place to gather, all under one roof.
During the pandemic, community hubs were home to food distribution centres and pop-up vaccine clinics in GTA hotspots. Today, they’re home to a booming bike repair shop, Afghan women cooking groups, a seniors axe-throwing club. These hubs are connection, love, and opportunity.
So I am proud, honoured and excited to share that just a few weeks ago we broke ground on our latest hub—Bridletowne Neighbourhood Centre in Scarborough. Ten years in the making, the idea for Bridletowne was cooked up in the living rooms of local residents, hosting gatherings, brewing tea, pulling in every neighbour they could find. Their efforts bring us now to ten hubs, including one planned for Thorncliffe Park.
The Bridletowne hub is a partnership between the YMCA of Greater Toronto and the Scarborough Health Network, and resulted from deep collaboration with community residents, government and corporate partners.
With the support of donors, it will become like home for thousands in the community. It will be where a new mom connects with her peers and where seniors band together to organize a community BBQ. A place where a patient receives dialysis. Where a teen builds confidence honing a new skill.
At all times, but especially hard times, we know, and our decades of neighbourhood work shows that we are stronger when we can say hello to five friends on our block. When we volunteer with meal delivery or join the local knitting club. Our research shows that connected communities respond to crisis better, recover faster, and rebuild stronger. That’s what we’re seeing in our hubs. These hubs are front-line but also conveners, advocates, tools for systemic change and equitable neighbourhoods. They are community. And they are thanks to your support, and to the dedicated cross-sector collaborative, innovative work that you enable.
Always, and only, thank you.
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto
Things to Know Right Now
We recently released ILEO In Action: Towards Inclusive Revitalization, a report which reflects on the impact of our Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity Initiative (ILEO) and highlights key lessons that will help shape how we achieve our goals for Scarborough’s Greater Golden Mile and beyond. ILEO, which was launched in 2018 by United Way Greater Toronto and BMO, brings together over 30 partners across the private, public and community sectors and is demonstrating early indicators of success with nearly 100 residents directly trained, more than 130 residents hired and more than $500,000 in new revenue to local businesses. To learn more about how ILEO is reducing gaps in economic prosperity at the neighbourhood level, read the full report.
Update from the Frontlines
Mackenzie Koole is the newest porter at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and a graduate of Project Search, a training program that provides co-op placements for high school students with an intellectual disability to learn on-the-job skills. Mackenzie was initially hesitant about working in a hospital but found that she loved it. Project Search set her and her peers up for success by pairing them with a job coach from Community Living Toronto—a role funded by United Way. Her job coach worked with her for nine months in three different co-ops, so he knew she had the skills needed to take on the porter role. Project Search is just one of the programs we collaborate on to promote inclusive employment by connecting service users to in-demand jobs.
Climate Change Impact
Concerns over air quality have been in the news recently, and they are also bringing how climate change impacts people unequally, impacting those with low incomes the most. Climate-related health risks are acute for under-served communities, particularly vulnerable groups and those living in deteriorating rental buildings in need of retrofits, a reality for many residents across the GTA. According to community advocate Michelle Dagnino, Executive Director of United Way-funded Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre, building retrofits and better policy choices are needed to protect those at higher risk. We shared recommendations like these in our Vertical Legacy: The case for revitalizing the GTA’s aging rental tower communities report, describing what is needed to improve social housing conditions—and climate experts agree.
Shop the ILEO Community Storefront
Join us for the ILEO Community Storefront, where you can find locally made clothing, beauty products, home goods, abstract art and more while enjoying food and entertainment for the whole family. All the entrepreneurs are part of the Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity (ILEO) Storefront Starter program, which helps entrepreneurs build their business and contribute to a vibrant local retail environment in Scarborough’s Greater Golden Mile. Find the market on Case Good Lane in the Distillery District in downtown Toronto from Aug. 2 to Sept. 4.
Volunteer for United Way’s CN Tower Climb
After a three-year hiatus, we are returning to the CN Tower on October 21 and 22 for our signature event, United Way’s ClimbUP for community. We’re looking for volunteers to help us make this a truly unforgettable experience. It’s an opportunity to support your community while having fun! Sign up to be notified once volunteer registration opens. We’d love to have you join us!