I remember the day that Lorraine came to me. She stood in my door way, sheepishly saying, ”I’m shy but would like to volunteer”. I told her about the Firgrove Tenant’s Association and also asked her to be part of the Jane Finch Community Ministry Steering Committee. Eventually through the support and mentoring of the previous chair she agreed to chair the Tenant’s Association. That role led her to being elected as one of Toronto Community Housing (TCH) Tenant reps and being appointed to a grant review committee for Housing’s Social Investment Fund.
In Firgrove she was co-founder of Firgrove W.O.M.E.N (Women On the Move Economic Network). When the ministry received some funding to do a community building retreat for women in Jane and Finch she was one of the organizers of the event and through some training from United Way she helped provide some of the facilitation. Later she used the facilitation skills with several other organizations around the issue of resident engagement. She was on the resident advisory committee of Black Creek Community Capacity project (BCCCP). Currently she co-chairs the BCCCP Education and Training group and through her involvement on its Economic working group she established a relationship with one of the Unions that provides 1,000 school backpacks and several scholarships for youth and children in Jane and Finch each year.
In addition to the steering committee Lorraine provided support to the ministry when I was on sabbatical and organized a complete makeover of the office before I returned. She was appointed as the Toronto rep for Urban Rural Mission (a World Council of Churches project) and is currently on the National Reference Committee for UCC Community Ministries.
Through her skill development in volunteering it has led to several part-time contract positions with several organizations as an outreach worker, animator and afterschool supervisor. In 2008 she received the position as the coordinator for the Firgrove Community Learning Centre. The Centre has now become the ‘Heart of the Community’ which is a place for interacting, educating, entertaining and socializing. Some of the activities of the centre include yoga classes, sewing classes, weekly drop-in teas with guest speakers, an afterschool program, high school upgrading for adult women and a youth music studio. Funding of the Centre has come from a two year seed grant which we have stretched to 3 years. We are on the road to core funding support from the City unless the SDIP program does get axed from the City budget.
As I have seen the personal growth in skill level of Lorraine and witnessed the wonderful contributions that she has made she has done this with the pride of being a caring mother and modeling that one must give back to the community.
Written by Barry Rieder, Jane Finch Community Minister