By Claire Barcik, CRC Executive Director
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”
– Marcel Proust
It is truly a privilege to be writing this as the new Executive Director of CRC. I first met CRC when I was working in Regent Park as Director of Community Services at the Yonge Street Mission. At local meetings, I met CRC’s then ED Debra Dineen who was talking about the organization’s dream to build deeply affordable housing on the footprint of Regent Park through the revitalization. I wondered how this little agency would ever do that.
Fast forward many years and here I sit in what is truly a stunning hub full of beauty, light and dignity for a community that deserves to bask in it and has rarely had the opportunity to do so.
As I return to Regent Park, there is a tangible spirit of optimism and possibility in the community and certainly in our space – in our community gardens, where young and old hone their skills to grow their own food; at meals for 250, where kale salad, delicious chicken curry and good conversations nurture body and soul; at the festive community events that we animate in the “Big Park” as the new park is known; at our bake oven, where local kids learn to make their own pizzas from scratch; amongst our dynamic staff team so dedicated to providing a warm welcome and a chance for a better life through skills building and providing necessities; and, amongst our amazingly gifted troupe of volunteers and Board members who are adamant about excellent service to our community members.
CRC is located literally in the centre of the new Regent Park – a metaphor for our future. It is our time to be at the centre of significant change in this community.
Regent Park has always been rich with people and talents. We can now match it with resources and a focus on community building and capacity building. Our community members deserve great meals and new clothes and the opportunity to build the skills to move forward and make good lives for themselves without depending on us.
And with this renewed vision follows new energy for this place.
Just this past week, we had news of a group of employees at a major grocery chain that volunteered with us and then raised $25,000 to invest in our programs, matched by their generous employer.
Another corporate group is running a creative 12 days of Christmas drive for our Clothing Room for quality used winter clothing.
A church group is donating $10,000 to support our deeply affordable housing and Community Food Centre programs.
The children’s cooking class was in Sprott Community Kitchen laughing and making a healthy dinner and energy balls – they positively beam as they come into the building.
Our band, Inspired Souls, is practicing for a local gig.
Lois Wilson, former Senator and the first female Moderator of the United Church and the World Council of Churches and a wise woman, was in for a meeting to share her passion about the difference we can make in this community.
And finally, the Muslim Welfare Centre which serves a community meal here every Sunday has just invited me to a community event. It is a rich tapestry of life and care that we weave at CRC.
Last week, post Paris bombings and mosque burning in Peterborough; I took a break between meetings to visit our knitting program. About 15 women of all ages, life experiences and socio-economic backgrounds were sitting together knitting various projects with differing skill levels. Six of them were wearing hijab. The women were all smiling, laughing, in rhythm together, learning from each other, caring for one another as patient volunteers helped take each one to their next level of confidence. It was a thing of beauty. No words of inclusion or cohesion needed to be spoken. It was CRC. It was Canada at its best and the way that I have known it to be for a long time.
So come along with us. Get involved. Volunteer your time. Give a family member a Christmas, Chanukah, or birthday gift in our name. Donate some clothes. Host a party in our honour. Offer a kind thought in our name. Serve a meal. Be part of this tapestry.
We need your gifts and talents. You are part of the CRC family, where there is space for all at the table.