Governor General Comes To Weston

Friday January 14.

This afternoon, Canada’s Governor General, David Johnston flew in from Ottawa to lend support to the Habitat for Humanity project at 1500 Weston Road. The complex of 20 energy efficient townhouses will provide safe, decent and affordable homes for 96 people currently living in sub-standard housing in Toronto.

Governor General David Johnston chats to a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

The Governor General’s support came in the form of adding his presence to the Habitat For Humanity project thus providing moral support but he is no slouch when it comes to hammering a nail and laying down flooring. He worked on the second floor of a home that will be completed this spring.

His Excellency nails down a floor to the delight of assorted photographers.

The townhome complex is being built almost entirely by volunteers from the community as well as the eventual homeowners.

Governor General David Johnston talking with volunteers.

After putting in his work shift, his excellency moved to a marquee where he chatted informally with volunteers and community partners.  Later, he spoke about the contribution that Habitat For Humanity has made in many countries around the world and the dedication of volunteers who lend their muscle and expertise. Habitat For Humanity is an international non-profit organization dedicated to providing safe and decent housing at a reasonable cost.

His Excellency speaks to volunteers and Habitat staff.

The first residents will be moving in on Saturday and others will be moving in as the units are completed. A resident who will be among  the first to move in described her excitement and feeling of accomplishment and thankfulness at being able to move into a home of her own. The head of Habitat in Canada, Stewart Hardacre said that in his experience children raised in Habitat homes consistently graduate from university.

Jane St Hub official opening

The Jane Street Hub will have its official opening on January 20th at 10 am. Several celebrities will be there, including the Minister of Health, Deb Matthews, and Matt Galloway, host of Metro Morning on the people’s radio.

The Jane Street Hub is a one-stop health and social services agency. Among other services, visitors can get

  • Health care
  • Settlement services
  • Child minding and parenting help
  • Women’s services
  • Youth programs
  • Counselling

The Hub has been in the works since 2007 and first opened its doors in October. It is at 1541 Jane St. All are welcome.

Arstcape to report findings about hub in Weston/Mt Dennis

Artscape, an arts group that played a large role in refurbishing the Wychwood Barns and the Distillery District, has something planned for Weston and Mount Dennis. They will be revealing some of the details on Wednesday, January 26, at 6:30 pm at the Legion in Mt Dennis.

The City of Toronto asked Artscape to undertake a “feasibility study” for an arts hub in our neighbourhood. The meeting this month will reveal what they found.

According to Liz Kohn, Director of Communications, the plans are still in an early stage. But given the great success Artscape has had in the past, Westonians might reasonably hope for something big.

York Weston Community Centre’s swan song

The Globe and Mail has an article covering the closing of a community hub in Weston. The York Weston Community Services Centre provides settlement services primarily to Sudanese newcomers. Cuts to its funding are forcing it to close.

Sudan is having a referendum to determine whether the south of the country will separate. Interestingly, the community centre in Weston is one of only two places in all of Canada where Sudanese expatriates can vote.

According to the article, after the referendum, the York Weston Community Services Centre will close because it is underperforming and because fewer immigrants are settling here.

As far back as 2008, CIC had identified critical weaknesses in York Weston’s governance structure. It claimed the centre had failed to meet benchmarks in service delivery as well as its obligations under the terms and conditions of its contribution agreement with CIC.

In 2009, a new, reform-minded board of directors was elected and began to work on addressing CIC’s concerns. It submitted its first progress report to CIC that December. The board also fired its executive director last summer and replaced him with John Doughty, a specialist in crisis management and turnaround in non-profits.

Weston Treasures: Weston Public Library

The original library entrance; not enhanced by Toronto Hydro, Bell and Rogers!

Just a little to the north of Shoppers Drug Mart at Weston and King is a gem of a building that sits quietly in its own regal splendour. This Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau style building is almost 100 years old.

In 1911, the Weston Library Board applied to the Carnegie Foundation in New York for a $10,000 grant for construction costs. The Board had changed from a subscription library to a public one in preparation for the grant. The Foundation approved the board’s plans and the village of Weston purchased a 140 x 60 foot site for $1950, agreeing to pay for books and library staff from tax revenues to the tune of $1000 annually (quite a burden for taxpayers). The librarian’s annual salary was $300 while the custodian was paid $60.

Original hours of operation: Daily 3 – 5 pm, evenings 7 – 9 pm except Wednesdays.

The Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau style was popular at the time and Toronto architects, Lindsay and Brydon were selected to design the building. Their previous collaboration in designing small churches seems to have carried over to the library design as it has a chapel-like appearance with stained glass windows. The design was approved by the community and, common to all Ontario Carnegie libraries, incorporates mosaic lettering over the doorway.

Detail of the original entrance showing the porch archway and mosaic.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish-American steel baron who became a philanthropist in his later years (think rich like Bill Gates). His story is a true rags to riches one and he credited some of his success to the availability of a library when he was a young man working twelve-hour days, six days a week as a telegraph clerk. He donated money through one of his foundations for 125 libraries in Canada, and about 2400 in the U.S. the U.K. and other English-speaking countries. The Weston Library is testament to his belief that libraries are a benefit to all of society and are a great tool to help people better themselves. He is famous for stating that the first third of a person’s life should be spent acquiring an education, the next third acquiring wealth and the last third giving away that wealth.

Carnegie Libraries pioneered the idea of browsing and selection of books directly by patrons rather than by requesting a book from the librarian. Remember when the LCBO was like that?

Weston Public Library is one of seven remaining Carnegie libraries still functioning in Toronto. It was declared a heritage building in 1979 after an attempt to have it replaced in 1975 (sound familiar?) and an addition, which tripled the floor space, was completed in 1982. Incidentally the attempt to demolish the library sparked the founding of the Weston Historical Society.

Other (now in) Toronto Carnegie Libraries:

  • Yorkville – 22 Yorkville Avenue – still in use; opened in 1907
  • Queen and Lisgar – now used by Toronto Public Health opened in 1909
  • Central Library – 214 College – now used by U of T., opened in 1909
  • Riverdale Branch – 370 Broadview; opened in 1910
  • Birge-Carnegie Library 73 Queens Park Crescent East; 1910 – 1961 now used by United Church of Canada
  • Wychwood Branch – 1431 Bathurst Street; opened in1916
  • High Park Branch – 228 Roncesvalles Avenue; opened in1916
  • Beaches Branch – 2161 Queen Street East; opened in1916
  • Mimico Public Library 1915 – 1966 (demolished)

Next time you go to the Weston branch, be sure to check out the original stained glass windows. They are beautiful.

Do you have a suggestion for coverage of another Weston treasure? Let us know through the comments section.

Weston community services to be slashed

According to InsideToronto, some of Weston’s community service agencies are facing deep cuts that will seriously impede their ability to help newcomers.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is cutting a large part of the budget for three Weston-area agencies: Northwood Neighbourhood Services, the Centre for Spanish-Speaking Peoples, and the York-Weston Community Services Centre.

“The impact will be huge for sure,” agreed Azaria Wolday, Settlement Manager for Northwood. His agency opened in 1982 and has been receiving CIC funding since 1986, with it now accounting for approximately 30 per cent of Northwood’s operating budget.

Northwood Neighbourhood Services is at the Crossroads Plaza, beside Jolly Restaurant.

CIC also cut funding for separate reasons to the Centre for Spanish Speaking [sic] Peoples on Jane Street near Hwy. 401 and the York-Weston Community Services Centre, she said. The latter agency on Weston Road, which also housed a Southern Sudanese settlement organization, shut down this past fall after losing its government funding.

“So the impact in York South-Weston is enormous,” said Newrick. CIC funding covers approximately 40 per cent of her agency’s budget.