Katelyn Palmer was waiting for the streetcar on the corner of Dundas and Sumach when she spotted a poster from Friends of Regent Park inviting the community to a winter festival. Katelyn moved into Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood as it transitioned from a 69 acre social housing neighbourhood to a community with both rent-geared-to-income and market units.
Katelyn quickly joined the trusted community park group in a neighbourhood where 57 different languages are spoken. Katelyn loved how Friends of Regent Park celebrates community’s incredible diversity, whether it be baking culturally-specific goodies in the bake oven or hosting awesome summer festivals that feature live performances.
Every year during Earth Week, Friends of Regent Park organizes a clean-up that typically brings 120 community members together. The park group provides lunch prepared by Muslim Welfare Canada to anyone that participates and together they collect around 80 bags of waste (40 bags of garbage and 40 bags of recycling.)
This year, COVID-19 brought community gatherings and outdoor programming to a standstill and Friends of Regent Park had to cancel their large public clean-up. But Katelyn couldn’t let the day go by without giving back. “Even in the middle of a pandemic,” she says,
“it is so important to nurture and be custodians of our amazing parks.”
Katelyn took a plastic bag, put on her gloves and mask, and set out to clean the park on her own.
It was the start of something great. After Katelyn’s first solo clean-up, Friends of Regent Park started meeting every two weeks in groups of five physically-distanced volunteers to clean the park. On average, they collect five bags per clean-up.
It’s certainly a different clean-up event this year as there’s no food and there aren’t any celebrations at the end of the massive volunteer effort. But Katelyn still feels gratified that she’s able to help her community enjoy green spaces when they need it most. And of course, there’s the sense of pride she feels when a group of neighbours cheer her on and thank her – all from six feet away.
Friends of Regent Park’s next physical distancing clean up is set for this Saturday June 20, beginning at 10am.
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