TD Park People Grants Program grows to foster more community events across Canada

TORONTO, January 16, 2018

Park People and TD Bank Group are thrilled to announce that the TD Park People Grants Program has officially opened for 2019 funding submissions. This year, the program will expand to two new cities and will provide essential funding to support 75 community groups and 225 park-based events in Metro Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax Regional Municipality.

In 2018, TD Park People Grant Program supported 155 events in green spaces across Canada. Three of those events were hosted by Hives for Humanity, a Vancouver non-profit that builds resilient communities through beekeeping, that hosted a series of bee-themed walks in urban green spaces close to the city’s Downtown Eastside. “The skills and understanding the 30 participants developed, by interacting with bees and plants in urban green spaces, serve as a foundation for building a deeper respect for the natural world, empowering action, and connecting people to each other in community.” says Sarah Common, the organization’s Co-Founder.

“It’s been proven that well-programmed parks are key to realizing the benefits of our shared green spaces.  With TD’s support, we’ll help increase the positive impacts of parks across Canadian neighbourhoods through outdoor events for everyone to enjoy,” said Dave Harvey, Executive Director of Park People.

“Green spaces help build healthy, vibrant communities for everyone to enjoy,” said Carolyn Scotchmer, Executive Director of TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.  “As part of TD’s global corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment, we’re proud to support accessible and inclusive events that help build stronger ties within communities and foster a deeper connection with nature.”

Starting today, Qualified organizations and community groups that have experience hosting accessible, sustainable park events are encouraged to apply to receive a $2,000 grant to host three events in their local parks or green spaces between Earth Day, April 20, 2019, and New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2019. The application process is simple, and TD and Park People have developed a number of resources to help groups plan and host engaging community park events in green spaces. Deadline: March 4, 2019

About Park People

Park People supports and mobilizes people to help them activate the power of parks to improve quality of life in cities across Canada. 

About TD Global Corporate Citizenship

TD has a long-standing commitment to enriching the lives of its customers, colleagues and communities. As part of its corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment, TD is targeting CDN $1 billion (US $775 million) in total by 2030 towards community giving in four areas critical to opening doors for a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow – Financial Security, Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities and Better Health. Through The Ready Commitment TD aspires to link its business, philanthropy and human capital to help people feel more confident – not just about their finances, but also in their ability to achieve their personal goals in a changing world. For further information, visit td.com/thereadycommitment

For other stories about successful grant applicants from 2018 see:

 

 

Ideas to spark your imagination for Public Space Incubator

Since we announced our Public Space Incubator Program last week, we know that ideas for how to re-imagine public space in Toronto have been bubbling up in the minds of people across the city.

But just in case you need some inspiration for how to bring people together in public space in innovative, creative, and even radically new ways, we wanted to assemble a few examples of existing projects in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver that have sparked our own imaginations.

These projects—done in laneways, parks, and community housing land—include a wide variety of focuses: winter programming, food, arts and performance, local economic development, cultural exchanges, and more. But what they all share in common are new ways of inhabiting and enlivening public space to promote social connections, share experiences, and foster a sense of belonging.

We hope these projects get your own brain juices flowing and we’d love if you were to share some of your own examples, from Toronto or other cities, in the comments or with us on Twitter at @Park_People.

Alley Oop 2_Modacity www.modacity.com

Bright, back alley basketball brings a laneway to life

This fun project, spearheaded by a downtown Vancouver BIA and supported by the City of Vancouver, spiced up an otherwise drab downtown laneway with bright paint, decorative lighting, basketball hoops, and programming to create a new type of gathering space for people. Laneway projects can seem complex with all the access and loading issues that come with them, so it’s nice to see how something simple like bright colours can make a big difference.

But it’s not just about the physical transformation—the space has become home to fun pop-up events like a dance party done by an event collective, Public Disco, which invited people to dress up and dance together in public space. (photos by Modacity)

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Thriving public market and tandoor oven sparks change in a park

Step into R. V. Burgess Park in the middle of the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood on a Friday afternoon in the summer and you’ll be treated to a park transformed into a thriving bazaar with North America’s first tandoor oven in a park serving up fresh naan.

Organized by Sabina Ali of the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee, the bazaar and the oven support other activities in the space, like kid’s entertainment, that have helped bring this important central green space to life through community animation. The bazaar is particularly innovative—creating a space for people, many of them newcomer women in the neighbourhood, to sell food, jewelry, and clothing.

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Community-run container café creates a new, tasty focal point

Food and parks go well together, but if you forgot to pack your own picnic lunch it can often be difficult to find a place to quiet your rumbling stomach. One local community group, the Friends of McCormick Park, worked with their city councillor to solve that problem by outfitting a shipping container café as a community café in their local green space.

The café is run by a non-profit organization and serves fresh, affordable food and drink to hungry and parched park goers. The café helps support programming and activity in the park, providing a focal point for local residents and offering up shared experiences like $5 Friday night dinners.

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Inter-cultural exchange brings people together

Arts organization MABELLEarts, working with local community members, has helped transform a Toronto Community Housing green space into a collective gathering space and a site for cultural exchange. Throughout 2017, the group hosted Iftar nights—the breaking of the Ramadan fast—on several Thursday evenings in the green space. They also worked with organizations such as the Arab Community Centre of Toronto and COSTI to bus in newcomers and refugees to Canada to take part in the celebrations. (photo by Liam Coo for MABELLEarts)

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Winter laneway wonderlands celebrate the cold

Spring and summer-time activities are lovely, but we can’t forget about winter! We can take some inspiration from Montreal’s green laneways, which invite community members to reimagine laneways as social gathering spaces in the city.

One young women, Marie-Hélène Roch (who spoke at our recent Park Summit) has worked to transform her laneway into a “white” laneway that invites people to connect during the colder months through food events and decorations. Other winter laneway activations in Montreal include dog-sledding activities, ice rinks, snow castle building, and warming stations.


The deadline for Letters of Intent for applying to Public Space Incubator is Thursday, March 29th at 5pm. Check the program website for more information. 

Thank you to Eti and Ken Greenberg and the Balsam Foundation for generously funding the Public Space Incubator. 

 

Insights to Drive Support for Canada’s Public Spaces

City park philanthropy is still a relatively recent phenomenon in Canada, particularly when compared to the US park conservancy movement.

From growing food to restoring natural habitat to bringing arts programming to parks, the Weston Family Parks Challenge kick-started a more creative, collaborative approach to public space in Toronto. Park People’s latest report, Breaking New Ground, highlights what we can learn from the Weston Family Parks Challenge, and how we can apply those lessons to other municipalities in Canada and beyond.

From 2013 to 2016, Park People administered the Weston Family Parks Challenge, which included grants to support 26 projects across Toronto. The W. Garfield Weston Foundation initiated the challenge with $5 million to support vibrant green spaces. Championing innovative approaches that have the potential to be replicated and foster partnerships, the Ontario Trillium Foundation followed, adding $1.125 million to the project. With the combined support of these two funders, this initiative had the scope and scale to make real, measurable change.

As an early example of park philanthropy in Canada based on collaboration and partnership building, the Weston Family Parks Challenge can offer valuable insights that can help guide the future of park philanthropy in Canada. Here are a few of the key insights that can be found in the report.

Rethink Parks: 

Breaking New Ground highlights the importance of thinking beyond traditional city parks and encourages funders, government, organizations, and community members to leverage space in places like hydro corridors, schoolyards and private land to create new green community spaces. However, the report drives home that these spaces bring with them unique and complex challenges. For example, one Weston Family Parks Challenge project brought a community garden and orchard to an underserved tower community. Three private landowners had to commit to the project in order for it to move forward. Today, the towers are surrounded by a productive landscape where families can garden and grow their own food in 66 garden plots.

Friends of Regent Park–CRC Regent Park

Friends of Regent Park. Photo Credit: CRC Regent Park

 

Engage Communities:

Strong community engagement in the design, programming, and maintenance of spaces is critical to the success and sustainability of any park project. The report highlights the importance of creating park engagement plans that are rooted in a community’s unique attributes. For example, the report identifies that in some cases, employing a paid community organizer from the local neighbourhood can help engage residents in the park. Through funding from the Weston Family Parks Challenge, CRC Regent Park was able to secure a park animator who worked with volunteers to form the Friends of Regent Park, igniting interest in park events and improvements in Regent Park. The group has now transitioned into entirely volunteer-run.

New Models to Maintain Green Spaces:

While new green capital projects are often welcomed by organizations like cities, community housing groups, governments and non-profit organizations, there needs to be transparency about what happens to maintain the space long after the ribbon is cut. New parks and green spaces result in additional maintenance and operational costs that need to be accounted and planned for. One learning from the Weston Family Parks Challenge is that budgets to maintain improvements need to built into project budgets and addressed openly with all partners at a project’s outset.

Read the report and watch Leveraging the Power of City Parks featuring presentations from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation and Ontario Trillium Foundation

 

TIFF In Your Park in 2015

This summer Park People and TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) piloted TIFF in Your Park, an event series celebrating TIFF’s 40th anniversary, in collaboration with ten community groups across the GTA to bring movie nights to parks via Community Games Festivals. Each Festival consisted of a variety activities promoting healthy and active living as well as showcasing current park programming initiatives within each community. The summer long event series totalled over 3000 attendees and concluded on September 4th at Prairie Drive Park.

David Carey, Director of Government & Foundation Relations and Philanthropy at TIFF, noted the importance of teaming up with local partners for this project: “like Park People, we think that when communities get involved, parks get better. There’s something very special about watching a film outdoors; sharing a communal cinematic experience with your neighbours. In addition to acting as meeting places and recreation hubs, Toronto’s parks and green spaces make for pretty great cinemas too”.

To complete the Community Games Festivals experience, attendees were also given a staple movie snack – popcorn! For Joseph Villegas, owner of the Toronto Popcorn Company, it was important to be involved: “Toronto Popcorn Company is a business that was inspired by our dear city’s diversity. Being an immigrant myself, I am very fortunate to have been able to be given the opportunity to jump start a small business It’s our own little way of reciprocating the warmth and acceptance that this wonderful city has offered us”.

Overall, the program has received positive response throughout. In addition to providing local residents the experience of a new type of park programming, it also allowed them the opportunity to build a sense of community. Anthony Rampersad, a Community Leader of Scarborough Village, said: “Apart from looking at concrete walls and sitting at home all day we were able to experience engaging with the community, being outside enjoying nature and experience what the community has to offer. Having this event makes you understand who you are living next to. It gives you a connection. I feel being in a community of apartments it limits you because you cannot go and meet people and build relationships. This event does that.”

Finally, we would like to thank the Toronto Popcorn Company, Kernels Popcorn Limited, Toronto Foundation, Friends of the Games, and the Toronto International Film Festival.

TIFF in Your Park returns in 2016. Stay tuned for details on how you can get your community involved by joining our mailing list.

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