TD Park People Grants provide 225 ways for you to connect to your city parks

On Earth Day, we announced the 75 park groups and 225 park events that have received TD Park People Grant program funding to host awesome community events in parks. Now in its second year, the TD Park People Grant program has been expanded to include community park groups in 7 cities across the country. There are so many ways to get out into city parks between now and New Year’s Eve. Be sure to check out all of the grant recipients and mark your calendar for stellar community events you can attend in your city parks.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s planned in cities across Canada:

Calgary:

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Last year’s East vs West water fight in Calgary’s Crescent Heights brought a divided neighbourhood together in the park, all the while giving adults and kids alike a chance to have fun and cool down in the summer heat! This year, Crescent Heights Community Association is putting an eco-spin on their events by hosting an environmental puppet-making workshop into the park, a tree walk with a local arborist and, of course, the awesome water fight which we’re proud to say has become an annual tradition!

Edmonton:

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We were thrilled to expand the TD Park People Grant program to Edmonton. The Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition is hosting events that focus on building young people’s connection to nature. Their Youth Engagement event at Riverdale Park will highlight their community garden, while Family Adventures in Whitemud Park will focus on the Kihciy Askiy (Sacred Earth), traditional Indigenous and ecological knowledge.

Halifax:

Our friends to the east, in Halifax, were ecstatic to be included in this year’s TD Park People Grant program.  Bloomfield Neighbourhood Residents Association demonstrated great creativity by proposing three different themed potlucks, the final one being a Welcome Home Community Potluck where, together with Immigrant Services Association of NS, they will invite newcomers in the community to share food and experiences. There will be no shortage of excitement with Dramatic Changes Artists Society’s Anti-Oppression improv show and their sunset dance party. Their events will be powered by solar panels and intentionally setting their events in a stewardship framework.

Montreal:

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The creativity of Montreal’s community park groups makes their events unique and well worth checking out! Toddlers and families of Dorval-Lachine will be reading, playing and picnicking in Park Lasalle, brought together by Table de concertation de petite enfance de Dorval Lachine, while the Groupe de citoyens 1e et 2eme ave will be cleaning up at Parc Frederic-Back, an iconic Montreal park in the midst of a huge transformation.

Ottawa:

In Ottawa, both francophone and Anglophone communities are hosting events supported by TD Park People Grants.  Rendez Vous des Aines Francophones d’Ottawa will get local seniors to pitch in for a nature cleanup. A booming beach opening party is happening at the Westboro Beach Community.

Toronto/GTA:

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This year, the TD Park People Grant program was expanded from Toronto to across the entire Greater Toronto Area. Park Friends groups including Silver Creek, Lotherton, Dallington, Henrietta, Hancock Woodlands and Cedarbrook and Thompson Memorial parks are hosting awesome events in their parks.

Vancouver:

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This summer in Vancouver, Gordon Neighbourhood House is taking their model for community action to the park! Broughton Street Mini-Park will be the backdrop for a great community barbeque, a community-wide chilli night featuring games, live music and food and a free gardening workshop for local neighbours to build their connection to urban agriculture.

We can’t wait to see you at these TD Park People Grant supported events. Be sure to check the website regularly for the latest event postings.

 

TD Park People Grants are generously supported by: 

 

 

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The TD Park People Grant program is generously supported by TD Bank Group, through its corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment. Through this platform, TD is helping to open doors for a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow so that people feel more confident – not just about their finances, but also in their ability to achieve their personal goals in a changing world. As part of this, TD is committed to helping elevate the quality of the environment so that people and economies can thrive, by growing and enhancing green spaces and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy.

To learn more about the ready Commitment visit www.td.com/vibrantplanet.

 

Here’s Why Small is Beautiful

Two of Park People’s recent reports highlight the importance of starting out small when launching a community park project. In my life, when a theme reoccurs I tend to stand up and take notice. So, I went out in search of projects that demonstrate that “small is beautiful “when it comes to getting park projects rolling. This quest led me to two amazing park champions, each of whom recently received a grant from Park People’s TD Park Builders program.

I spoke to Jennifer Wellman, who is the founder of Friends of Henrietta Park,  and Althea Knight, who is bringing her model of mindfulness nature walks to Toronto’s Redwood Shelter. Both of these groups are recent recipients of Park People’s TD Park Builders grants.

Research Proves it: Small is Powerful

The benefits of starting small are clearly highlighted in our recent Sparking Change report which is essentially a playbook for how to maximise parks’ social impact. The report advises:

“Make small, strategic investments that will have an outsize impact…smaller investments of time and energy can go a long way towards galvanizing renewed interest in the park.”

This insight comes through again and again in the report. Sparking Change recommends: “It’s often simple, low-cost projects—yoga, a community mural, children’s outdoor art classes—that build confidence for something larger.”

Another of our latest reports, entitled Breaking New Ground, provides guidance to prospective park funders on how to make solid and sustainable investments in green spaces. One of the findings from the report and The Weston Family Parks Challenge is to: “use seed funding to build capacity and evidence of larger transformations.” The report echoes Sparking Change, but from a funder’s perspective:

“Sometimes a project idea is fantastic, but it might be too early to award a large, multi-year grant.”

Park People’s TD Park Builder micro-grants are ideal for early stage park initiatives like the ones highlighted below.

Starting Small takes Big Vision

Honouring Tree Wisdom

Althea Knight, Honoring Tree Wisdom, Photo Credit: Robert Huff

Jennifer Wellman started Friends of Henrietta Park during her maternity-leave and, as such, she had modest goals for her local park.

“I just wanted to meet some neighbors and cultivate some community spirit in the park. I saw it could use some love and I knew there was an influx of families that could use the park to connect with eachother.”

Jennifer started animating her park by running a couple of “tried and true” events including a park cleanup and a Pumpkin Parade. Both of these events were low cost and didn’t require her to “reinvent the wheel.” The success of these gatherings laid the groundwork for more further community investment and engagement.

Althea, who heads up Walking, Nature Appreciation, Mindfulness, Peer Support and Leadership (WNAMPSL) has (as her multi-faceted organisational name suggests) a big vision for her walking group concept, which aims to train vulnerable and underserved populations to lead mindfulness walks in their neighbourhoods and parks across the city.

Althea’s vision includes a robust walking and education program that will ultimately train vulnerable populations to lead walks that promote self-care and wellness through mindfulness practices, nature, and walking. That’s the long-term vision goal. However, in the immediate term, Althea secured a TD Park Builders grant to lead nature walks to foster mindfulness among women who are survivors of domestic abuse. It’s a start she’s grateful for.

Small is Foundation for Success:

Althea’s application to Park People’s TD Park Builders program was her very first grant proposal. As someone brimming with passion and a desire to make a difference, the grant proposal helped Althea clearly and concisely articulate what she wants to achieve with her program. Althea says that she was great at “writing 10 pages about my dream,” but that the TD Park Builders application process helped her put her vision “in terms anyone could understand and want to get behind.”

In the short time that it’s been in existence, Friends of Henrietta Park, has demonstrated the power of incremental growth. Soon after forming a Friends of Henrietta Park group, Jennifer and other community members noticed that a light in the alley adjacent to the park that had been out for “the longest time,” was suddenly repaired. This was the first clue that, as Jennifer puts it, “something was happening in Henrietta Park.”

Since then, the local councilor has become actively involved in the park and there have been clear indications that the park is being more loved. Jennifer notes that there’s

 “less garbage in the playground and more and more people in the neighbourhood have been using the park, ranging from families and their kids playing on the playground and pet-owners walking their dogs through the park.”

In fact, the park was recently approved for funding to upgrade the play structure and substantially improve the park’s lighting based on feedback from the community.

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Proposed park improvements for Henrietta Park

And, to think, it all started with a new lightbulb.

Needless to say, the momentum for the project has far exceeded Jennifer’s modest expectations. However, in retrospect, Jennifer acknowledges the value of starting small. “We didn’t apply for funding until we had some experience and were better able to tell out story.” Clearly, it’s an approach that’s had traction for Friends of Henrietta Park.

Small is Inviting:

When Jennifer started encouraging neighbours to get involved in Friends of Henrietta Park, her ask was manageable. While she wasn’t necessarily trying to be strategic, her approach is consistent with the fact that, particularly in the early stages, most volunteers prefer short-term opportunities to get involved. While most organizations want and need long-term commitment, it’s far better to offer people time-limited opportunities to volunteers who can grow their committment as the group evolves.

“I’m glad we didn’t go big right out of the gate. Keeping it small made it easier to attract new members. If we were too big, the time investment would seem daunting. Instead, we pulled people in based on their skills for particular projects. People are really willing to contribute that way.”

Althea had to learn the value of small, for herself. She laughingly calls herself a “recovering perfectionist” who, in the past, wouldn’t share her idea until it was perfectly polished.

“If I didn’t know how to perfectly articulate my idea, from beginning to end, I would often just keep it to myself. The external pressure to have the ‘right idea’ kept me from sharing and exploring how to include others on my journey.”

Today, Althea constantly musters up the courage to share her vision with others and is increasingly seeing the value in allowing others to “in” to help bring her idea to life. In fact, this willingness to put herself ‘out there’ led Althea to attend one of Park People’s workshops where she shared her idea with another TD Park Builder grant recipient from Friends of Parkway Forest who suggested she connect with Park People about a TD Park Builders micro-grant.

High Park Stroll

Photo Credit: Robert Huff

When Park People’s Manager of Outreach, Minaz, heard Althea’s big idea for mindful walking groups in nature, she knew Althea had a powerful vision:“Althea’s approach is really unique. The fact that she’s connecting the community to nature and working with vulnerable populations is so compelling.” However, Minaz emphasizes the importance of starting small:

“Often, when groups are applying for funding for the first time, they think they have to go big or go home. Althea has a fully formed vision that will serve her well. As a first step, a TD Park Builders grant will help WNAMPSL find its groove.

Althea says: “Doing this at a smaller scale keeps the program more manageable, both for me and for the participants.”

As someone who knows the perils of taking on too much, Althea appreciates having a manageable scope. “I don’t feel like I have to do it all.” In fact, Althea emphasizes that meeting Minaz and receiving this grant was a watershed moment. “For the first time, it became clear to me that I’m no longer alone.. There’s a community of people supporting my vision, work and me. I’m no longer walking alone.”

Cover Photo credit: Gabriel Gonzales 

The Benefits of Getting Out of your Park Comfort Zone

Toronto is a big city made up of many distinct neighbourhoods. For most of us, our lives generally revolve around local friends, businesses, and the public spaces that are close to home. Travelling to other neighbourhoods, however, offers new perspectives on what’s working in other places and opens up new possibilities for enhancing the familiar places we frequent on a regular basis.

This is the core principle behind the tours we offer through the TD Park Builders program which encourages community engagement and animation of vital community green space through micro-grants for Toronto’s underserved neighbourhoods.

The tours are opportunities for people working hard to transform their parks to witness park efforts in other neighbourhoods.

Our latest TD Park Builders tour was to downtown Toronto’s Dufferin Grove Park. This infamous park has probably received more global media attention than any other Toronto Park. The Project for Public Space called Dufferin Grove “More like a big backyard.”

We knew we had taken some of the TD Park Builders out of their comfort zone when a group from Friends of Chester Le Park inquired whether they were Mississauga. Once we got our bearings straight, the visit opened everyone’s eyes to new possibilities for their parks.

Warming Up to The Bake Oven:

Eighteen Toronto parks have public bake ovens. Dufferin Grove’s bake oven was among the first, built in the summer of 1995. CELOS (stands for Centre For Local Research into Public Space) which collaborated with the City to bring the bake oven to the park, is so entrenched in bake ovens that it runs a website dedicated to sharing information about public bake ovens. Spacing Magazine awarded Jutta Mason, CELOS’ administrator, the 2001 Jane Jacobs prize and called the bake oven: “the hallmark of community revitalization for the Dufferin Grove Park community.”

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Naheed, coordinator, Thorncliffe Action Group (TAG) bakes scones with Dale from Montgomery Inn

The TD Park Builders experienced the magical impact of the public bake oven at key points of throughout the day-long tour.

The morning started with fresh scones with jam; lunch was an “all-hands-on-deck” DIY pizza making session prepared by tour members. The experience of enjoying food made in the park cannot be underestimated. It made the park feel like a cozy kitchen with everyone gathered around the table. Also, the collaborative experience of helping to make and then share a collaborative meal creates both personal efficacy and community connection. The people who felt and experienced the bake oven left with a profound understanding of what elements like these bring to parks and communities.

Sitting in The Shade:

Jutta Mason, CELOS’ Administrator doesn’t take the matter of seating lightly. She tells the group when her mother first visited the park she told Jutta, “people need places to sit.” Jutta instinctively understood that what she really meant was older people need places to sit. Dufferin Grove now has a large shaded nook surrounded by gardens and shade where people of all ages can choose from several park benches.

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The shady picnic benches were the ideal spot for 20+ TD Park Builders to gather and listen to Jutta share the history of the park and pass along gems of wisdom from her many years dedicated to this work and community. The park benches gave tour members respite from the hot August temperatures and gave us all a comfortable place to gather and socialize.

You could easily imagine any number of community meetings, philosophical discussions or  family celebrations taking place around this cluster of benches.

Simple features like Dufferin Grove Parks’ benches make it clear how important it is to have well-considered seating.

Getting Animated with Art

Dufferin Grove Park has long been a hotbed of creativity. The park has been Clay & Paper Theatre‘s performance space since 1994. Every year, the group hosts Night of Dread which culminates into a neighbourhood parade of that they describe as “our private and collective fears through the darkened streets of Toronto.” For the tour,  Dufferin Grove invited several artists to the park to share their work with TD Park Builders, including Clay & Paper Theatre, Cooking Fire TheatreArt in the Park and Meredith Thompson, an incredible tap dancer who performed on a picnic bench and had all of us grinning ear-to-ear. A question that came up again-and-again was: “How can I do this kind of art in my park?” Of course, it’s not a simple process or journey, but eyes were opened to the possibilities of bringing different kinds of artistic expression to public spaces.

 

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Meredith Thompson performs a tap routine on a picnic bench

We encourage you to get outside your park comfort zone. One of the easiest ways to do this is to pick a park event and in a new part of the city. Visit parkpeople.ca/events to find one that suits you. If you’d like to know more about Dufferin Grove,be sure to check out  Dufferin Grove Park as a neighbourhood commons, 1993 to 2015.

Many, many Thanks to Dufferin Grove and to Jutta Mason for hosting the event. As always, thank you to TD Bank Group for providing TD Park Builder Grants micro-grants that support our Sparking Change initiative.

 

 

This initiative is part of Park People’s Sparking Change Program, which works to create green community hubs in underserved neighbourhoods. It is made possible with generous support from TD Bank Group, The John and Marion Taylor Family Fund, City of Toronto, Cultural Hotspot, Toronto StreetArt, Toronto Arts Foundation, Toronto Community Housing and Ontario Trillium Foundation.

 

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