Carol Good’s Story: Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference

Patience and persistence pay off

On Saturday, October 20, 2018, my husband and I attended the official renaming of small suburban park in Bolton. The name was changed to the Ruth and Richard Hunt Park in honour to two long-time residents who had been local volunteers for almost 50 years. This recognition was well-deserved and a long-time coming.

Ruth and Richard moved to Bolton in 1970. They raised four children and became active in the community. They used the local park for sledding in winter and as a playground in summer.

Many years later, they learned that there was a problem with the title for the park. It had not been transferred to the Town properly when the subdivision houses were built. The developer now wanted to build more houses on this parcel of parkland with unclear ownership. Ruth and Richard worked with their neighbours and other community members to develop a plan to save the park. Richard delegated to Town Council many times over the years and regularly contacted his local councilor for status reports. The ownership issue was finally resolved through the legal system early in 2018. The Town gained full title. The decision to rename the park was proposed by community members and approved by Town Council.

With the ownership issue was settled, Ruth and Richard added planting in their park to their list of projects. The Bolton & District Horticultural Society worked with Ruth and Richard to raise funds to get 19 mature native trees planted this Fall. This planting was possible with support from the Town of Caledon, the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, local service clubs and private donors. At the official renaming ceremony, the politicians who spoke all included a heart-felt request that Ruth and Richard continue their active involvement.

Ruth and Richard have been involved in many park projects throughout the Town. These projects have all required local residents and organizations to pitch in time, energy, money and ideas. Richard earned his nickname as “Tree Hugger Hunt” because of his relentless push to get trees planted on public land. He understands the environmental imperative to maintain and expand the tree canopy after damage from wind and ice storms, death due to natural causes (beavers, deer and the emerald ash borer infestation) and degradation due to development. He works tirelessly to promote local action to make Bolton a greener place to live.

Ruth and Richard have compiled an impressive collection of photos, newspaper clippings, official certificates and letters that document their long list of local environmental projects. The turnout at the re-naming ceremony was also recognition of their extensive contributions – their children and grandchildren, representatives of participating organizations, municipal and provincial politicians, Town staff, neighbours and friends enthusiastically attended. They were teased that the weather also cooperated – it was a sunny, brisk Fall day.

On Saturday, October 27, 2018, Ruth and Richard will be on-site for a community planting event for the third phase of the Bolton North Hill Park improvement project. They will be working with long-time partners, BDHS, the Town of Caledon and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, along with community members and a Girl Guide troop to plant 250 small trees and shrubs. Their work is not done – yet.

Stories of Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

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Bob Jeffrey’s Story: Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

I am not sure if she is ordinary but I am sure she makes a positive difference in the life’s and communities she touches.  While the story of how she got to be a positive force is relevant, that story is for a different time.  Tammy makes a difference by creating space for others to have fun and enjoy their belief in themselves.  Sometimes she is mostly fun while at other times she is mostly acknowledging others belief in themselves, usually in a fun way.

She has brought fun and belief in others to her varied work and volunteer career.  For today I am going to share a couple of vignettes from her current work in the Sudbury library as an events and community programmer and will leave out stories from working as a sales person selling shoes, cars, plants, creative memories, lip stick, her crafts (hand decorated Santa clauses, stain glass, pottery) and managing a home decorating products store, or as teachers aid with a severely autistic child for four years, running a home daycare, staffing a tourist information center on the Canadian Border during and after 9/11. 

I will also leave out stories from her time as a volunteer board member and then president of a figure skating club responsible for hosting a major skating competition that included a young Eric Radford, Jeffery Buttle and likely Meagan Duhamel. As an aside, I would argue presiding over a figure skating club and a large regional skating competition is more difficult than running a country.

So some stories about the difference Miss Tammy makes….she has been doing children’s story times at various libraries in Sudbury for upwards of 15 years and fairly consistently develops a faithful following of kids and families who attend her story time over a few years. Miss Tammy story times are animated participatory events where kids, parents, caregivers and grandparent get to sing, read, cheer, whisper and are essential to her story telling process. When the kids go to school she loses track of them, sometime for years, however fairly regularly now some of those same story time kids will seek her out at the library or stop her in a mall, on the street or at an event, to proudly tell her what they are doing and thank her for the positive impact she had on them as a child.  Many of these people are particularly thankful for turning them on to reading and learning. This year, one of the new comers invited her to her second birthday party, and she will likely go.

Anyone who has been around libraries for any amount to time knows that libraries are relatively safe places for people who often are struggling with poverty, mental wellness, criminal justice issues, addictions and loneliness.  Over the years Miss Tammy has made many people feel welcome and supported at her various libraries.  Some of these people follow her when she moves to a new library location.   For example, over 10 years ago two indigenous teenage boys, living in a nearby group home came into the library and clearly were in need of a safe haven, despite conveying a tough outward appearance.  Tammy engaged them, gave them a library card and to their complete disbelief allowed them to take out and return the movies, games, books and magazines they had been stealing from the library.  This opened the door for the development of ongoing relationship where each of the boys will independently or together periodically stop into the library to either confess a set-back like having been in jail or falling back into drugs, discussing their resolve to do better, share a significant decision or occurrence in their life or announcing a success like finishing a training program, getting a job, having a girlfriend and being a father.   Usually during these visits they thank her for believing in them.

The final story is about creating an opportunity for people to tell their stories.  Because of how she does her job, everyone is a person first and a library patron second.  She engages people in a way they feel safe and willing to risk sharing who they are and often people/patrons share very intimate and important things about themselves and their lives.  For the third time the Sudbury library and CBC partnered in a Living Library Day, where patrons can “check out” one of ten people to talk with for 20 minutes.  Some of the people in this year’s line-up are people who shared personal information allowing her to approach them about being one of the ten.  This year the theme was surviving life changing experiences and the lineup included the following people and stories:  

  • Candice Kirkbride was 15 when a collision with a drunk driver left her with a traumatic brain injury.
  • Retired Corporal William Kerr lost both his legs and part of an arm to an explosive device while on foot patrol during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.
  • Pina Cotesta lost her daughter Laura after a decade-long battle with cancer, and has recently put together a memoir based on her daughter’s writings.
  • Jose Vivar spent more than 8 years in prison for his role in the drug wars in Toronto and survived an attempt on his life after his release.
  • Don Perreault had a double lung transplant, 20 years after a bone marrow transplant that ruined his lungs.
  • Greg Cotnam experienced a traumatic mining accident when the rock face he was preparing for drilling burst.
  • Sarah Mann grew up in extreme poverty, and is now dealing with PTSD with her service dog at her side.
  • Winnie and Bill Pitawanakwat are elders who both experienced abuse and loss of culture as children.
  • Kimberly Naponse and her family were in Las Vegas for a country music festival when the deadliest mass shooting by one person in U.S. history occurred.

When Sarah came to the library to host a writing workshop for survivors of the 60s scoop, Miss Tammy engaged her and supported her to take the risk of participating in the living library this year.  Earlier in the day she was interviewed for CBC, Tammy and Sarah had an internet exchange where Tammy encouraged her to not miss the third interview appointment.

These are only three of the hundreds of stories where Miss Tammy has made a positive difference in people’s lives.

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Bill Staples’ Story: Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

Shakuntala Jadhav, an Maharashtran village girl, just turned 16 when she graduated from the Human Development Training School in Maliwada and told her parents “I want to join the Nava Gram Prayas (New Village Movement)”. Shakuntala spoke some English and was constantly requested by foreign staff to translate between them and other, older male staff of the movement. Shakuntala was fierce in her to determination against injustice in the world but even at such a young age was very aware that creating a new society was better than fighting against an old one. In one visit as translator to the District Collectors Office near the village of Chikhale (a District Collector being equivalent to judge, taxman, police and executive for 2 million people) Shakuntala was dismayed by the lack of response from the District Collector to a request by the elders. She stood up in front of him in her blue Nava Gram Prayas sari to her full 4 ft 9 inches (1.5 meters) and said “You are a District Collector and have a lot of responsibility. You should help these people.”

Shakuntala was always like this, constantly working hard for everyone else even when she had little.

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Robin Parson’s Story: Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

The story that I want to share is the experience of being at the hospice where Mom was being cared for.  

During Mom’s last week, she was more ‘away’ than present. She was in and out of consciousness but seemingly able to hear even if she couldn’t respond much.  Mom passed away on Oct 25, so this story is from Oct 22-24.  

The nurses at hospice are incredibly caring and compassionate. In spite of dealing with people at the end of their days and feeling sad about it, they approach their jobs as a calling, a gift they can bestow.  They were so kind to my Mom during her stay. On the 22nd or so, when Mom was not able to speak any longer, the nurse came in to administer Mom’s medications. They entered the room, calling her name.  Mom put up a very frail arm to reach out and hug the nurse. They leaned into the hug and returned it. 

On her last night (Oct 24) – it was about 8:30 pm, as I sat beside her, it was time for her evening care. The nurses came in to change her clothes, reposition her in bed, and wash her.  I stepped back to give them space.  The nurses called to her by name, they told her what they were doing and what would happen next. They talked to her about the night gown they were putting on her. They treated her, in her last hours as a person, still comprehending albeit less capable – they offered so much dignity – applying skin lotion to her feet so her skin wasn’t so dry. 

I asked the nurses, in their experience, how much did they think people could understand at this advanced stage – they said – she continues to respond to us in small ways, so we know she is aware. Mom passed away at 5:00 am on the 25th. 


When we arrived the next morning to pick up Mom’s things – we walked the ‘hall of hugs’.  The nurses, the cleaning staff, the meal staff all gave us hugs. It is an incredible experience to receive so much compassion from people – just doing their jobs. 😉

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Barb Pederson’s Story: Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference

is is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

The power and love and friendship of community shone brightly for my daughter’s wedding in September 2018

My daughter and her partner have been together for nine years. With six weeks’ notice, they decided to hold their wedding in our backyard in September 2018. We were thrilled beyond words and as a family, jumped into action. My husband designed light displays in the back yard, I ensured the flowers were blooming the best they could, and our son and daughter-in-law (and little 7 month old grandson) flew in from Montreal and organized and prepared all the food for the wedding barbecue. Family was beyond amazing!

And so were the neighbours and friends on our block. They sprang into action and giving mode. We had offers of food, we had refrigerator and freezer storage, we could have done 100 chairs loaned and 20 tables. Neighbours dropped by and texted constantly to see what they could do. One friend made 4 pies. On the day of the wedding, I must have had texts from 15 neighbours, congratulating us and celebrating that the day was sunny and warm. Neighbours moved their cars to make room for our guests. 

We try continually to be wonderful neighbour-friends and the goodwill we have invested over the years, came back to us tenfold for the wedding. I always talk about neighbours, neighbour-friends, and friends. Neighbour is a very special term and to me, means a good person who lives close by. Neighbour-friends are those neighbours who go beyond being neighbourly and become friends.  

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Ekta and Josh Bromley’s Stories: Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

Story #1:

In 1993, an amendment to India’s Constitution formally established ‘Panchayati Raj’ (local democracy) to provide representation for small rural communities.

38% of representatives in every Indian village council must be women.

In Maharashtra state, women officials have lobbied for medical clinics and facilitated significant reductions in polio cases, among other accomplishments.

One specific and especially shining example of results is evident in Wanoja village in Maharashtra state. Here, a woman official named Nirmala has displayed inspiring leadership.

Rural India is heavily dependent on agriculture, and there is a 4 month (and sometimes longer) intense monsoon season. While this season is a gift to the farmers in terms of providing much-needed water to the crops, it often also wreaks havoc by washing away the fertile and necessary topsoil. In the absence of any sophisticated irrigation systems and other ways to prevent this from happening, Nirmala started to experiment by collecting and placing small stones all around her farmland. She gradually created a high-enough makeshift dam that did, in fact, help stop the strong currents during the next rainfall. Seeing the results of her work moved the other farmers to action – including those who previously watched with some confusion and amusement as she had worked to create her individual stone piles. Thus, Nirmala’s action-oriented leadership has led to the construction of small stone dams all around Wanoja village and saved many-a-yield from destruction.

A second example of inspiring leadership is seen in the case of Chavvi Rajawat. Hailing from a village in the Rajasthan state, Chavvi left home to earn an MBA in the ‘big city’. She went on to work for multi-national companies for a few years to gain some hands-on work experience. In 2018, Chavvi gave up city life and her cushy job prospects, and moved back to her village, going on to become India’s youngest Sarpanch (head of the village council). Under her leadership, the village council has found solutions for building roads and toilets, and has lobbied to bring water and power to the 7000 residents of the village.

Story #2:

In 2010, a young gentleman named Roman Gaus happened upon a ‘farm’ in his town in Switzerland.

In 2011, drawing inspiration from that farm, and based on his vision for sustainable, real, robust and scalable feeding solutions, Roman co-founded a company called Urban Farmers. The organization’s key mission was to increase food security and resilience to climate change, while respecting local ecosystems and creating an ‘urban oasis’ within cities and communities.

Urban Farmers was founded based on the principles of aquaponics – a method of combining fish and vegetable farming in a self-sustainable way that requires no soil.

In 2017, based on ‘environmental scans’, Roman came to realize that the communities he was operating within were beginning to want a different interaction with their urban farm. People wanted an experience where dialogue and gatherings became the norm. With this in mind, Roman is currently revamping his purpose and organizational structure to include intentionally designed events and gatherings.

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Helen Break’s Story: Ordinary People Making a Positive Difference

This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday.   They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them.  I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.

My Friend Gail

November 2018

Gail is married with two children in their 20’s. With degrees in Environmental Studies and Adult Education, she is an independent consultant who has been involved in the residential energy efficiency industry for over 30 years in a variety of capacities including as an air sealing contractor, energy and indoor air quality auditor, retailer, researcher, consultant and trainer.

If that is not enough, she is also a tireless volunteer for her neighbourhood, which she moved to in 1989 with her husband, but also her school, her church and her municipality – connecting the dots and people to develop, fundraise and implement community improvement projects. Gail, and her family, have also taken in, and are caring for, an elderly aunt.

To my bewilderment, she does all this without seeming to run short of energy, inspiration, smiles and laughter.

We all know the type. She enters a room of strangers yet manages to connect with many of them. She rarely lets an emotional cloud darken her sunny outlook on life. She remembers faces, names and facts. She maintains a high level of energy and engagement even in the most trying circumstances She delights in every encounter, and feels a sense of connectedness with her surroundings, both social and natural.

Gail’s professional career is breathtaking with leading edge research and a number of “firsts”. Here is just a sampling of her many achievements.

Right out of university, Gail had the privilege of working on the development of Ontario’s very first blue box program. This led to her helping to set up the world’s first sporting event recycling program at the Special Olympics in Minneapolis St. Paul in 1991, and her developing and delivering a training program for 200 recycling volunteers and cleaning staff at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

In 1999, she produced a ‘Household Guide to Water Efficiency’ for Durham Region, which was so well received she was asked to produce a national version for CMHC. Gail developed and delivered North America’s first Green Roof Design 101 course (2004). She also delivered CMHC’s indoor air quality courses across Canada for over a decade (2000 – 2011), and researched and produced publications for CMHC on Carbon Monoxide (2000), House as a System (2014), Making your Home Alternative Water Ready (2014) and Net Zero Energy Homes (2014).

She has been a sustainability consultant to the City of Pickering (2005 – 2010), was the coordinator of York Region’s Max Day Outdoor Water Reduction Program for three years, and has been a professor at both Durham College and Seneca College. She has prepared energy management plans and Partners for Climate Protection reports for the Township of Uxbridge (2014) and the City of Oshawa (2014).

Between 2007 -2008 Gail piloted Ontario’s first Aboriginal Energy Retrofit Pilot for five northern First Nation communities, which led her to her present work on the western shore of James Bay where she is working with three First Nations
communities (Attawapiskat, Kashechewan and Fort Albany) on major energy retrofits to reduce energy use and improve the comfort and health of the occupants. She has just completed Community Energy Plans for the communities, which help guide them towards a more sustainable future. As a sidebar to demonstrate Gail’s resiliency, while working in a remote FN community on James Bay she recently fell, dislocated and broke three bones in her foot and despite incredible pain, she

managed to take pictures of her 6 day journey to get home that included three hospitals, two surgeries, 8 road/2 air/2 water ambulances, and you guessed it – all with a big smile!

Gail has also been on the leading edge when it comes to her volunteer efforts.

Being an avid environmentalist, Gail spearheaded the creation of Durham Environmental Network (DEN). From 1988 to 2005, DEN held regular and inspiring community meetings throughout Durham Region on a variety of environmental topics. The group created wonderful environmental products including A Household Guide to Waste Reduction and Recycling (1992 and 1999), a Pesticide Information Kit, an Environmental Resource Directory (1994 and 2001) and a full-colour, 2 sided Durham Region State of the Environment Poster Map (1997).  It was through DEN that I met Gail in 1991.

Gail helped DEN morph into Durham Sustain Ability in 2005, a not-for-profit social enterprise that carried on providing environmental expertise and consulting services on energy and environmental matters. Gail served as a volunteer director through to its closure in 2018.

From 2007 – 2013 Gail volunteered on the Smart Commute Award Committee for Durham Region, reviewing company submissions demonstrating their efforts to encourage carpooling, public transit and cycling. Today, Gail is a recognized expert in her field andpart of the invited list of community stakeholders that have contributed to the creation of the Durham Community Climate Adaptation Plan.

Gail’s goal over the years has been to create a sense of community within the boundaries of her neighbourhood. The neighbourhood group she spearheaded is reflective of her leadership style. Everything they do helps community members come together and get to know each other. It is not run like a typical ratepayers group with a president, a secretary and monthly meetings. It works much more organically than that with individuals coming up with an idea, running with it and bringing along others who are keen to help out.

Here is just a brief sampling of how Gail gives freely of her time to her community, either directly or by helping those who have an idea get projects up and running.

In the late 1990’s, as a parent volunteer at her local school, Gail volunteered to update and maintain a large garden. She and another parent planted drought tolerant, pollinator-friendly native species with the students’ help. They created a curriculum that encouraged the teachers to explore the garden with their students. To celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary, they worked with the graduating Grade 8 class and created an outdoor classroom space under a large maple tree at the front of the school.

A few years later another graduating Grade 8 class agreed to fundraise with Gail to design and commission a piece of neighourhood art to acknowledge the efforts of a member of the community who was instrumental in the school garden design and maintenance, and who died very young from breast cancer. The woman’s daughter designed a ladybug crawling up a piece of grass. A metal artist recreated Rosie the Ladybug with repurposed metal including the round bottom of an old BBQ to make the ladybug’s body. This beautiful piece of art is over six feet tall and proudly stands in the middle of the school garden greeting everyone as they enter.

Speeders in her neighbourhood were a concern to Gail as a dog walker and later as a mother, so working with her municipality and Durham Police, she initiated petitions for speed reduction measures to slow down vehicles. The neighbourhood borrowed radar guns from the police and submitted license plates of speeders who, in turn, received letters of warning. After all of that effort the main recommendation from the Traffic Officer was to create opportunities for community members to get to know each other – “put a face to each home” so to
speak, so that is exactly what Gail has set her sights on. If people know their neighbours they are less likely to speed and be disrespectful when driving through the community.

Gail was instrumental in the creation of a community-wide Neighbourhood Watch program, the largest one in Durham Region and, she is told, perhaps Ontario. Around 80% of the community are connected by email to a Street Captain. Neighbourhood Watch signs and magnets, a branded neighbourhood tent (that anyone in the neighourhood may borrow) with the neighbourhood nameand logo were made possible through fundraising, of which Gail is a master.

Gail was instrumental in adding more seating and shade, as well as a pollinator- friendly garden to a neighbourhood park, and in developing several annual community events including Family Fun Day, Earth Day cleanups, Paint and Sips, Crime Prevention meetings with Durham Police and a charity yard sale supporting Joanne’s House, the local teen shelter. Volunteers also keep flower boxes on a bridge entering the neighbourhood, installed and planted by the municipality, looking great all summer long.

Gail’s family has hosted a neighbourhood Easter Egg Hunt for the past 21 years on Easter Sunday morning. It started with just a few families and has grown to over 125 childrenand spreads across 9 yards! Families drop off items to hide ahead of time and bring food or cash donations for Joanne’s House. Local teens earn volunteer hours at this event and at all of the other community activities.

This fall, Gail, along with others, introduced ‘kindness rocks’ to her neighbourhood. Painted by students at the local school, you write a message on a rock and leave it in a public space for someone to pick up. The idea being that one kind message at just the right time can change your entire day, your outlook and maybe even your life.

Random findings of the rocks are posted on the community’s Facebook page.

Recently approached by a community member to create more community art, Gail got people together to brainstorm. As a result, the group applied for a small grant to create a neighbourhood website and a local business directory, which will complement the well-used neighbourhood Facebook page and provide an opportunity to raise money for more community art projects and to offset the cost to host other community events.

Gail, rightly so, is a proud but never boastful recipient of the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Confederation of Canada award in 1993 and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee award in 2012 , both for community service. She received the Volunteer of Distinction Award from the local public school in 2008 and from the high school in 2012 and 2014. She received the Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade’s Business Excellence, Sustainability Champion Award in 2015, and the Durham Environmental Advisory Committee’s Evylin Stroud Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

In closing, Gail is an absolute wonder to me. She lives by a motto by Margaret Mead that has guided her throughout her life. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

But, I think Gail also lives by another motto, much shorter and simpler… “Let’s make it happen.” And, she does.

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