The Corner during the Pandemic

Contributed by Aravind Joseph  (The Corner). The Corner is an organic community hub in SJT where residents and service providers come together seamlessly to collaborate, innovate and build community.  The Corner is governed by a Steering Committee of 8 residents and 5 service providers.  More than 20 organisations provide services at The Corner.  30% of the programs at The Corner are led by community members.

 
The Corner together with the residents of St. James Town and service partners continues to play a critical role in making St. James Town a neighbourhood of choice to call home. The community rallied together in a show of solidarity and commitment over the past four months to help and support those in need during the pandemic. Alongside partners and residents, The Corner was able to address some of the most pressing issues faced by the neighbourhood. It included effective use of ideas, technology and collaborations to establish systems and innovate in terms of programs and services to serve our neighbourhood during a crisis.

 
Food security was and is still a major concern for many residents of the neighbourhood. Within days of the declaration of the emergency, we were able to set up a daily meal program… primarily for seniors and residents with mobility and other issues. Thanks to Progress Place and Flavours from our Neighbours – SJT Catering Collective for cooking and continuing to cook delicious hot meals for residents. The cooked food is delivered to residents at their doorstep. Thanks to the countless volunteers from The New Common and Volunteer Toronto who go out every day ensuring that residents get hot and fresh meals on time. Sherbourne Health and The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO) provide financial support to the meal program. The Corner is also part of food bank collaboration in partnership with Lady of Lourdes church and The New Common.

 
This was followed up by providing monthly grocery hampers to residents who are most at risk or are unable to shop for their groceries. The grocery hampers are delivered to St. James Town through the TNO (The Neighbourhood Organisation) Food Collaborative which supports the neighbourhoods of Thorncliffe and Flemingdon. With the meal delivery and grocery hampers programs we were able to address the immediate needs of residents but we realised that to actually address food insecurity, residents need to be enabled to grow their own food. Keeping this in mind, an online gardening workshop was conducted by The Corner @ 240 during the months of May-June in partnership with Miniikan Innovations. The focus was on balcony gardening using old containers in the vertical neighbourhood with lack of outdoor space.
The Corner was also involved in assisting residents with applications for CERB and Employment Insurance and other benefits they would be eligible for. Residents also had the opportunity to file their taxes at The Corner, thanks to volunteers Amanda and Jennifer and volunteers of Sri Lankan Accountants Association of Canada (SAAC) who remotely helped residents file their taxes. Residents also had access to services like primary health, mental health counselling, employment services etc. through online and phone appointments. The Corner conducted wellness checkups for seniors, and other vulnerable members of the community to ensure their wellbeing and safety. The Corner in partnership with Toronto Humane Society also provides residents with free pet food.

 
Engaging our little ones during the lockdown is a major challenge for parents. Resident led after-school programs like Fun with Numbers and Interactive Science Class provided an avenue for kids to be engaged in a productive and meaningful way. Thanks to volunteers like Olga and Nayan for the initiative.

 
Residents had access to repair services at The Corner @240. Residents can get their household appliances, bikes, computers and laptops fixed at The Corner @240. The aim is to enable residents to stay home and practice social distancing while being able to lead a comfortable life at their homes. Residents also had the option for online repair and troubleshooting consultation to fix items themselves with the support and guidance of one of our fixers.

 
The Bike Clinic at The Corner @240 is the only one in St. James Town. Residents rushed to get their bikes fixed with the advent of summer. This helps residents to get enough physical activity and explore the outdoors while social distancing. Though the tool library was suspended on account of the pandemic, it was kept open for residents of 650 Parliament who were moving in after being displaced for more than a year and half. Resident volunteers also make masks which are later distributed within the community. Masks are made in different sizes to fit individuals

 
While many of us continue to stay home, there are others in the frontline working every day to help us navigate our daily needs and trying to keep us safe and healthy. Through our online campaign, The Corner was able to profile and appreciate some of the frontline workers in the neighbourhood. The initiative was well received and appreciated by the community.

 
The Corner continues to innovate and collaborate to bring new services and programs to the residents of St. James Town. Free Board game give away and SJT Pathways to help youth navigate through their chosen craft/profession by industry leaders are some of the programs to be introduced in the coming days.
Stay tuned for more info and updates.
info@stjamestown.org; 416 964 6657
FB, Insta, Twitter – @thecornersjt

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