Wow, those first 25 years just flew by, didn’t they?
On August 31, North York Community House will officially celebrate its 25th Anniversary, and we're taking this opportunity to look back at our story thus far and share some of our favourite memories. While it's difficult not to cringe at some of our hairstyles and fashion choices from the last 25 years, it has also been quite uplifting to see what we've been able to achieve in our community during that time.
We’ve come a long way since our start in 1990, when we occupied a tiny storefront on Bathurst Street - with a staff of only two. To paint a picture of the world we grew up in, the year 1990 marked a time of significant changes all over the world; the Berlin Wall had just come down, the World Wide Web was being built, Nelson Mandela was released from prison…and The Simpsons had just started airing its first episodes!
Despite NYCH's very modest beginnings, we would eventually grow to have more than 100 staff members, serving over 25,000 individuals per year in 65 locations across northwest Toronto. Over the course of 25 years, we listened to the residents we serve, sought to understand their needs, and ultimately changed and adapted with them.
As part of our evolution, we helped launch many new and exciting initiatives in support of our diverse community. We were there at the start of the SEPT Program (Settlement and Education Partnerships in Toronto) - a school-based program that helps newcomer students and their families get settled in their new life in Canada. Valentina, a SEPT worker at NYCH recalls her role in the growth of the program:
More recently, in 2013, we launched our Stepping Stones to Leadership program. The program offers newcomer professionals a tailored volunteer experience that allows them to build their networks, learn about Canadian workplace culture, and give back to the community. It just goes to show that, in all this time, we’ve continually tried to innovate and improve our services in order to help people achieve their goals.
Looking back at the impact of our work over the years, it becomes abundantly clear that the individuals we've helped have in turn had a huge impact on us. Franca, an English language instructor at NYCH, still remembers all of the students she taught in her first class in 1997:
Our commitment to building strong, vibrant communities can also be seen in the physical transformation of the spaces we’ve inhabited in North York. In the Lotherton-Caledonia area, we've seen the leadership skills of local residents (in partnership with our Action for Neighbourhood Change office) bring the neighbourhood to life, embodied in a thriving community garden and a refurbished basketball court.
Another one of our favourite sites of transformation is the mural at Northview Heights Secondary School, painted by the youth in our VOICE program just last year. Just one glance at the beautiful, bright colours gleaming off the wall shows how we’ve been able to encourage newcomer youth in redefining their surroundings, establishing a space for themselves, and finding a sense of identity.
It has been a privilege to experience these shared moments throughout the years - and to see just how much we've grown, together. We could probably share many more of our favourite memories, as we continue to build upon our story, but now, we put it to you: What is your favourite memory from the past 25 years as part of our community?
Visit nych.ca/nych25 to check out our 25th Anniversary Memory Hub and share your memories.