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Farewell from outgoing DECA Chair, Sheri Hebdon

I was first elected to the DECA Board in 2009, by accident. I showed up at a “neighbourhood cocktail party” with my wife and baby after seeing posters and hearing about it from a nice woman I met at baby-and-me yoga.

On arrival, my new friend Natasha (DECA’s founding Chair) welcomed us at the door and she casually asked me if I would be interested in joining the Board. I said I was interested in learning more and then we moved on to other conversations.

Later in the evening, I was discreetly nursing my baby when all of a sudden Natasha and another woman stood up on chairs and announced that the cocktail party was actually the AGM. They (and others) gave short pitches about their projects like the farmers’ market and the business revitalization team (who did store makeovers) and then I heard my name.

What?

Then everyone voted yes and I was on the Board. Just like that. While nursing my son.

Eight years later, at tomorrow’s AGM & Party (we’re a bit more up front about the AGM part now!), my time on the DECA Board, where I have been Chair for three years, will come to a close. While I am confident that the Board will be in excellent hands for next year, it’s hard not to worry about what the future will hold.

Though, the real question is not what, but who. DECA isn’t a thing – it’s the sum total of a group of people who all add what they (we) can to make our neighbourhood better. Bringing new people into the fold is critical, but it’s not easy. We have the things now that DECA has helped to build over the past decade and people may take it, and us, for granted. Or maybe they just don’t know? Or maybe they just can’t take on one more thing.

Whatever the reason is that you aren’t more involved, here is my pitch to you to get involved. Don’t think about what you’d put into it, think about what you will get out of it.

Volunteering for DECA has given me so much over the years. No matter what else is happening in my life or in the world, I have taken a lot of solace knowing that I’m doing something to make the world better, even if it’s just in my little corner of it. I find it energizing to help in big and small ways, and feeling so much more connected to my neighbours and local businesses positively impacts me on a daily basis. My children (there are three of them now) understand that volunteering is part of life, and each of them have legitimately volunteered for DECA too by doing things like putting up posters, helping to set up events, handing out cookies and candy canes at the Festival of Lights. Given that parenting is a long game, instilling this so early is important.

Start with one hour. One hour of involvement per year could mean helping at an event, putting up posters, tossing pumpkins or cooking for the farmers. Maybe you have two hours? Maybe five? What about one hour for every year you’ve lived here? If you have kids, get them involved and you won’t believe how proud they will be of themselves. Start with one hour and you may find that you that you’ll want to do more.

At the very least, join DECA as a member. Sign up online or in person tomorrow at Hirut. $10/household for the year.

If you don’t know where to start, come to the event tomorrow and ask me, or any of the other Board members. Meet your neighbours. Get involved.

Here’s the poster one more time:

Oh, and there will be door prizes!

Thanks for a great eight years, Danforth East! See you all around the neighbourhood.

-Sheri

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Our Annual General Meeting  & Party is coming up on November 20 from 7-9 pm at Hirut (2050 Danforth). Hope you can join us!

At the party you can:

  • Meet your neighbours
  • Enjoy Hirut’s delicious food (on us!)
  • Find out how to get more involved with DECA
  • Join DECA or renew your $10/year per household membership
  • Meet our Board and many of our other amazing volunteers
  • Vote for next year’s Board if you are a member (this is the AGM part!)
  • Enjoy the cash bar

If you’ve never come to the Party & AGM before, the short formal part will go from about 8:00-8:30pm and you’ll hear about our annual events and ongoing initiatives, the not-to-be-missed Treasurer’s report, nail-biter Board elections and last but not least, remarks from our outgoing Chair (yours truly). The rest of the time is for chatting with neighbours and hanging out. Not a bad way to spend a Monday evening.

Membership and voting are limited to people who live in our catchment (Main to Lumsden/Mortimer to Monarch Park to the train tracks) but everyone who cares about this neighbourhood can come to this and all of our events.

The Board will be putting forward the following nominees for election to the 2017/18 Board:

Loreen Barbour (Co-Chair)

Gay Stephenson (Co-Chair)

Audrey Kvedaras (Vice Chair)

Anita Schretlen (Treasurer)

Nicole Bergot-Browning (Secretary)

Alison McMurray

Amanda Olson

Melissa Peretti

Jennifer Scott

Rebecca Green

Brad Bradford

Lorraine Chen

****

If you are interested in future opportunities on our Board, please ask us about it on Monday or reach out to us by email and we can talk about getting you involved over the coming year.

See you on Monday!

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First of all, thank you to everyone who came out to the Pumpkin Parade at East Lynn Park on November 1st and especially to the volunteers who tossed pumpkins in less-than-ideal weather to help us restore the park at the end of the night.

The Pumpkin Parade was the first of four November DECA events. Here is the low-down on what else is coming up!

DECA Pride cinq-à-sept | November 9 |5-7pm

Bringing together East End LGBTQ+ folks and allies, DECA Pride is hosting a casual get together at Local 1794 from 5-7pm. Light snacks provided. Meet at the back!

Click here to join the DECA Pride email list and here to join the Facebook group.


DECA Annual General Meeting & Party | November 20 | 7-9pm

It’s our last official #DECAde event – the Annual General Meeting & Party! Come to Hirut Café and Restaurant to eat delicious Ethiopian food, listen to some live music, meet your neighbours, renew your membership or join DECA and celebrate another great year of community-building. Cash bar. Board elections and formal remarks will be short, starting at around 8. Facebook event is here.

Stay tuned for our recommended nominations for next year’s Board. Spoiler alert: change is afoot!


DECA’s Festival of Lights | November 25 | 5-6pm

For the past five years, DECA has organized a tree lighting event at East Lynn Park to celebrate the festive season and this year promises to be the best one yet!

Rumour has it that Santa himself has cleared his schedule to visit us.

Watch this space for the beautiful poster to come, and in the meantime, save the date!

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TPS presentation slide, Oct. 10, 2017

Where is the best spot for a police station? Did you know Division 54 & 55 are amalgamating and looking for a new site. We first blogged about this last month.

One of the shortlisted sites is the TTC Barns at Coxwell and Danforth – a massive five acre site that, if put to the right use, has the potential to transform our neighbourhood. Can we unlock the potential of this site with a police station?

The selection process for the new station is happening very fast with a decision expected to be made next month.

Last week, DECA and other community groups, including the Danforth Mosaic BIA, formally requested a delay in the process, citing the need for more public information.

To be clear, this isn’t about NIMBYism. We aren’t saying no station here. We’re asking what is possible for that site, with or without a station. More than anything right now, we want more information and time.

What we know

Toronto Police Services (TPS) and the City of Toronto began the site selection community consultations in October, presenting the top three sites: the Danforth Coxwell TTC Barns, the East York Civic Centre and the current 55 Division at Dundas and Coxwell.

DECA’s Visioning Committee, DECA Board members and many neighbours attended the packed meetings. Although TPS had been planning to build a new police station since 2014, the public wasn’t invited into the site selection process until October 2017. TPS plans to present the selected site to the City’s Executive Committee on November 29 and then go to City Council on December 6th (to seek further study of the selected site).

[You can read more about the site selection process in this Beach Metro article by Stephen Wickens (who has been a driving force behind DECA’s Visioning Committee for years) – the article also sheds light on another possible site!

What we’ve asked

Because of the impact a new police station could have on our community, DECA and others have requested a further public meeting to get answers to these questions:

Questions in regards to Coxwell TTC Barns site:

  1. We are concerned about the security design criteria and setbacks required by TPS, even if some recent stations include some aesthetically pleasing design. Specifically how might the police station fit onto the site? Is TPS willing to compromise on security criteria in order to truly integrate with and contribute to a vibrant mixed-use hub? Can the TPS facility fit within close proximity as part of an urban-style cluster of mid-rise, mixed use buildings?
  2. With neighbourhood concerns about traffic and noise, will serious traffic studies be done prior to final site alternatives be conducted for the entire TTC property? Would such a fit-test endeavour to include all potential uses: TPS, the TTC’s existing and potential uses (TTC needs space for various front and back-office functions and is considering a museum)? What other city office-space needs might be served? Would new building offer opportunities for an expanded or relocated library, public open space, public indoor space, Tobias House upgrades, heritage structure programming.
  3. Will the concept of Complete Streets with retail and even residential components be considered in the site planning process?
  4. If a police division is located on the Coxwell TTC site, how might it prevent/inhibit other community/cultural uses? (Such as those listed as things the community needs below). We request clarification on what percentage of the Coxwell TTC site the TPS would occupy, if this site is chosen. How much space would be available for other uses?
  5. How is the heritage status to be preserved if this site if chosen?
  6. How will the parking be accommodated? Will the community have any assurance that the parking will be underground? The current walled-off surface parking lot is seriously street-deadening.
  7. There has been a lack of community engagement and involvement in the site selection, followed by a rushed process taking place under a sudden deadline. To what extent will the community be involved in the design of the station and the selection of the community and cultural uses that could be attracted to occupy other parts of the site?
  8. The process to date has included little or no information on the impact that a police station on this site might have on rest of land and its immediate surroundings. This includes concerns over the Heritage Status as well as the loss of potential uses for this site (cultural, community, retail etc.) which may not be deemed a good fit to cohabit with a police station. Does the TPS, city real estate and city planning have partners in mind for the site and, if yes, who are they?

Community needs in regards to Coxwell TTC Barns site:

  1. The two police divisions extend from the Don River to Victoria Park yet only two public consultations were held at EYCC and further south, nearer the Dundas police station, perhaps because there are no large meeting spaces centrally located on the subway, near Danforth. Such a space would be essential to a mixed-use hub at the Danforth, as would outdoor public space + community recreation facilities and cultural uses. The area also needs functions that bring people to the area and its shops and restaurants from other parts of the city each day. It could be office space for all three levels of government or an educational institution (a police college?). Daycare, healthcare and a library that are all part of mixed-use buildings present real opportunity. Some residential, including apartments geared to seniors, might be a great part of the mix.
  1. The community and BIA have worked hard over the past five years to improve our commercial strip along Danforth East and create a vibrant street. This section of Danforth is lacking a pedestrian-friendly and welcoming retail strip, while the street frontages of the TTC site create blocks that are too long and impenetrable. Plans to redevelop the Coxwell TTC Barns should focus on economic development and the creation of pedestrian-friendly blocks. [Note: See work of Ryerson Architecture students “Danforth East Streetcar Yards” and Top Ten Ideas for the Danforth, by Paul Bedford’s Students presented at Imagine the Danforth, hosted by DECA in 2015.]
  1. We believe it’s important to work with the mid-rise guidelines created by city planning and approved by city council to develop this nearly five-acre site. They are essential elements of the ongoing Danforth Avenue Planning Study and cannot be ignored for any site, let alone such a key and potentially catalytic site. This has to be a primary focus, no matter what the TPS security concerns.

What can you do?

We have more influence the more members we have. If you haven’t joined DECA as a member, join now for $10/household annually: http://deca.to/membership/

The Toronto Police Service material provided these contacts for this process:

Toronto Police Service, Enrico Pera, Manager, Facilities Management, 416-808-7951, enrico.pera@torontopolice.on.ca

Real Estate Services, Nick Simos, Manager Development & Portfolio Planning, 416-392-7223, nick.simos@toronto.ca

City Planning, Paul Mulé, Senior Planner Community Planning, 416-392-1306, paul.mule@toronto.ca

You may also contact your City Councillor to ask your own questions and seek more information.

We will keep you posted as we learn more!

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So much to tell you about what we are up to – our birthday parties next month, community-wide scavenger hunt, meet & greet next week, Board meeting and volunteer opportunity!

Happy Birthday to Us!

We have officially announced our DECAde celebrations, our 10th birthday, with a few exciting events. We’ll tell you more, but here are the highlights:

  • celebration at the East Lynn Farmers’ Market at East Lynn Park (1949 Danforth Avenue) from 4-6 pm on September 21st. Formal remarks and a cake-cutting to begin at 5pm.
  • cocktail soirée at The Shore Leave (1775A Danforth Avenue) on Saturday, September 23rd from 7-9 pm (cash bar)
  • self-led scavenger hunt from now to September 21st to encourage individuals and families to explore the Danforth East neighbourhood to find the 10 spots, using our clues.


Free scavenger hunt maps & clues will be available at the East Lynn Park Farmers’ Market on Thursdays or download one here. Completed maps can be dropped off at the DECA table at the Farmers’ Market every Thursday from 3-7pm until September 21st. All completed maps will be entered into a draw, with results announced at The Shore Leave cocktail soirée on September 23rd.


Meet & Greet + Board Meeting

Who should come to our meet & greet on Tuesday? You should! It’s from 7-8pm at Gerrard’s Pizza in the basement (1528 Danforth). You should come if you’re new to the neighbourhood, or you’re curious about what exactly DECA does and who we are (spoiler alert: we’re all volunteers with full lives but we just really love our neighbourhood and we are fun!) or because you are interested in joining our Board or volunteeringin some other capacity. Come for a chat, and it’s up to you whether you’d like to stay for the Board meeting!

You are also invited to join us for our Board meeting from 8-9pm. Same location. Do you have an agenda item? Just let us know!

Click here to email us with any questions or to RSVP. We appreciate it if you let us know you are coming so we can reach you if anything changes and so that we can change to a bigger location if needed. Please also tell us about any accommodation needs. (The room is not accessible but we will find one that is if needed)


Volunteer Opportunity: Still need cooks

We are still looking for volunteer cooks to feed the farmers’ at our East Lynn Farmers’ Market. Some spots have filled since we made our plea last week but lots of spots are still available. Make a simple meal for 10-15 and we pay you a $20 honourarium. Past volunteer cooks have really enjoyed this chance to give back to the people who bring us their fresh local food week after week! Click here to sign up and for more information.


Other ways to get more involved:

Join DECA as a member for $10/household for the year. deca.to/membership/

Interested in volunteering? Click here to sign up and you’ll be added to our volunteer email list!

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For this series of blog posts marking our #DECAde, we are looking back on where DECA started, how far we’ve come and where the next 10 years might take us and our neighbourhood. We are including interviews with some of DECA’s founders and other info and tidbits from DECA’s “archives”

A few months ago, we asked some of our founding Board members to share their thoughts about DECA. You've already read some of what they said in our previous #DECAde posts. In this, our fourth and final blog post based on those interviews, find out why our founders think DECA succeeded and their advice for anyone who wants to make a difference in their community.

*Watch this space for a big announcement about our official #DECAde community celebrations!*


Peter Schmiedchen: My hope is that DECA takes us leaps and bounds beyond where we stand now, and make our area a destination recognized citywide.  The responsibility doesn’t fall completely upon DECA though.  Working together with the local businesses and the BIA, we have all made this part of the Danforth great.  

…This group was started by a few people who had good ideas and loved to drink wine.  We were virtually strangers at the start, but we had common goals – as do you and your neighbours.  It doesn’t take much…Stop thinking that Toronto is a cold, unfriendly city.  Talk to your neighbour and you will realize that they want the neighbourhood to have the sense of community that you want it to have. Only shyness stands in you way.

Mary Vallis: Don't be shy. Just do it. Find something that needs doing and don't let nervousness, ego or "lack of time" get in your way. We're all busy. We're all shy. We can all easily find reasons to not do something. What takes more courage, and more dedication, is doing. Through that, you'll find yourself walking around the street one day, looking around and thinking to yourself, "I belong, I belong, I belong."


☝🏼This pic is Alison, Mary-Margaret and Catherine from the early days of the farmers' market.

Mary-Margaret McMahon: ALL you need is an IDEA! DECA is the friendliest group going. They will cheerlead for your crusade and shower you with support! BUT it starts with YOU! So take the first step and volunteer, send a compliment, join a Subcommittee, pay your membership, cook for a farmer, gather some people to start your idea — do one thing. 

Catherine Porter: You don't have to have it all figured out. Just take your little idea, and meet with some people over wine (wine is key, I'd say. People are more willing to come to meetings with wine) and start to talk. Magic happens in the doing together, and it's much more fun when you don't have it all figured out. There will be side effects you never imagined — new friends; new ideas; a deeper understanding of where we live….. Go for it

Alison McMurray: I think what always boggles me is how far reaching the efforts of DECA have gone. Volunteer efforts have a way of burning out over the years and relying on the same 5 people but somehow we have managed to bring new people into the fold and continue to make an even bigger impact 10 years later.  That is remarkable to me.
…There are a lot of ways to get involved with DECA that don't require attending any meetings!  Everyone should be on the blog, everyone should be a member and then when an opportunity to help comes along, do it! And if you have an idea, bring it to DECA.  That's how all of our initiatives started – with a little idea and some grassroots organizing. 

Natasha Granatstein: We really didn't know what we were doing. We just did something. We started small and grew. A few years in, I was talking to someone who assumed that we had paid staff!  Paid staff!  Ha! We all have other jobs and other commitments. We just did our little bit to make our community more vibrant, walkable and safe. And, the best part? We became friends along the way so it didn't really feel like work. Also – have wine at your meetings. 

Colleen Clarke: The founding members really went above and beyond to make a success of everything that was conceived of. No grass grew under anybody's feet, except at the farmer's market, lol… To get involved, just sign up and do it! You chose this neighborhood to live in, own it and get out there and do even a little bit to make a difference.


Nothing is nothing stopping you from joining us. Become a member, come to an event or volunteer! Or maybe you are interested in joining our Board at our AGM in November? Get in touch with us – send us an email!


DECA memberships are $10/household to support our community initiatives including our weekly Farmers’ Market, Diversity Scholarship, annual Arts Fair, Pumpkin Parade, Tree Lighting Festival, #DanforthEast Yard Sale, DECA Pride LGBTQ+ group and more! Sign up here

If you want to get in touch, send us an email

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For this series of blog posts marking our #DECAde, we are looking back on where DECA started, how far we’ve come and where the next 10 years might take us and our neighbourhood. We are including interviews with some of DECA’s founders and other info and tidbits from DECA’s “archives”

2014 DECA Board



Making Change

Parts 1 and 2 of series described what the neighbourhood was like 10 years ago and how a group of people came together to start DECA. This post is about what  happened next. As you know, fair reader, the DECA Diaries blog was our only communication tool for many years before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram helped us expand our reach. Lovingly written by DECA’s founding Chair, Natasha Granatstein from 2008-2011 when every post was written on an actual computer (not on an iPhone like this one) and event posters were still actual pieces of paper and not JPEG files so the words that Natasha wrote had to be crafted carefully – and they were.

In the past nine years of the blog (it began as an email newsletter), we have posted 1160 times. Each post takes anywhere from 20ish minutes to a few hours of someone’s spare time, to help get the word out about our community. More than 1200 people subscribe to the blog and many more read it via Facebook and Twitter. The blog is now managed by a small team of volunteer bloggers and a volunteer editor (yours truly). Turns out, the blog is also our unofficial archive.

Here’s a look back courtesy of the blog at some of what we’ve done to change the neighbourhood over the past #DECAde. 

January 2009: First Store Makeover  

The store did so well after this makeover, the owners bought their own building and moved a bit west where they remain today.

July 2009: Square Dancing at the Market

Our weekly market posts didn’t start until a few years in, but this post was a sweet reminder of a wonderful night at the market (in its third year by 2009) where people of all ages came to square dance! 

September 2009: First Danforth East Arts Fair

November 2009: Our first annual cocktail party (that was secretly also our AGM)  at Melanie’s Bistro. No e-version of the poster back then so the blog post is our only proof!

November 2010: First Pumpkin Parade


December 2012: First Tree Lighting at East Lynn Park 

January 2012blog post about Australian  Marcus Westbury’s innovative “pop-up shop” model to deal with high commercial vacancy

March 7, 2012 – Marcus Westbury was in town so we hosted an event with him!

May 2012 – carrot gets a buddy: the birth of the broccoli costume!

What shows a deeper commitment to improving one’s own community than dressing as vegetables to promote our local farmers’ market during rush hour?!

Veggies promoting our Farmers’ Market

October 2012: First Pop-Up Shops

This was back when it was solely run by a team of DECA volunteers, based on the Renew Newcastle model we learned about earlier that year. Incredible!


June 2013: First #DanforthEast Yard Sale

April 2014: #DanforthEast Dreams event

We asked you what you wanted for our neighbourhood and mapped it and made a video found in this follow-up blog post. (The post also shows our first laneway revitalization effort more than three years ago!)


April 2015: DECA Gems neighbourhood competition

It was a total love-in and so many people learned of new places to shop, eat, play, get their car fixed, hem a skirt, get a haircut, buy flowers and on and on. Search the hashtag #DECAGems on our fb page or blog to look back. Anyone remember who won?

December 2015: First DECA Connects fundraiser – Sleep Out for Syrians

DECA’s social justice group launched with this fundraiser where participants slept outside (in December!) to simulate what Syrian refugees were experiencing for months in camps. The goal was $10k. In the end, we raised $28,500, helping  several Syrian families come to Canada.



June 2016: First DECA Pride LGBTQ+ event 

We have a thriving LGBTQ+ community in the east end but no groups or events. DECA Pride changed that!


June 2016: First Table Tennis for Tuition 

To raise money to support the $2000 DECA Young Leaders Scholarship established in 2016. 


This has been an amazing decade-long experiment in being positive and making changes that many people say have transformed our neighbourhood. 
Want to join us?

DECA memberships are $10/household to support our community initiatives including our weekly Farmers’ Market, Diversity Scholarship, annual Arts Fair, Pumpkin Parade, Tree Lighting Festival, #DanforthEast Yard Sale, DECA Pride LGBTQ+ group and more! Sign up here

If you want to get in touch, send us an email

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