Ward 5 Hero: Sya Van Geest

dsc_9712

Go, go, go!   This week’s Ward 5 hero never stops.  She is a local champion of arts, social justice, literacy, education, environment, international health, and one of heck of a storyteller, and “heaven knows what else”, according to her nominator.

In her leadership role with the Guelph GoGo Grandmothers, she works to raise awareness and fundraise for the African Grandmothers Campaign of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.  The Foundation is focused on providing resources to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa.

Van Geest is also an animated storyteller, who puts her talents to use during “Tea ‘N’ Tales”, a popular weekly summer event at the Guelph Enabling Gardens.   The event is a nine-year collaborative project between the Enabling Gardens and the Guelph Guild of Storytellers.  The Guelph Enabling Garden is designed to be accessible to all and is used for education, sensory rehabilitation and multi-generational events.

Van Geest has a long record of activism.   After a distinguished career as a teacher-librarian, curriculum consultant and educator with the Peel District School Board, she received a distinguished service award for her “outstanding contribution to the libraries of Ontario.”  After retirement she was actively involved in People for Education and the Guelph Citizens for Public Education, advocating for a strong publicly-funded library system.

In 2007, Van Geest received the YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Voluntary Community Service.  We are so proud that Sya is a resident of Ward 5, but her passionate energy and legacy of activism goes well beyond Ward 5 boundaries.  Her impact is felt throughout Guelph, all the way to villages in Africa where lives are being saved as a result of funds raised by Guelph GoGo Grandmothers.   Truly a Ward 5 hero….

 

Ward 5 Heroes: Hospice Wellington

Ward 5 Heroes: Hospice Wellington

Many families in Guelph have been the beneficiary of the support that Hospice Wellington offers to them and their loved ones as they near life’s end. The thoughtful and compassionate care of the staff and volunteers ensures an end of life passage with dignity and sanctity. They also provide ongoing support for families and individuals, helping them through the grieving process of their loss. During my own father’s passing, entering the Hospice Wellington felt like a warm embrace every time – so peaceful.
Thank you to all the Volunteers and Staff at Hospice Wellington. I think it takes very courageous and special people to do this work as it brings us face to face with our own mortality. A BIG hug to you all!

Ward 5 Heroes: the 2016 OV Team

As the first week of classes get underway, we pay homage the University of Guelph Orientation Volunteers, affectionately know as OVs (oh-vees). What are OVs? They are a curious species over one thousand strong, with a life-expectancy of only one week, sporting red t-shirts, and super-human strength and stamina.

img_9526_web

Each year, OVs volunteer their last long weekend of the summer to the task of moving new students into residence, orientation to campus, orientation to Guelph and to becoming a new Gryphon.  It’s not all fun and games.  The first day is a grueling long day of carrying boxes and computers and mini-fridges up many flights of stairs, directing traffic and answering questions.  When they are not leading orientation activities and events during the remainder of the week, they are choreographing and practicing the OV Boogie, a gift of showmanship to entertain the new incoming first year class.

Check out this last year’s OV Boogie.

Without OVs, the University of Guelph campus move-in would simply not be possible.  Most universities in Ontario move their students on to campus over several days, but Guelph is known for its well-planned and well-executed move-in experience on the first Saturday of September.  This positive experience is not forgotten the following year, when this year’s new Gryphons pick up the torch and volunteer to be the next generation of OVs.

For their volunteer commitment and enthusiastic spirit, this week’s Ward 5 Heroes are the University of Guelph 2016 Orientation Volunteers!

What I Did On My Summer Vacation….

During the month of August, Council takes a short hiatus to allow both staff and councillors the opportunity to enjoy a break.  But rest assured, there is no such thing as a traditional “vacation” in the life of a city councillor.  The daily constituency work – inquiries, emails, calls, re: city issues, problems, ideas – are part of the job all year long.

Today is the first day of school for thousands of Guelph children and youth.  It’s also the first new “Committee of the Whole” meeting of Council.  Typically, the first day of school is a time for sharing what we did on our summer vacation, before heading straight into math homework.

We are hitting the books fast — our first Committee meeting today has an agenda that includes budget variance reports, by-law reviews, stormwater funding, water efficiency and ranked ballot electoral reform.

But before we jump in head first, let’s reflect on what we did on our summer vacation…

Some councillors used the time for professional development work.  In early August, my ward mate Cathy Downer was added to the Board of Directors of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario at their annual conference.  Other Council colleagues travelled and picked up best practices from around the world in city building, community engagement and cultural economic development. Councillor Salisbury travelled solo across the country, through the prairies and mountains and everywhere in between. Councillor Allt shared aspects of his travels in the UK through social media that directly relate to local issues such as renewable energy, transit and planning, and the importance of the local brewing and malting economy.

Me? I stayed close to home, but have come away with summer wisdom that has informed and inspired a renewed focus for me in my role on Council in the year ahead, as follows:

  • Went to Blue Jays game:  
    • What I learned:  regular, reliable and higher frequency local and inter-regional transit is essential to Guelph’s future economy and mitigating the effects of climate change exacerbated by reliance on the automobile.  Our primary focus should be on trains to take pressure off the 401 GTA road corridor.
  • Tended my Community Garden plot:
    • What I learned:  we need more community gardens throughout the city!  It’s not all about the planting and harvesting of food — community gardens also change traditional land use patterns, enhance neighbourhood engagement and teach the next generation resiliency and stewardship skills.  Local food production isn’t trendy, it’s the future.
garden

One of Guelph many community garden sites on public land.

  • Biked and hiked local trails: 
    • What I learned:  how fortunate Guelph is to have the Arboretum, the Royal Rec Trail and the Speed and Eramosa rivers.  I was also reminded how many gaps and broken links we have in our system, and the need for additional resources to address trail deficiencies if we are truly serious about active transportation.
  • Attended the Hip concert broadcast in Market Square
    • What I learned:  we need more community building events like this that draw people into the Square.  The buzz was palpable, and it wasn’t really all about the Hip.  Many of those I talked to were energized by being drawn together into a public space on a summer night.  The music was secondary.
  • Hillside Festival, Art on the Street and PorchFest:
    • What I learned:   Music, art, dance, film, etc. festivals ebb and flow like all ventures. Supporting the arts is a community responsibility.  Not merely through grant funding, but through attendance.  It’s good for the economy…and even better for the soul.
porchfest

Local musicians Sam Boer and Anita Gazzola share their talents at the first annual Junction PorchFest.

  • Played Pokemon Go:
    • What I learned:   Public art and public space are underutilized and underappreciated.  I first observed larger-than-average gatherings of people at McCrae House, the Garbasaurus sculpture in Royal City Park, Market Square, and other public art installations in late July.  My son enlightened me what was happening and downloaded the app for me (purely for research purposes of course).  It was an fascinating experiment in people-watching and listening.  I overheard youth (and grown-ups too) commenting that they had never noticed these places before.
  • Attended 9th Annual Kirking Service:
    • What I learned:  Our cultural and architectural heritage are an integral part of our city identity. Guelph is unique. We were founded by a novelist-entrepreneur, on the traditional territory of the Attawandaron people, with a world-class university, two rivers and an environmental conscience.  We are not like everyone else.  We must actively work to preserve what is special about our city.
kirking2016_web

James Gordon (Ward 2) sports a family heirloom kilt, with June Hofland (Ward 3), Leanne Piper (Ward 5), and Phil Allt. (Ward 3), at 9th Annual Kirking Event.

Returning to Council work today, I am confident that my summer non-vacation has served me well….

LP

 

 

Ward 5 Hero: Peter Gow

It’s time for a little #TBT twist on our weekly Ward 5 hero!   There have been many individuals throughout Guelph’s history who have shaped our city — and Ward 5 in particular.  One of those individuals was Peter Gow.  This week’s Ward 5 hero was born in Johnstone, Scotland in 1818.

PeterGow23

Gow arrived in Guelph around 1850, acquiring land on the south side of the Speed River where he built a mill and a tannery.  It was the first industrial complex in what would later become Ward 5, which opened up the land for rapid residential development to house workers for his mills, quarries for building stone, estate lots, and access to agricultural land to support the growing city population.  He built a wooden bridge across the river where the mill pond was constructed, which was later replaced by the stone one-lane bridge still present today, known as Gow’s Bridge.

Gow was active in local politics, serving on the school board, town council and served as a reeve and mayor.  In 1867, the year of Confederation, he was Guelph’s first Member of Parliament, and was re-elected in 1871 and 1875 to serve the riding of Wellington South.  He was the first Provincial Secretary and Registrar of Ontario.  Most significantly, during the time of this provincial appointment in 1872, the Government of Ontario chose Guelph as the site of the new Ontario Agricultural College.  The presence of the University of Guelph is a key feature of Ward 5 today.

Gow died in Guelph in 1886.  His presence in Ward 5 is still felt today, which makes him a worthy Ward 5 hero.

moulingow

Gow’s Mill and Bridge, prior to 1890.  Image from McCord Museum (M991.9.2.164), Quebec.

 

 

EVENT: Rockin’ the Square

Guelph knows how to put on a show!  Add some local music and a charitable cause and voila!  It’s a party, Guelph style.

MarketSquareDiscoDance

Thanks to the hard work of city staff, who started coordinating a plan the minute CBC announced the public broadcast, the final Tragically Hip concert live from Kingston will be screened in Market Square on Saturday, August 20!  The event starts at 7:30 pm with live music (Myke Rush at 7:30 pm and Speakeasies at 8:00 pm), followed by the concert broadcast starting at 8:30 pm.

The Canadian Cancer Society will also be on site accepting donations.

Full event details can be found here.