Ward 5 Heroes: The McElderry Community

Ward 5 Heroes: The McElderry Community

This week we want to recognized the passionate, hard working residents of the McElderry Community. In the last few years they have had to go through a large learning curve and quickly mobilized in order to respond to a development proposal in their neighbourhood at the corner of Kortright and Edinburgh. They needed to get up to speed on Official Plans, the Planning Act, zoning bylaws, sight lines, shadow studies, traffic studies and much, much more. As if that wasn’t enough they then had to quickly become informed about Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) procedures. Appearing before the OMB is very expensive requiring lawyers and planners so the community stepped up to raise funds with initiatives such as bake sales, garage sales, and bottle drives. They managed to raise an amazing $50,000! Unfortunately this was not enough(!!) to retain their ‘party status’ at the OMB but they persevered in every possible way to continue to have their voices heard. Throughout it all the McElderry Community presented themselves as respectful, knowledgable and very well organized. An incredible amount of effort goes into into this type of grassroots community organizing and they are all true heroes for caring so passionately about the community they live in.

The McElderry Community is hosting a community meeting on Oct., 6th, 2016 at 7:00 PM at the Jean Little PS, 56 Youngman Dr.

Photo: McElderry Community Leaders
Front row L to R: Debbie Conrad, Lyanne Oliver, Tracey Duffield, Linda Davis
Back row: Steve Runge, Fina Mirotta, Cyndy Forsyth, Sandra Wolting, Greg Ross, Robert Penfold
Missing: Michele & Scott Richardson, Larry Conrad, Lois Reeb, Mark Taylor, Charlie Campagnaro

Ward 5 Hero: Sya Van Geest


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.


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.

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.

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.

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….