Pillar celebrates 15 years of leading community innovation

Pillar AGMIt was billed as the Pillar Nonprofit Network’s annual general meeting (AGM), but it turned out to be an energetic 15th birthday party.

Taking place on April 27 at Goodwill Industries on Horton Street, the AGM saw the typical business undertaken — the election of board members, the discussion of financial matters — but all that was under the canopy of shiny hats, party favours, and a recognition of the change that Pillar has helped engineer since it was first launched.

Perhaps nobody among the 150-plus people in attendance was more moved by the direction of the meeting than Willy Van Klooster.

Van Klooster, one of Pillar’s founding voices, said he “absolutely marvels” at what the organization has been able to accomplish.

“We had big dreams 15 years ago. We wanted to see significant things happen. But not infrequently, things happened I just could have never imagined,” he said. “Fifteen years ago, collaboration was an idea. Today, it’s happening.”

One thing Van Klooster said the people around that original Pillar table could never have imagined was the creation of Innovation Works.

A collaborative, community hub (located at 201 King St.), Innovation Works is a 32,000 sq. ft. space that is being renovated with the goal of bringing together socially minded innovators dedicated to positively transforming the future of London.

Michelle Baldwin, Pillar’s executive director, has seen that change happen first-hand over her 15 years with the organization — first as a volunteer, and for the past nine years in an official capacity.

The AGM offered an opportunity for her to reflect on the past, think about the present, but also contemplate how to best move forward and celebrate the community’s potential.

“That’s why we picked the birthday party theme; we wanted to say a thank you to the network, but it’s also the chance to reflect on how much more we have left to do,” Baldwin said. ”We have a lot coming in 2016. I feel we’re trying to set the conditions for collaboration and change. Now, it’s as a community, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

This is a big year for Pillar, Baldwin said, with the opening of Innovation Works this summer and the upcoming solutions lab, which is a two-day problem solving workshop set for May 31 to June 1 at Brescia University College.

Looking back on her time with Pillar, Baldwin said she sees how the community has built relationships, “strengthened human connections,” and created an atmosphere where collaboration can happen.

This has been especially true, she adds, since the economic recession began in 2008 and many in the community began to realize people couldn’t keep doing things the same old way as years gone by.

For Kate Graham, board chair, the AGM actually offered more than just the chance to have a party.

The day proved, she said, that Londoners “love pushing the envelop and thinking big” in an effort to support one another.

With everything the organization has going on this year, including the 10th edition of the Pillar Community Innovation Awards, Graham said she believes Londoners have heard the message of collaboration.

“I never cease to be amazed that in the events we do out in the community, the level of response and engagement is phenomenal,” she said. “London is a collaborative and engaged city and that is no more true than in the non-profit sector.”



London women recognized for building a vibrant community

Women leadSeventeen women from London were recently recognized for the contributions they’ve made towards building a stronger, more vibrant community.

This year’s local honourees under the Leading Women, Leading Girls Building Communities Recognition Program, were recognized at a ceremony held April 26 at the London Children’s Museum.

London West MPP Peggy Sattler, and London-Fanshawe MPP Teresa Armstrong recognized this year’s winners: Fabienne Haller, Gina Barber, Judy Grunwald, Mandi Fields, Laura Briscoe, Shawna Lewkowitz, Brienna French, Tina Stevens, Jacqueline Fraser, Mavis Lau, Lena Gahwi, Roberta Cory, Susan Macphail, Twee Brown, Doris Hall, Ghadeir Madlol, and Gina Kayssi.

Sattler and Armstrong agreed they were honoured to have nominated “such deserving women” for the program.

Each winner, they added, has demonstrated leadership by working to improve the lives of others in the community.

This year’s recipients contribute in a variety of different areas, including education, entrepreneurship, ending violence against women, and promoting intercultural understanding.

“We are impressed by the dedication that each of these women demonstrates to their causes as they devote their time and energy to improving the lives of others,” Sattler said.

Her point was echoed by Armstrong, who added, “We are pleased to be able to congratulate them on behalf of everyone in London for their lasting contributions to the community.”

In its 11th year, Ontario’s Leading Women, Leading Girls, Building Communities Awards, which have recognized more than 745 exceptional women and girls across the province.

These women, according to a media release, have all demonstrated leadership and improved the lives of others through their work, activism or volunteer activities.

Nominees must have demonstrated exceptional community leadership to improve the lives of others and have made substantial contributions through volunteer work in one of the following ways:

  • Breaking down barriers and encouraging women and girls to get involved in non-traditional careers
  • Championing or actively promoting issues such as equality, diversity, healthy equal relationships
  • Preventing violence against women and girls
  • Reducing racism and discrimination
  • Encouraging women and girls to participate in any part of public service
  • Acting as a positive role model by mentoring, coaching, leading events or organizations
  • Providing a positive example to women and girls in their communities

Local artists prepare for annual spring pottery show and sale

ClayOver 40 clay artists will be participating in the London Potters Guild’s annual Spring Show and Sale.

The sale is being held at the Thames Valley District School Board Education Centre (1250 Dundas St.) on Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, May 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The sale location offers a large auditorium where the thousands of pieces of functional and sculptural pottery will be on display and for sale.

The $2 admission fee qualifies visitors for the hourly door prizes each day. Free parking is available behind the building.

All of the clay artists featured at the show are members of the London Potters Guild with some working out of the London Clay Art Centre.

“The sale is a great opportunity to meet and support local clay artists,” said first-time participant Hannah Pruder, currently an artist-in-resident at the clay art centre. “Since there are over 40 artists that will be participating in the spring sale, you can find something for everyone to love.”

Jenn Jack, who has a studio at the London Clay Art Centre said with the sale being held on Mothers’ Day weekend, “it’s a great opportunity to bring your mother on a nice outing where she gets to pick her own gift. And you’ll know you’re buying local and hand-made items.”

Nicole Waddick, also an artist-in-residence, as well as a member of other potters guilds, said she’s been attending the London sale for years, “and it is always worth a trip.”

Londoners come together for the 21st annual community cleanup

TrashThe so-called 12 Days of Cleaning wrapped up on April 23 with thousands of Londoners participating in the 21st annual London Clean & Green community-wide cleanup.

Thanks to the generosity and community spirit of these volunteers, hundreds of bags of litter and garbage along with items like chairs and car parts have been collected from boulevards, parks, neighbourhoods and riverbanks over the 12 Days of Cleaning.

London Police Service also played a key role in the day, co-ordinating the removal of graffiti in a number of areas.

“Thank you to all Londoners for coming together again to help us keep London clean and green,” said Mayor Matt Brown. “Each year, I am so impressed with just how dedicated Londoners are to this community building initiative and I can’t wait to do it all over again next year!”

Bags of litter and garbage were collected from well over 100 locations across London.

Cleanup groups ranged in size from five or six Londoners to some approaching 120 volunteers.

Many cleanup locations were posted in advance by volunteers on www.Londoncleangreen.ca with many of London’s finest locations being “cleaned and greened.” including: areas along the Thames River such as the Thames, Carfrae and Richard B Harrison parks; areas near the Ontario Museum of Archeology, Veterans Memorial Parkway, Westminster Ponds, Mitches Park and Kensington Park.

Items collected ranged from your typical litter including paper wrappers and cups, plastic bags, bottles, cans and cardboard to much large items such as tires, wood, broken furniture, car parts, toilets, and concrete.

“The 12 Days of Cleaning concluded on a strong note with major cleanup activities occurring as part of the 22 Minute London Makeover and the community-wide events,” said Jay Stanford, the city’s director of environment, fleet and solid waste. “Best estimates suggests that between 18 and 20 tonnes of litter and garbage are no longer on the ground.”

Additional details for the next phase of London Clean & Green will be announced shortly.


London’s arts community again steps up for Unity Project

UpwithArtWith some 70 works up for bid, and a crowd of over 300 people in attendance, the annual UpwithArt fundraiser has once again provided a significant boost to the fight against homelessness in the Forest City.

Taking place at the Palace Theatre on April 23, the sixth UpwithArt event is expected to raise — once the final totals are in — around $75,000 to support the ongoing programs of Unity Project For Relief of Homelessness in London.

And while that total is a huge lift to the organization, the evening might just have achieved another nearly as important goal — highlighting the talent, and compassion, of those in the London arts scene.

“Artists are very generous. They get asked a lot and they give a lot,” said Silvia Langer, Unity Project’s development director. “It’s important their art is valued, the same way a doctor’s services are valued, the same way a dentist’s services are valued.”

There were many people who used their bank accounts to do that very thing.

Participants in the fundraiser had the opportunity to bid on 18 pieces are donated from the private collection of notable collectors, and 52 original artworks donated by Unity Project and New School of Colour participants as well as an all-star list of local renowned and emerging artists.

Diana Tamblyn was one participating artist and she said it was her pleasure to provide artwork a piece for the silent auction.

As she walked through the Palace, enjoying all the works on display, she also couldn’t help but be struck by the depth of talent on display.

“When you have Greg Curnoe, Clark McDougall, Ron Benner, Jamelie Hassan, this is not a lightweight list,” Tamblyn said. “But there is also people from the New School of Colour, the Unity Project. If you don’t look at the labels of who does what, you could take some of those pieces, put them in the professional artist section and you wouldn’t know the difference.”

Brian Meehan, executive director and chief curator of Museum London, once again contributed works from his personal collection to the evening.

Meehan, who also works with the UpwithArt committee, said that while artists don’t often have a lot of money, “for the most part,” when they throw their support into a cause, they get behind it 100 percent.

“It’s one of those issues that is just so important. This (turnout) is really a strong indication of just what a great arts community this is,” he said. “When you look at the calibre of artists, the calibre of work you see on the walls, and knowing these artists are, for the most part, giving these works up, it really makes you proud of the arts community.”

Chuck Lazenby, Unity Project executive director, said she was “really overwhelmed” the turnout for this year’s festivities.

As an artist herself, Lazenby knows how much time and energy it takes to create a piece — how much of someone’s heart and soul goes into it.

While that’s a “really meaningful” gesture by the professional artists, the opportunity to help showcase the other UpwithArt contributors is one she finds equally exciting.

“I think it’s such a great experience for them. They can put their art on display in a professional context,” Lazenby said. “This is a very legit art show, so it feels good for everybody. At the same time, it isn’t pretentious; it feels really accessible. It’s just incredible.”



London Clean & Green 2016 kicks off the 12 Days of Cleaning

C&GLondoners will once again have the opportunity to not only clean up their community, but also take on the challenge of eliminating illegal dumping.

Community partners, volunteers, sponsors and city staff gathered on April 12 to kick-off the 21st annual London Clean & Green program with the 12 Days of Cleaning.

The 12 Days of Cleaning focuses on information and general awareness on how to prevent litter, garbage and illegal dumping from occurring.

The effort highlights programs such as electronics and tire recycling, safe disposal practice for household special waste, how to recycle renovation materials and what to do with used clothing.

“Illegal dumping is a blight on our community. It offends every Londoner,” said Deputy Mayor Paul Hubert. “However, we can make a difference by taking action together as part of the London Clean & Green program and reporting areas of concern by calling 519-661-4570.”

The 12 Days of Cleaning leads up to the annual 20-Minute London Makeover, called the 22-Minute London Makeover this year as it lands on April 22, Earth Day.

The 22-Minute London Makeover encourages local businesses, institutions and schools to get involved and collect litter and tidy up outside their place of work.

The annual Community Cleanup Day on Saturday, April 23 involves the entire community with more than 40 community sponsors supporting the event. There are locations to pick up supplies and drop off litter.

Participants can register their cleanup locations and learn more about the day at www.londoncleangreen.ca.

The website offers a mapping feature allowing residents to place their cleanup locations on the map and the city can identify spots on the map that require attention.

Registration is not a requirement to register to participate.

London Clean & Green has evolved from a single cleanup event in 1996 to a program that will extend over 85 days focusing first on cleaning up London followed by many greening events in May and June.

London Youth Advisory Council making late push for candidates

LYAC LogoWithout public’s help, half of the city’s wards will be uncontested in the upcoming London Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) election.

The LYAC has now launched its candidate website (www.lyaccandidates.ca) where the public can see the 22 youth councillor candidates that have signed up so far have so far this year.

While LYAC leadership announced in a media release its thrilled to have current candidates on board, seven of the 14 wards — Wards 1, 2, 3, 9, 11, 12 and 13 — will be uncontested unless more people apply to be a youth councillor candidate.

The LYAC is a democratically elected council of 15 youth, representing London’s 14 wards and Western University, who collaborate with community and city leaders to bring about change in the city.

For their one-year term, youth councillors work on various initiatives within the city, receive training from LYAC staff and community leaders, and represent their youth constituents at political events, meetings and focus groups.

The process to become a youth councillor candidate is a simple one.

First, those interested in running for the council, and who are between the ages of 15 and 25 when they apply, should have a passion for big ideas, asking questions, and working hard to represent your community.

Second, they should figure out which ward (or area) they want to run to represent. Potential candidates can choose any ward, but it’s recommended those interested select a ward that’s easily accessible to them and whose issues they’re passionate about.

The election process to become a youth councillor consists of three phases:

  • Candidate application period (Feb. 8 to April 13, midnight)
  • Campaign period (April 25 to May 7)
  • Voting period (May 1 to May 7)

To help candidates with their campaigns, LYAC has a training day for all candidates on Saturday, April 23, at 10am, which gives candidates tools for campaigning, knocking on doors, and developing a platform.

In its media release, LYAC leadership said it wants a competitive election for each area of London so more conversations can happen about what people care about in London.

Also, the a full field would be important so the councillors can learn about their communities and feel empowered by being elected by the people they wish to represent.

No political knowledge or experience is required. Applications are open until Wednesday, April 13 at www.lyac.ca/apply_2016.