Stories Matter: Tales from The Dale

We have not seen her in a while. She is striking, with an amazing sense of style. On this particular day we spot her hanging out with other people we know on some familiar steps in the neighbourhood. We immediately get chatting and hear about some challenges with her housing situation, a place just around the corner that she wants to show us. She is very transparent, and wants us (and you, the reader) to hear about her years in the sex trade and the toll it has taken. As Joanna and I listen, rain begins to pelt down. Before we depart, our friend hands us each a sunflower. Mine has just two yellow petals left. “I know they’re not beautiful, but it’s my heart. I honour you each with them.”

It’s his birthday. He feels surprised, while we feel grateful, that he has lived another year. His extended family is not in the city and want to remind him that he is loved, and so they send me a video of people sharing birthday wishes, peppered with photos of various eras of his life. The hope is that we will be able to find him so that he can view the video on my phone. Fortunately, it works out. He looks so pleased. I can’t shake the smile off my face.

We first met while he was living in an encampment in Parkdale. Always trying to beautify the land on which he lives, this friend erected a birdhouse close to his tent and excitedly shares about regular gray jay sightings. Over time his art fills the space, canvases leaning against every available surface. Now housed, I get audio messages on social media from him when too much time has elapsed between visits. We always greet each other with a hug.

Whenever the weather is good, we meet outside for our Sunday service. One day a squirrel is positioned in the tree right above me. I have no idea what people are looking at, only to learn there is certainty it is going to land on my head. Another day a woodpecker attaches itself to the shed just feet away from us. It sounds like a (very loud) percussion instrument and persists its pecking throughout our prayer time. At first some of us muffle laughter, until the comments start to fly, nearly derailing the service. Finally, a community member determinedly begins to pray, with as loud a voice as she can muster, “I just feel SO grateful because I have never seen a woodpecker in real life. How amazing.” The bird begins to quiet, almost as though it is giving thanks back.

Our plot in the community garden is taking shape. A neighbour and friend who is always willing to lend a hand decides to build an enclosure for it to keep out the animals that want to take one bite out of everything. One of our only strawberries gets eaten anyway. Our neighbour will not be deterred. Upon hearing the news of the strawberry, he marches over to fortify the walls. We know he keeps on eye on things when we can’t, which is especially nice given that our watering schedule (which is posted in our office) for Fridays and Saturdays says, “hope for the best”.

I think stories matter. I always try to log the events of a day either in my mind or, when I’m feeling especially organized, in a notebook. It is easy to remember the activities that divide up our week at The Dale: meals to go, outreach, fund-raising, etc., but it is all the moments that happen at and in-between these activities that breathe life into this community. I am so grateful to be a part of the web of stories that occur at The Dale. Life here is rich, and full of gifts like sunflowers, birds, garden plots, hugs, and beautiful people.

Cristian “Sanchez” Castillo

I have no recollection of when I met Sanchez. Not remembering where and when I met someone is rare for me. I imagine it says something about the way Sanchez inhabited the neighbourhood. He was one of those people who seemed to be everywhere all at once: in the parkette beside the Health Centre, on the bench outside of what used to be the Coffee Time, by the steps of 201 Cowan Avenue, and always, always with his dogs, Maggie and Chica. 

Sanchez came to Canada from Chile. You could always hear the Spanish in his voice. Sometimes there was a language barrier between us, but in my experience, Sanchez always dealt with this patiently. Usually it made him grin, look down, and slowly shake his head while quietly saying, “I really need to teach you Spanish”. To which I would reply, “PLEASE. Please teach me.” 

I could usually recognize Sanchez, even from a distance. He had a recognizable gait and silhouette. Sometime this year he also started wearing a helmet, to protect him from the falls that were increasingly a nemesis. He didn’t seem to mind, if anything claiming it as a cool new accessory. I loved that about Sanchez. Though there was a lot that he struggled with, he somehow seemed comfortable in his own skin. 

If Sanchez was having a bad day, there seemed to be one thing that would bring him to life: talking about his dogs, especially Maggie (who was actually mother to Chica). These dogs were not simply pets, but true companions to Sanchez. If you look at his Facebook profile, the vast majority of photos are of them. It became a huge concern that Maggie had what at first seemed a growth but proved to be a tumour growing on her belly. Because the surgery required was cost prohibitive, The Dale launched a GoFundMe on behalf of Sanchez.

Heartbreakingly, though the money arrived, the tumour proved too much and Maggie died. I will never forget receiving the news. Nor will I forget what became a necessary support to Sanchez: me, Joanna, and our friend Sam going to pick up Maggie to transport her to the vet. We gathered around Sanchez, with Chica hiding close by, to hold him in the grief and pray. The last time I saw Sanchez was the day I returned with Maggie’s ashes in an urn. 

Not long after this, Sanchez entered the hospital. Because of Covid restrictions, we could not visit him. However, he and I started to communicate on-line. I would occasionally receive video messages- usually short updates and always ending with how much he missed Maggie. I think it is fair to say that recovering from this loss felt unimaginable to Sanchez.

Sanchez was released from hospital, though we had yet to see him. Just yesterday we were alerted to his death through a flurry of calls and messages. I know that I am not the only one in a state of shock. To be candid, it doesn’t feel real. On behalf of The Dale, I want to extend our condolences to his family. I extend the same to those who counted Sanchez friend. There has been a lot of loss in our community over the last few years, something that Sanchez felt acutely. Saying goodbye to a friend is never easy. 

Sanchez- thank you for all of the chats over so many years. No matter how hard the day was, you would always stop and say, “let me first ask: how are you?” I will miss seeing you in the neighbourhood. We all will. I don’t know what you are experiencing now, but I really hope you are tossing Maggie a stick and feeling pride every time she brings it back. Estoy agradecido por ti. I hope I have that right. I mean to say, I am grateful for you. 

The Need to Be Held

Roberto is a new friend, one who stumbled upon The Dale just weeks ago. With his permission I share this moving piece that he wrote about his first experience. He read it aloud to a handful of us just yesterday. As indicated in this story, Roberto has experienced shunning and deep loss, and so it is no small deal that he is daring to join us on Sundays. We are grateful for his presence and perspective, and for the actions of the woman who enfolded not just me, but all of us that day.

By Roberto Angelis Lyra

I have a confession. Something happened this past Sunday which brought me to my knees.

Dreamt of a church called “Beautifully Broken” where both pastor and congregants melded as one. Among a handful of souls – all but 3 out of tune – the music moved with grace. Gently shaking me awake, an angel beckoned I come, whispering the word “Family” – six forgotten letters to this ancient heart.

Suffice, knowing many such dreams have been prophetic, I refused to awaken, lest one hearken the summons or dare stiff a messenger. Kept hitting snooze, knowing no services would be held after eleventh hour.

That still, small voice…

A glint in my eye, I challenged the Spirit, ‘No way in Hell there’s a service anywhere in Toronto on a long weekend!’ Google chuckled in response, revealing one but a stone’s throw from home.

And what is “Home” without the ones you love…….

It was high noon and I was dead. Damn it, the service was at 2! This meant I had 2 full hours to prepare for crossing Queen West, where gospel awaited a disgraced cowboy.

An old flickering film entered my mind. “Forgive me Father, for I’m About to Sin!” Me and church and steeple eyes are strange bedfellows indeed.

Upon approach, one encountered a hidden gem, as it were an armoire’s entrance to Narnia. Interior of which once might’ve been regal, seemed shattered as life itself.

I fit right in.

Ten, perhaps fifteen parishioners were scattered amongst benches used to warming considerably more bums. What’s one more, I thought.

“Women shall NOT speak in churches!” rang through conditioning as a female pastor arose. I groaned inwardly at how they which raised me were the very reason I disbelieved.

With genuine tone, she taught about ways of Jesus, partial to suffering and those of the fringe, befriending any outcast by neighbour… one rejected of kin.

My eyes began to sting.

She continued with words touching my core despite their simplicity, stirring matter lingering beyond the deep.

More she expressed, ever greater this proverbial lump at throat.

That was when her voice began to crack. Slow recognition how she too, was dealing with trauma far too great any bear alone…

Openly weeping, the preacher apologized for inability to continue, expressing anniversary of her mother’s passing…

Another thing one did not do in the cult, was interrupt “Holy” service.

As the preacher cried outright, an elderly woman stood, shifting aside her walker, offering, “Sweetheart, can I give you a hug..?”

It wasn’t a question. Grandma was on a mission!

The sweet septuagenarian rose from her pew, becoming surrogate mother to a grown, grieving child – unaware that for me, She Was the Complete Sermon!

God knows all I ever needed was to hold and be held by my mother… one who still shuns me in the name of Religion and all things untrue.

Lord, I pray our day will come…and I might see you…

Blessed is the Bookkeeper

We first met in the summer of 2014. Greg Kay, a Board member of The Dale at the time, brokered the connection between me and Marion Cameron. We met in a room at the back of 201 Cowan Avenue to discuss whether or not she would be willing to do the bookkeeping for The Dale. We had just suffered the death of our bookkeeper Diana Fong, and I felt unsure of how to move forward. 

Marion did agree to take on the books. I still remember handing over a heap of paper to her and sheepishly saying, “I’m sorry!!” to which she replied, “oh no, this is FUN!” We had definitely found the right person. Marion took that mountain and turned it into excellent records, something she has been doing ever since and all on a volunteer basis.

I deeply value Marion: her work ethic, attention to detail, patience, humour, and friendship. I love the ways we have gotten to know one another over the years. Marion likes cappuccino, the Toronto Blue Jays, and a good glass of wine. She always asks me how I am and gives very good hugs. I know it isn’t much, but I have taken to putting some form of chocolate in the monthly envelope of documents for her because I am so grateful. 

Marion gave me a lot of warning that she would need to step away from her role at The Dale this year. From the beginning she indicated she wanted to give us seven years of very good books, all audited. When she delivered everything to our auditor for 2021, she hit that magic number. Marion has indeed given us what she promised: books that are transparent and meticulously done. Beyond that though, she gave us the gift of herself. 

I have known in my gut that part of honouring Marion’s hard work is to find a replacement for her in the right time frame. I am thrilled to say this has happened. The transition from Marion to another person has begun. Just last week I sat with them, huddled around two computers, to look at the systems Marion has created and is now passing on. A few times I sat back and thought to myself, “blessed are the bookkeepers”. What they do with the piles of information I create is remarkable. 

Marion: thank you for everything you have done for The Dale. It has not gone unnoticed and will be remembered by me, the rest of the staff, and the Board. I will miss our monthly exchanges. I look forward though to still taking you out for coffee and sharing stories about our lives. I hope and pray that this next chapter of retirement for you is full of rest, adventure and lots of chasing those Blue Jays. 

What Do You Want?

I am not going to lie. It has been a heavy time, one marked with significant loss and grief. And so, it stung when I read the lectionary passage for the week (the lectionary is a pre-selected group of Bible passages for the year, a resource that many people and churches use). I think my exact thought was, “are you kidding me?” John 5:1-9-The setting is Jerusalem, near a pool by the Sheep’s Gate. In the five porticoes by the pool, people who are chronically sick and disabled lie waiting. Rumour has it that an angel visits the pool at random times, stirs up the water, and gives it healing properties. The first person to step into the pool after the angel disturbs it, receives healing. Jesus visits this place, finds a man lying by the pool who has been sick for thirty-eight years, and approaches him with a question, no introduction or small talk first: “Do you want to be made well?”

If it were me, and I had been sick for almost four decades, I think I would look at the stranger and likely say, “seriously?”, possibly feeling like he was inferring I didn’t want to be well enough. I notice that the man doesn’t answer the question with “yes.” Even after thirty-eight years of serious suffering, he doesn’t say yes! Instead, he explains “I have no one to put me into the pool” and describes the unfairness at work, “While I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”  He avoids answering the question Jesus actually asks, which makes me think this isn’t simply a question about the man’s circumstances, but a question that goes even deeper, “What do you want?”

For me, the question resonates because I am moved by the very idea that God cares about what I want, is curious about my desires and invites me to recognize and articulate them. If I’m willing to sit with this story, maybe I can come to believe that Jesus actually wants me to be made well, to deliver me from my own baggage and fear. He invites me to want and to answer, “YES”.

As I shared all of this with the people of The Dale, I began to weep. I wept because there are so many areas of life where I am desperate for healing, both for myself and others. I wept because death is a thing. I wept because three people have died in the last two weeks and on this day five years ago, I lost my mother. I wept because of who I was speaking to- friends who know what it is to suffer and long for relief. One person responded to my tears by asking, “do you want a hug?” As she enfolded me, she patted my back and said, “this hug is from your mom”. 

What happens after Jesus asks the question? He says, “Stand up, take your mat and walk” and the man does exactly that. What?! There is no indication in the story that the man has any idea who Jesus is, nor does he ever specifically ask for healing. What he really wanted was for someone to put him in the pool, and yet Jesus has other plans. Honestly, I don’t get it. I want to scream, “do more of this. NOW!”.

What I want to take away from this story is that it is possible for things to be made new and well, even if it doesn’t look or happen the way I expect. I think the desire to heal is intrinsic to the character of Jesus. According to this story, it didn’t even depend on the actions of the man by the pool. “Do you want to be made well?” is a question that will always be asked, because the desire is for our wholeness, freedom, and thriving. I don’t know if I always believe that to be true, or that I can even articulate the deep longing I have for all of those things. This world is messed up and I continue to sag under the weight of seemingly unanswered prayers. I feel challenged though to keep considering the question posed by Jesus. I wonder if naming what I really want is a place where the work of healing can begin.

Good on You

Rick Tobias and I did a lot of commiserating over drinks and a shared order of fries. We met in the same restaurant mostly, even at the same table- the one tucked in the corner to the right of the door. “Well this is a treat” he would say, as he settled into the window seat. It was common for me to lay out my current challenges, asking for any wisdom he might offer. Rick would always ask great questions, listen well, and pepper our time with stories. I would inevitably leave our time feeling poured into, with a plan to address the challenges, and almost always with a new joke. Rick would later follow-up to check in about how the plan was going. If I managed to take a step, however small, he would say, “Good on you.”

Rick died today after a long journey with cancer. I don’t know how to process his departure, though he was preparing for it and we understood was going to come all too soon. Because of Covid and his compromised immune system, we could no longer meet at our usual spot. Instead we began to meet outdoors, most often on my back deck or in his backyard under the carport. It became common for me to return home from work to find Dion and Rick at the end of the driveway, a party that I would happily crash. It is hard to believe I won’t see Rick sitting in a chair on the grass with a scotch in his hand anymore. All I can think is that I want to give him a hug and say, “Good on you.”

Good on you Rick for being a voice of justice. You dared to cry out into the wilderness and boldly challenged people to better understand poverty and love everyone whatever their circumstances. You clothed yourself with compassion and grace. 

Good on you Rick for, even in your retirement, intentionally calling our mutual friend and Dale community member multiple times a week. Your friendship meant so much to him. I called him today on your behalf. I had to tell him the news of your death and we wept bitterly together. He repeatedly said, “Rick was so good to me. Jesus, please tell Rick right now that Erinn and I will always love him”.  

Good on you Rick for being the Coordinator of Yonge Street Mission’s Evergreen Centre before becoming the Mission’s CEO. Many of the things I now know about fundraising I learned from you, as you were one of the best. I know leaving your role at YSM was not easy, but you did it well. Many can learn from your example of supporting your successor. 

Good on you Rick for being transparent about your own struggles and suffering. We could talk about the complexities of life and you never tried to fix it all with clichés. It felt safe to tell you about my mistakes because you were also willing to share your own. Thank you for all the reminders to try and keep our heads on straight, by seeking out community and accountability. 

Good on you Rick for always lighting up when you talked about Charis, your children and grandchildren. You loved your daughters by marriage as your own. Your family is what grounded you and made you beam with pride.

Good on you Rick for being such a good friend to so many people. You were proof that love grows when you share it. That you chose to be my close friend and mentor will always remain an honour. Thank you for the countless texts between visits. Your emoji game was strong, often using 10+ in a row. Your words of encouragement I will carry in my heart- you believed in me more than I often believe in myself.

You very rarely took a compliment Rick, always redirecting the conversation to something else. Humble is a word I would use to describe you. Part of me imagines you cringing at all the talk of you in the wake of your death. I hope though that you can somehow miraculously receive the enormous outpouring of love, hopefully with a beverage in hand and your own order of fries. 

Calm in Chaos: The Story of an Adventure

It was the end of what had been a magical trip. Just a little over a week prior, Cate and I somewhat spontaneously and with the help of good friends, flew ‘across the pond’ to London. We started at a B&B that I randomly found, which was nestled along a river and at the end of a picturesque tree lined laneway. We then moved to Chorleywood, a village considered part of the Greater London Urban Area. Those good friends I just mentioned found us a house to stay in while the owners were away, we just had to feed their cat. 

Cate and I mostly wandered the entirety of our trip. We walked and took transit. When we felt hungry, we would stop to eat. It was an unusually hot and sunny time in the UK, which led to Cate getting a terrible sunburn that she kept declaring, “wasn’t that bad”. We went to the Tate Modern and our favourite, the National Portrait Gallery. The Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street turned out to be fantastic. We also got to eat the best Indian take-out with our friends in their beautiful back garden. 

With all of these and so many more memories stowed, we arrived at the airport to get home. I don’t like to be late, so we even got there a little early- more than three hours ahead for a 1 pm flight. We settled in, got a drink and positioned ourselves close to the screen that would tell us what gate we would be boarding at. For the first hour it said, “Gate pending”. I spoke with an attendant who assured us there was enough time to grab something to eat. We found sushi on a conveyor belt, which Cate loved, and found our way back to the screen. At this point there was a blank space where the Gate number should have been. This did not change, for hours. 

By mid-afternoon, well after our flight should have been in the air, every passenger was asked to go to a room in another area of the airport. We had to show our identification to get in. Once it was certain everyone was there, they told us the news: your flight has been cancelled. There are no alternative flights, so you are stuck here for at least the next three days. In order to get a voucher for a hotel and food you must line up in yet another area. If you leave, you forfeit any help from the airline. Cue general hysteria.

Cate and I felt so bad for some of our fellow passengers. One was going to miss their only sibling’s wedding. Another only brought enough of their medication for the trip and could be in serious trouble without it. Some people were extremely mad and expressed it by shouting. As we filed out of what was a very claustrophobic room, the tensions only increased. Then we proceeded to wait in line…for hours, with no access to food. I am not joking when I say that Cate was the calmest person in the room. She found a spot to sit, listened to music, drew pictures, and read while I tried to sort out our next moves on the phone and in prayer. It was midnight by the time Cate and I got to the front of the line. 

Fortunately, and rather miraculously, not only did we get one of the last hotel rooms available, they found us a flight for the next day. However, it was at a different airport and clear across town from the hotel. We would have to leave the hotel at 4 am. By this point the promise of even three hours of sleep in a bed felt like a win, so we took the offer and got in a cab. Having not eaten since before noon, we needed food. Unfortunately, the only thing open was a gas station outside of the hotel, so we bought instant ramen noodles, chocolate bars, and drinks (the dinner of champions). As we finally walked up to the hotel, we noticed that it was pulsating because of blaring music. Of course, it was prom night. A whole lot of sequins and teenage angst made my exhausted self burst into laughter. Cate immediately suggested we join the party.

We did get home the next day. It was a trip to remember, in so many ways. I tell this story now because I think it says a lot about who Cate is, and on this eve before Mother’s Day, I am thinking about her. There is an optimism to Cate that is striking. It’s not that she hasn’t experienced hard things- in fact, I would argue she is more acquainted with challenge than someone her age even should be. This has not made her hard though. She loves an adventure and is almost always up for a party. When a flight I was supposed to be on was recently cancelled, Cate’s text to me was this: “Oh alright! You should have a wild night in Dallas. It’ll be great”. That’s my girl. I am so grateful to be her mom. 

In a Photo Booth in London

Inhabiting a Neighbourhood by Sharing Space, Inside and Out

When The Dale gave up its own space a decade ago, one of the first questions people asked was: where are we going to go? A legit wondering. At the time, I didn’t yet know. Fortunately, the weather was improving and so I said, “if we have to, we’ll have drop-in at the park”. I also started to knock on the doors of buildings around the neighbourhood to see if there might be a willingness to open those doors to us. That was the beginning of inhabiting Parkdale in a new way.

People often ask me if we would now buy a building if we could. While I acknowledge there are definite cons to not having a space of our own, the pros outweigh them. Does that mean I am anti-building? No, absolutely not. The Dale relies on the buildings of our partners to do a lot of what we love. Also, I never want to belittle the importance of “place” for the many members of our community who do not have any to call their own. By not investing in the purchase of a building, The Dale can pour our resources very directly into what we do, while also supporting those who share property with us.

When The Dale spilled into the streets, we had the opportunity to learn from our core community about what it means to be transient. This was very important, especially for someone like me who, despite my proximity to people who are under-housed, have always had somewhere to lay my head. We also re-discovered the truth that the church is not a building. One Dale member would regularly remind me that, “we are living stones. Where we gather is less important than THAT we gather.”

I appreciate the pedagogy of my friend Jason McKinney around the power of property and the need to shift from having to holding. Jason’s church, Epiphany and St. Mark is the only building currently open to The Dale due to the pandemic (we trust our other partners will begin to re-open as the pandemic continues to settle). I see how he and his church are navigating away from the paradigm of property to the paradigm of commons, in other words they are helping create a community hub. The Dale is one of a number of organizations that reside at and co-create in 201 Cowan Avenue. I know the desire is to continue to grow in the way we all relate to and negotiate with land- land that was not ours to begin with. Together we are discovering how to deepen our responsibility and care for the ground we stand on.

Which is also why it is so important that The Dale’s largest presence is outdoors. When we were permanently housed the people had to come inside to find us. Now we go outside to find our people and it is where they know to look for us. It matters that we get rained and snowed on together, that we can share a snack in the park, that we can slow down and linger for chats anywhere along the street, that we can grow things in our community garden plot. We move from observation of the neighbourhood to participation in it.

Is this an easy way to operate? Not always. Is it messy? For sure. I can honestly say though that not having a building, which was definitely born out of crisis, has turned into one of our greatest gifts. Also true is that becoming a part of a larger community hub, both at Epiphany and St Mark and in other spaces around the neighbourhood, one of our greatest joys. We get to witness amazing things happening all over the place and grow in our awareness that love is present all around us: in and out of a building.

Snippets from Seattle

It’s very early in the morning. The sun is rising and starting to stream in the window of my hotel room. I am in Seattle, a city that is new to me. I was supposed to be on a flight home early today, but it got cancelled and shifted in such a way that while I will be on a plane this afternoon, it won’t get me to Toronto until tomorrow. And so, I have some time to begin unpacking what the last few days have been like.

A conference called Inhabit by the Parish Collective is what brought me here, a gathering of people that are exploring what it means to be church in the (your) neighbourhood, with an emphasis on the sharing of stories to build communal imagination. As one who strongly believes in the power of narrative, I was grateful for the opportunity to talk about The Dale. For me this always means centering the people of our community in the story and bringing to life what journeying together means for us, in all of its messiness and beauty. 

My emotions felt much like that throughout the conference: messy and somehow beautiful. I arrived into the space kind of giddy with expectation. Like so many, this was my first trip of this kind since before the pandemic and I felt really excited to be with people. I also arrived rather tender. There is a lot of big transition in my life that is still very fresh and will take time to navigate and settle. Entering any space as your full self is vulnerable. If I was going to embrace this experience as I hoped, it meant being willing to experience a real variety of things, including fun, seriousness, quick hello’s, deep conversation, questioning, laughter, early mornings, late nights, and tears. 

Anyone who knows me (or even sometimes who has just met me) will attest to how easily I cry. Though this is true, I was taken aback by the force and frequency of my tears while here. Sometimes it was a song or a story. Most often it was in conversation, either while a person attentively listened or shared back with me their own challenges. There was a relatively brief group exercise that we were invited to do which led to a disarming moment of connection. A lot of people offered me unprompted words of encouragement that were exactly what I needed and shockingly on point. I am prayerfully working through all of this. 

I find that when I am attentive to my sadness, it actually opens the door for great joy. Inhabit was that too. We got to walk the city and eat meals together, share cab rides and drink coffee. There was much stimulating conversation about faith, church, psychology, neighbourhood, equity, along with so many other things. I had a variety of encounters with people living outside, made friends with two little girls at a dance competition in the same hotel I was staying at who invited me to watch their routine (I sadly couldn’t), and met someone who goes to my cousin’s church- reminding me yet again that the world can actually be surprisingly small. 

It was amazing to be in Seattle with a group of Canadians who are my beloved friends and encouraging to connect with other folks from up north, expanding the circle. Our group knows how to party, and so we brought that energy too. I am also grateful to have been embraced by so many people from the US. This was a special few days. Though I am admittedly exhausted in this moment, the energy percolating is real. The processing has just begun. 

A Good Board: Creativity and Courage from Behind the Scenes

It is a moment I will never forget- being asked to step into the role of Executive Director at PNC, now The Dale. I had not aspired to such a job, though I somehow knew deep down that it was right. Despite being terrified, I said yes to the Board. I knew they were taking a risk, especially given the dire financial position we were in. Now ten years later we bear witness to the ways The Dale has risen out of the ashes. We are solvent and very active. I remain indebted to them for daring to believe in me, and the resiliency of our amazing community.

A key component of The Dale is our Board of Directors. They are a diverse group with a common purpose: to love and support our work in Parkdale by providing oversight and accountability. Their work is largely behind-the-scenes, and includes watching the finances, acting as our legal voice, supporting me and equipping the staff as a whole. I witness how they exercise care, diligence and skill in our meetings. When there are difficult decisions to be made, they work hard to talk through all the scenarios while steeping it in prayer.

I can’t talk about the Board without naming the care and love they offer me. They are a safe place to transparently share the challenges I face, both at The Dale and outside of it. When my mom died, they were at the funeral. During times of crisis, meals arrive at the door. They are always willing to hear what I need, or if I don’t know, help me figure it out. I can cry with them. And joke. And strategize. And dream big.

As we celebrate ten years of being The Dale in 2022, I think it is important to acknowledge The Board. They collectively offer great creativity, courage and compassion. Over the years they have quietly and diligently supported this kingdom work, even when it has been hard and messy. Thank you to previous members: Michael Blair, Keith Bundock, Rob Crosby-Shearer, Angela ElzingaCheng, Anita Giardina Lee, Greg Kay, Christian Otte, and Nate Vawser. And thank you to our current team (pictured below): Matt, Jordan, Gen, Ben, Nic, and our newest member, Xenia.

High five team, both past and present, Deep respect and love for you all.

Matthew Rivard
Jordan Lim
Genevieve Barber
Nicolas Francis
Ben Klinck
Xenia Chan