2017 Finalists

Community Innovation

ATN: Old East Village Grocer Project
Known for its interest in filling service gaps, ATN Access Inc. has created several programs to tend to underserviced populations or unaddressed needs. The Old East Village Grocer is the newest and largest initiative from ATN and provides residents of Old East Village, otherwise known as “the food desert”, with access to fresh and healthy foods. Not only benefitting the residents directly, the Old East Village Grocer is a dual purpose social enterprise, providing training opportunities for ATN clients with disabilities or employment barriers. Working at the Old East Village Grocer allows them to have the in-depth training, support, and time that they need instead of the “on the job” training and quick learning that is expected in a retail environment. Employees are trained in all aspects of the store including customer service, inventory control, meal preparation and more; once finished with their placements they have training, work experience and a current reference.

The community collaborative atmosphere is what makes the Old East Village Grocer unique, and will contribute to the sustainability of the store as more than just a place to buy groceries.

Childreach: WILD CHILD
Childreach responds to community need by delivering programs to “help parents be the best they can be, so that all children reach their full potential.” One of the ways they have done this is through indoor playgroups at different locations around the city, including local libraries and community centres. In 2015, the ParticipACTION report card gave Canadian children a D- for the fourth year in a row in regards to overall physical activity, and revealed that kids move more and sit less when they play outside and have the freedom to roam unsupervised and take risks. This sparked the launch of the WILD CHILD program in an effort to motivate families and children to immerse themselves back into nature and outdoor activities, encouraging parents to eliminate the “bubble wrap” in exchange for the social, emotional, and physical well-being that comes from outdoor play. What does that mean? Childreach has taken their indoor playgroup concept - one that has worked for families for 30 years - and taken them to the forest.

By taking away the walls, children can no longer bounce off of them. By taking away the structure of a program or curriculum, children are allowed to lead their own adventures through play and learning. By taking away the toys, children have to use their imaginations and curiosity. By creating the WILD CHILD program, Childreach has increased participation in outdoor activities and the enjoyment of being in nature, while at the same time increasing parents’ confidence and children’s social and leadership development. They can be active, build confidence, autonomy and resilience, develop skills, solve problems, and learn their own limits. It’s letting kids be kids - healthier, more active kids.

Nokee Kwe: +Positive Voice
Nokee Kwe is an agency that assists individuals with employment services, as well as literacy and basic skills development. Originally founded by a group of Aboriginal women, its scope of practice has grown to include the general population while remaining a target agency for First Nations clients from the London area and surrounding reserves. As an employment councillor, Summer Thorp frequently meets with Aboriginal women seeking support after periods of absence from formal employment or education due to physical or mental illness, providing full-time care for their children or relatives, and more. The women often share stories of failure and blame themselves for not attaining milestones of success that systematic barriers have denied them. Summer realized that as she evaluates strengths that the women possess and the unrecognized skills they have developed, it is the women who shift their negativity to positivity that are more likely to move forward with their goals. Wanting the same success for all clients, Summer created the Positive Voice program, with the goal of supporting urban Aboriginal women 18 or older in creating positive narratives and community connections. The program curriculum includes a variety of workshops including strength-based storytelling, social media, digital content creation, and photography. It also gives the women opportunities to connect with guest speakers so that they can develop networking and self-advocacy skills.

The success of training programs is typically measured by number of participants or the further endeavors of past program participants. Alternatively, the true success of the Positive Voice program is measured in small moments, whether it be women yelling with excitement over the delivery of the postcards of their artwork, mothers requesting large prints of their work to display in their homes to encourage and inspire their children, or the pride as participants share their experiences with a variety of different audiences. These victories and more not only improve the quality of life of the Positive Voice participants, but their families and communities as a whole.

Community Leadership

Justin Tiseo
Justin Tiseo has been making an impact in our community for seven years. Beginning in 2010 while supporting Theresa Carriere and her family during their cancer journey, Justin and his friends took the initiative to create a cancer fundraiser at John Paul II Secondary School in support of ONERUN. Justin spearheaded the event, encouraging 400 students to form teams of 10 to run or walk 100km in one day. The first year’s campaign raised $12,000 and was the school’s first fundraiser that involved so many students, as well as an outstanding amount donated to a charity. Since then, Justin has continued leading the ONERUN event, making it bigger and better every year. The event had raised over $160,000 prior to this year’s event, ONERUN Week. As part of ONERUN Week, Justin approached 5 other high schools, as well as feeder elementary schools, to organize their own ONERUN events this past May. The result? A total of over 3,000 students being active, being inspired, and being involved in the London community, raising $102,017 in one week.

“Together We Fight” is the tagline for ONERUN Week, words that Justin believes whole-heartedly and deep in his soul. It is because of Justin’s energy and enthusiasm that so many people want to be part of the ONERUN magic. He is an example of an ordinary person doing extraordinary things.

Savanah Sewell
Savanah Sewell has had a strong impact on the London music and arts community, showing countless young artists and musicians that their city can be a vibrant music and arts scene. Her vision of initiating and leading dozens of community events has given London artists and musicians exposure to larger audiences and more opportunities to share their talents. Savanah is the founder of the Grickle Grass Festival, a sustainable living festival and fundraiser that includes daytime programming for children and families as well as an evening concert showcasing several local upcoming bands and performers each year. The festival converts the London Children’s Museum into a unique venue, similar to a playground for adults. In addition to the Winter Spectacular festival, the Explode Conference, and The Roast, Savanah is also the founder and organizer of Girls Rock Camp, a space for girls ages 8-15 to discover their talent and passion for making music, while giving them the experience of a lifetime to form a band and collaborate with other girls their age. The program includes lessons about the behind the scenes aspects of the music industry, mentorship from professional artists, and much more. At the end of the program, each band is given the opportunity to perform at the Home County Music and Arts Festival. Girls Rock Camp has not only impacted, but empowered over 100 girls in the last two years.

Savanah is a humble leader who always puts others first. She will work day and night during her events to make sure everyone involved feels appreciated for their work. She rarely criticizes and instead offers solutions. Savanah has the rare ability to see something missing in her community and then make sure it happens.

Wayne Dunn
Wayne Dunn has had significant impact on the community through both his business and public service leadership. As a partner who operated County Heritage Forest Products for almost 40 years, Wayne sponsored many youth sports teams, encouraging kids to have healthy and active lifestyles. His multitude of volunteer roles have included treasurer of the Mayor’s Task Force on Drugs, a member of the City of London Bright Sky Team, the London Home Builders’ Association (for 38 years), as well as an active member and President of London Chamber of Commerce and representative to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few. He has sat on different Boards of Directors including St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, where he chaired the annual Tribute Dinner for two years in a row. He also co-chaired the Sunshine Dreams for Kids Charity Golf Classic for 13 years, setting up a $1.5 million endowment fund. Seeing the success with that, Wayne was pivotal in establishing the Corporate Challenge endowment fund for the London Chamber of Commerce. Wayne’s current efforts are dedicated to the Business Cares Food Drive, as food bank usage in London and across the country has recently increased.

Wayne’s commitment and enthusiasm for volunteer work is infectious, drawing many to donate or help out with whatever cause he is involved with. He has logged thousands of volunteer hours simply because he wants London to be a better place. It is this passion that inspires other Londoners to be selfless in their community. 

Community Impact

SOUP: Southern Ontario Ukulele Players
SOUP is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run group that focuses on providing Londoners with a place to gather in the creation and shared joy of ukulele music, known worldwide for its power to spread joy, join people, and facilitate peace. Starting with just 5 members in 2009, the group has grown to over 320, and approximately 1/3 of the members gather every week to learn and make music. SOUP has made a strong impact on individuals, families, and communities in London, teaching and encouraging individuals to develop and strengthen their talent, giving families an activity to bond over, as well as hosting free performances at retirement homes, fundraisers, festivals and fairs. At times, SOUP has used their funds to donate a ukulele to a child in need who cannot afford one.

SOUP is proud to represent London as they connect with ukulele groups worldwide. It is an underground movement toward world peace through music, constantly encouraging others to share their ideas, inspirations, talents, and themselves with the world. One of their favourite songs is “This Little Light of Mine,” as they give people a chance to shine their own lights and light up the light in others.

George Bray Sports Association
The George Bray Sports Association is a continually growing organization providing children and adults with special needs the opportunity to participate in the game of hockey, which is believed to be the heart and soul of most communities.

The GBSA has grown from just 20 kids on 2 teams in the league, to now housing 242 players, 18 teams, and 3 age divisions. The league came from the founding of the Special Olympics in Chicago by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968. George Bray and friends followed with their first season in 1968 now celebrating their 50th year of service to this vibrant community. The players, spectators, coaches, and volunteers will tell you that the atmosphere of a GBSA league game is like no other - sometimes it’s hard to tell who the crowd is cheering for! Reaching beyond the borders of London into Sarnia and West Lorne, the GBSA has one of the largest reaches for any sports association, proving there are no borders for those who want the opportunity to play. Because of the diversity of talent that is brought to the league, everyone involved has learned humility, understanding, and awareness; spreading kindness like confetti.

The George Bray Sports Association plays the game of hockey, but teaches the way of life.

Community Engaged Learning at Western University
Western’s Community Engaged Learning team has worked diligently to build meaningful partnerships with London’s nonprofit sector to help realize the University’s commitment to community engagement and the public good. From collaborating with faculty to design courses that include community-based projects, to organizing large-scale programs like Western Serves (an annual day of service in the London community) and Alternative Spring Break (a one-week service-learning experience in London and 12 other locations around the world), the team works with two key goals in mind: student learning and community impact. The courses and programs aim to help students strengthen their sense of civic responsibility and understanding of social justice. It also gives students the hands-on experiences that help connect what they’re learning in the classroom and what is happening in the “real world”. These courses allow a way to learn beyond the pages of a textbook and the walls of a classroom. Students say they feel more connected to the London community, more aware of community priorities, and more informed about how their disciplinary studies connect to important social issues.

With a growing team of Curricular Coordinators and a tremendous resource of youthful, driven and innovative students, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the ideas and efforts that Community Engaged Learning at Western University can bring forward.

Community Collaboration 

Care for Newcomer Children
(London Cross Cultural Learner Centre and Merrymount: Family Support and Crisis Centre)

Following the Government of Canada’s announcement to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees, the Cross Cultural Learner Centre (CCLC) contacted Merrymount looking for support and assistance with childcare for newly government-assisted refugee families to London in January 2016. Such an influx in a short period of time required collaboration, investment, and innovation. This resulted in Care for Newcomer Children (CNC), a short-term daycare hosted at CCLC’s reception house with overflow in local hotels. Merrymount provided welcoming and fun programming for children, helping families transition into their new lives in London. Children often access the care within the first few days of arrival, allowing CNC a unique opportunity to provide them with a welcoming and positive first experience in Canada.

As a parent, wanting the best for your child is a universal sentiment. Through this multi-sectoral partnership, this project has leveraged the skills, expertise, and experiences of both agencies and sectors. The CNC project and collaboration has shown that our local community values childhood development, family-centered care, as well as the settlement and integration of newcomers, helping to shape citizens and leaders of tomorrow.

London Interfaith Peace Camp
(Rabbi Debra Dressler, Pastor Charleen Jongejan Harder, Sister Shahin Pardhan)

In the last four years, the London Interfaith Peace Camp has had a large impact in London in a short amount of time. The structured one-week Camp allows for visits to 3 houses of worship, includes all snacks and lunches to respect dietary restrictions of all faiths, and has ample time for group learning, music, fun, games, crafts, etc. With donated space at King’s College, community funding, and volunteer support, this collaboration has impacted communities of all faiths. In 2016, 55 campers and 16 teens participated, and there was even a wait-list for campers. Their annual potluck dinner during Camp week has grown to host hundreds of people to celebrate the week with speeches and photo collages of friendship that has been made. It is uplifting to hear the campers and staff sing “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” knowing they have truly experienced the values of Peace Camp. No longer a volunteer initiative from the congregations, the London Interfaith Peace Camp now has a permanent home at Kings University College’s Centre for Jewish-Catholic-Muslim Learning, with resources and staff support that will sustain the Camp.

The co-creators have inspired people of all ages through Peace Camp to move beyond the invisible divide. It is an excellent example of the relationships that can be fostered with the education sector, and a representation that only good outcomes can come from closer ties with one another in the community.

Baby’s Book Bag: Literacy Right from the Start
(London’s Child and Youth Network Literacy Team and the Kiwanis Club of Forest City-London)

Over 1 in 4 children are not ready to learn in Grade 1, based on Early Development Instrument scores. By working together in the community to improve outcomes, Baby’s Book Bag is working to improve that. This initiative provides new and expectant parents in London with a free literacy bag containing practical, hands-on tools and information to use as soon as their baby is born. Research shows that parents who provide stimulation to their babies by reading, rhyming, singing, talking, and playing help to develop their child’s brain in ways that will make reading and learning much easier in years to come. The project began in 2008 with the Literacy Team of the Child and Youth Network, which is comprised of about 25 different organizations with the shared goal of improving literacy outcomes in London. The Kiwanis Club of Forest City-London was approached to consider a financial donation, and nine years later have continued to support Baby’s Book Bag through funding and their members’ participation in the storage, assembly, and distribution of the bags. By the end of 2016, over 11,000 Books Bags have been distributed through collaboration with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, Prescription for Literacy with children’s physicians, and the London Public Library.

The goal was to improve long term literacy outcomes in London by focusing on early years. There were already many organizations working toward this goal independently, but by working collaboratively, the Baby’s Book Bag initiative was able to maximize their efforts and produce something no agency could do on their own.