Leaside Garden Society members know Alice Carriman well. Any time there’s a call to help plant a garden, especially one where local schoolchildren are involved, Alice is sure to be on hand.
This is all the more interesting since Alice does not actually live in Leaside. She has lived in the same apartment in Thorncliffe Park for the last 40 years. She is originally from Carriacou, an island in the Grenadines, where she gardened under her mother’s tutelage, and was taught by both her parents to be a caring individual.
Alice worked as an operating room nurse, mostly at Sunnybrook. The bus service between Sunnybrook and Thorncliffe was time-consuming, so most of the time she walked the route – and recalls Laird as being such a peaceful street that she could walk along and crochet as she walked.
Alice raised her three children while working full-time and also found time to volunteer. She first showed up at Thorncliffe Public School to help with a little garden when her son was a year old. She continued at the school, helping the children understand how plants grow, but at the same time, caring deeply for how the children were growing too. She feels strongly that people need to live in community, and they need to understand where they are. She wants to “make sure kids get a good footing.” She talks to politicians at all levels while advocating for services and programs for children and youth. As she says, she “stands up for the kids.”
In the early years, she was part of a group of 11 who solicited companies, asking them to allow local youths to volunteer with their companies to gain experience. The after-school program at Thorncliffe, now run by Moorelands Community Services, is something she had her hand in founding.
She has been recognized by WoodGreen Community Services and its predecessor, Community Care East York, for her many years of teaching crafts to children as part of an inter-generational program. She does not just teach a craft or skill – she actively listens to them and passes on valuable life skills.
She was the 2012 recipient of the Agnes Macphail Award, given to someone who shows exemplary volunteer leadership in social justice issues.
What’s her connection to the Leaside Garden Society? Her gardens at Thorncliffe Public School were in need of compost – and she needed compost bins for the compost. John Parker, the councillor at the time, told her about the Leaside Garden Society. She approached them, they helped her, and ever since, she has been helping them. Symbiotic indeed.