Leasiders were tantalized in October with announcements that Dr. Karyn Gordon, a relationship expert, would be speaking at Trace Manes about “how to raise emotionally happy kids in this age of affluence.” The sponsor for the evening? The Midtown Community Group.
I didn’t attend the session, but 45 of you did, and I was curious as to how this evening had come about. More importantly, I wanted to know more about the Midtown Community Group. A conversation with Leasider Julia Schindeler gave me the answers.
Julia organizes a group of about 70 people who all live in the broad area of “midtown,” of whom about a third are Leasiders. Their commonality is that they are all connected to Little Trinity Anglican Church on King Street East. The church, with its motto “Love God. Grow Together. Serve Our World,” has divided its congregation into five groups across the city, with the instruction “you live in your own neighbourhoods, so you identify where and how you can serve the needs of your neighbours.”
So, this past fall, the Midtown Community Group decided that inviting neighbours to hear a well-respected speaker on a topic of local interest would be worth a try. Julia’s aim was to attract 40 people she didn’t know to attend. She exceeded her goal. Julia’s past professional history extends from being the executive director of the Working Group on Refugee Settlement (which morphed into AURA, the Anglican United Refugee Alliance), to radio and TV journalism, producing with
Over the past several years, the midtown group has ventured into a number of different projects. Some have been “one off” – such as a cleanup of Sherwood Park, while others have been more regular – such as providing the servers for a few 200-person community dinners hosted by the Flemingdon Park Ministry. Members of the group also make themselves available to fill in when needed over the winter for the Saturday night slot of “Out of the Cold” at Blythwood Road Baptist Church when some of their regulars aren’t able to help.
For their service projects, the group has an interesting approach. Instead of offering specific help, they ask the agency what IT would like, and how the group can work alongside them, then proceed from there. At Flemingdon, for instance, their help now goes beyond serving at dinners, as they saw a greater need and stepped up for particular donations.
The group meets once a year to brainstorm. They start by talking about the other ways members are already volunteering, and that often leads the discussion to ways for the group as a whole to further their reach. Once a specific project has been proposed, implementation planning meetings are held and opened up to anyone in the group who wants to participate.
Through their efforts, this group of older and younger men and women now know each other well and continue to further their reach into the community.