Leaside residents are fond of referring to their neighbourhood as “a village within a city” because of its high level of community involvement and engagement. One such group is the South Leaside Monday Group, which was founded in 1972 and is still going strong.
The idea for the group hatched in a living room when a small group of mothers decided to gather weekly for friendship and support. It is a volunteer-run group “run by moms for moms” to provide young mothers with opportunities for meaningful connections. In addition to a president, there are 17 executive members in charge of programs, website, social media and finances. Most of the executive were members themselves who want “to give back to the next cohort to provide the same opportunities they had,” says Cody Copeman Hubert, this year’s president, who joined the group five years ago when her oldest was a newborn.
The group has evolved since its early days when many of the members were stay-at-home moms who welcomed the opportunity to socialize with other mothers and encouraged their children to become friends. For many years, childcare was provided while the moms bonded and listened to speakers at Trace Manes. An early member, Lynda Martin, says the group was “key to making lasting friendships, a wonderful way for ‘community’ to happen.”
Today most of the members are young professionals looking for meaningful programs while on maternity leave or home with very young children. The programs include small playgroups where local mothers with babies of the same age are matched up, and members take turns hosting in backyards or parks during the pandemic. The new stroller socials are outdoor meetings that feature a guided activity such as a music class or mom-and-baby fitness in nearby parks.
There are also evening socials for mothers to enjoy on their own such as wine-and-cheese parties, pub nights and trivia nights. Then there is the Members-Only Facebook Group, a dedicated site where members can connect, seek advice, offer recommendations and set up informal park meetings.
As Cody explains, “Covid has provided us with an opportunity to get creative” by making modifications like eliminating indoor meetings at Trace Manes, and meeting in smaller groups outdoors. The group is continuing to thrive, however. In fact, the stroller and evening socials are so popular that SLMG had to close registration in September because of capacity limits set by public health, but hopes to reopen registration in January depending on the guidelines and comfort level of the members.
While their name refers to South Leaside, they have members from all over Leaside as well as nearby areas. The group’s popularity stems from the fact that it provides friendship, support and comfort to new mothers who are feeling isolated and want to connect with others with the same experiences. “(As)…the largest neighbourhood-based mom group in Toronto,” SLMG provides a “wonderful support system,” says Cody.
Those sentiments are echoed by Peggy Donohue, who is grateful for the new friendships that have expanded to include other family members. Another mom, Caitlin Kordic, concurs that “Leaside has a strong sense of community already and this group has made our community even stronger.”