Volunteering Excellence

silhouette photography of group of people jumping during golden time
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From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – This past week I had the pleasure of attending the volunteer recognition night for the Kawartha Lakes Sport & Recreation Council. At this event, community sport and recreation contributors were nominated and honoured for their role and action in changing lives through sport in Kawartha Lakes.

I was reminded of the timeless truth that it is the volunteer – the person giving freely of his or her time and gifts – that builds the rich layers of community. Well beyond the sports world, all over there are people passionate about their different gifts and interests who are sharing willingly with others –  many people making places and opportunities for citizens to grow, to develop, to test waters, to improve.

It was a fantastic night to remind everyone attending of the significant contributions that volunteers make. Sometimes we fall into a pattern at our agency in which we reference the community as if it is some kind of crystalline entity somewhere downtown. Community is driven by people connected by place, by interests, by commonalities. Community is time, talent and common interests freely given to one another in places where we can gather.

Thanks so much for all you do each day at the heart of community.

Collective Coping

Person in Rabbit CostumeFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Halloween is a great time of year – well, it is also at a weird time of the year that is mashed between Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving and inundated with Christmas readiness in stores and overzealous front lawns in all of our communities. I think over time we, as a society, did this to keep people excited through the fall as the nights darken, the temperatures drop and snow starts to skirt around the edges of our weather report. Some people love this holiday hype, but for others it is a difficult time during which life is busy and heartaches are exasperated by holiday nostalgia.

Our holiday week was packed with great costumes, ghouls, goblins and great fun. What I love especially about costumes is seeing how much confidence, whimsy and creativity actually exists out there. From the signs that simply say “nudist on strike” to the full on tooth fairy, chicken or scarecrow, costumes are just so much fun. Equally, I love the stories of the gas station or Tim Horton’s stops in full costume, complete with staring patrons.

Halloween, and other, occasions are meant to provide a little whimsy in our regular year. Let’s grab these with both hands to help us get through the busy, less exciting times.

Happy ‘Hallanukkahivingsmasween’ everybody! Let’s get celebrating.

Laundry Lessons

white clothes line trousers past

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – My bargain hunting cousin stumbled across a colossal deal recently. She found a bin in front of a high-end lingerie store with good quality, comfortable underwear for the low price of $2 each. There were lots in her size and she bought many pairs.

Now, the reason they were on clearance was that they were seasonally embellished with cute sayings and pictures about Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day. However, not being one to really wear her underwear as outerwear, slightly strange colours and graphics did not bother my cousin one bit. Triumphantly, she took her prize home and threw them into the laundry room to be washed.

Later that night her husband went to the laundry room to retrieve an item and was a little startled at the pile of new underwear, specifically because it was glowing! It turns out that the pictures and words on the underwear were ‘glow in the dark.’

Makes me wonder how often we overlook things, and opportunities, around us while we rush… or wait for something that does not have the head of a Christmas elf where we do not want it to be!

What wondrous things we could be doing, and connecting to, when we are on the lookout! And, if we are really lucky, what we find might hold a little bit magic, to perhaps brighten up a particularly dark corner of our community.

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Lend Me Your Ear

shallow focus photography of corn field

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director  – The other day  I had the pleasure of hearing Brett Goodwin from Fleming College Frost Campus speak about all that the college has to offer and he ended his talk with food for thought. Literally, it was food … it was the story of a farmer who had grown prize winning corn. Year after year, his corn won the red ribbon at the county fair and was nationally renowned for its robust flavour, wonderful texture, uniformity of kernel and overall cob appearance. This was good corn.

Many pressured the farmer for the secret to his amazing corn and he would just smile and say that it was a community effort. Trouble was, no one in his surrounding community really knew what he meant – but they did know that each fall, he generously gave all of his neighbouring farmers his prize winning corn as seed.

Finally, someone sat the farmer down and asked him why he gave away his prize winning corn each year. His answer was simple. In order to remain the best corn, there needs to be high quality corn all around. Corn is an air pollinator and, with good corn at his neighbours’ farms and at his farm, he knew that his corn would remain the best.

This is community. There is little chance that high results can be sustained in isolation. We, as humans, learn and grow and rise together, so it’s important that we share what we can to move us all closer to a fully inclusive and robust community, complete with shiny tassels.

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Showing Up

silhouette photography of group of people jumping during golden time

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – My favourite part of fall is, quite literally, the falling. I love the way the wind takes the leaves all around – the cascading leaves and the bunches of leaves that swirl from the ground in the wind. This is a time of letting go. For me, it is mostly letting go of all of the garden projects that I meant to do.

I recently spent a bit of time with a community builder who had all kinds of words and phrases that are second nature to him, but require a little investigation for the rest of us. He often uses the phrase “showing up” and while it would appear at first glance that this is easy to translate – simply “arriving” – he means something a little different. He is talking about making a space, a group, a time and an alliance in a community where people feel safe enough to really bring their true selves, their talents, their vulnerabilities and their gifts.

To show up in this context means that well beyond the physical presence in the room, a person is present, participating and taking some risk in being his or her true self. This is no easy feat.

We spend a lot of time creating opportunities for presence – we make connections, build opportunities and access community in all of its forms. How do we take this to the next level? How do we create spaces in which we all feel able to “show up”? How do we arrange things where everyone in a place and time feels empowered to bring their ‘A game’?

Community is very near, very accessible and all around us. How we engage in community lies within and, when we all show up, the magic of inclusion and engagement starts to spark. The first step, I think, is just checking in – am I showing up? Am I really here? After all, community starts on the inside of all of us.

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Capturing Time

black and white photo of clocks

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – A time capsule is a really cool idea, and what I learned most this week is that it is also a hard concept to describe. Many of the guests in attendance to the rather rainy time capsule ceremony this week peppered me with questions. I tried hard to explain why we had decided to create a time capsule and what we hoped for by doing it.

A time capsule is a moment in time, a pause during which we think about what might physically represent where we are at this moment of our journey. Taking on the project was a great way for members of our over 30 teams to think about exactly where they are right now, and then to make a package of something to represent it.

It seems like everything is moving at a pace that is quick and ever-changing, and the time capsule offers us a moment of stillness that will be undisturbed. All of those wondrous memories are now sealed and safely stored in an amazing wishing well planter for the next five years. In that amount of time, so much will have changed – new faces, new ideas, new directions, more movement on the path of Community Living Trent Highlands.

And we will be able to have a huge event in our Haliburton garden to reflect on how things have changed and on where exactly the agency was in the fall of 2018.

Creating and burying a time capsule is a cool idea and I thank all who added memories to it. It is a whimsical and fun way to just take a few moments – and a lot of delicious desserts – to say, “Hey, we are doing great things now and will want to remember.”
Such a delightful day, and what I thought was a fantastic explanation. However, after all my long-winded and enthusiastic explaining, I have to admit that Annie and the others gave me yet another quizzical look and asked “But what is the point?”

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Right off the Bat

halloween batsFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Last week, I spent time with a community member whom I admire in his dedication to inclusion and community. He was telling me a story of how he had been part of a team for the Habitat Amazing Race and that, in true team spirit, the whole team was in funny t-shirts ~ and bat wings!

At one point in the day he was separated from the group and the race. He found himself just walking down the street in this conspicuous garb and he slowly realized that he was different. He was being stared at, even by the “guys in pickup trucks” on the main street. Like a lightning bolt, he suddenly realized that this is how it feels to not blend in to what is considered ‘normal’. As a white male in Lindsay, full of passion for what is right, this experience offered him an opportunity to feel the kind of stares, judgments and anxiety that he passionately fights to diffuse. He also, in that moment knew something else ~ he could take the bat wings off and blend in again, a luxury that those who are seen as different rarely have.

We, like him, work to champion inclusion, respect and finding of gifts. We can take the bat wings off for ourselves or we can teach the bat-winged warriors to fly. Fly on, community champions!

Local Love

love people silhouettes letters

Local Love is the theme for this year’s United Way campaign in Peterborough. I have to say, I find it a poignant message, reminding me of the famous quote from Mother Teresa: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

Yes, there are disasters and crises around the world, but here is where we work and where we have family, social circles, volunteer engagements and recreation. It is here, in our communities, that we launch and that we are part of a network of neighbours. ‘Community Living’ is a catchy name, but it is also a way of life. The community is a living, breathing entity made of many parts and working for the betterment and vibrancy of the whole.

Local Love, to me, means wondering what your neighbour worries about, working to engage all members and their unique gifts, and spreading the wonder that is your uniqueness all over the place. Our community is our launch pad to get to wherever we are going in this life. Why not take a moment to ensure that it is the strongest and most supportive launch pad this side of Cape Canaveral?!

The United Way, in all three of our communities, is a wondrous resource that connects, raises awareness and funds the agencies and projects that make our communities stronger. United Wat funds stay local, and has been found that 5 in 7 people will use a UW funded resource in their lifetime. At the United Way Kawartha Lakes kick off, we heard that UW staff were meeting with a bank manager and pitching the vitality of the agency. In doing so, they pointed out that the 5 in 7 are not just out there, somewhere in the more impoverished neighborhoods – the 5 in 7 includes the people in the staff team at that bank.

Giving to the United Way locally spreads Local Love to all citizens. Let’s take some time to spread the Local Love – and may its ripples change the whole world!

United Way Peterborough launches $1.85M campaign

United Way Peterborough – http://www.uwpeterborough.ca/
United Way City of Kawartha Lakes – ckl-unitedway.ca

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Wisdom of the Aged

collection of gray scale photosFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – On the weekend it was my privilege to help out with a War Bride Tea to honour the 48,000 war brides, some with children, who immigrated to Canada at once after World War II. There were 13 war brides at the tea and they shared their experiences of  wartime in England – dodging bombs, living on rations and seeing families torn apart.

But the war brides also talked of the adventure and fun that young people at dances – dances at which most of them met their Canadian husbands. They fell in love and soon found themselves moving to a country more vast, remote and underdeveloped than they could have dreamed. There were stories of looking for the flush chain in Canadian outhouses, not realizing that the flour was not self-rising, asking for lace at a store and being told, “We do not sell lice in Canada” and my favourite – being invited to a shower and wondering whether soap and a towel were needed. These brides had the love of their husbands (most times) and their pluck to count on as they carved their place in often tight-knit communities.

Pivotal in their stories, for me, was how they were accepted into the communities that they joined. There was some disdain for “stolen potential husbands” along with strange sayings, different religions and unfamiliar accents. Over and over I heard that what truly made the difference coming into the new communities was the family in-law – if they were ferocious in their acceptance, love and kindness, the community soon followed suit. I loved these stories, and I truly think that this mass injection of young, female adventurers helped form a stronger and braver Canada.

Here are our marching orders from a small but mighty group of nonagenarians – “Be ferocious in our acceptance, love and kindness” and we will soon infect the communities around us in all we do through our work and beyond. Maybe we should stitch that on a “lice pillow.”

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Today’s Possibility

creative desk pens school

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – There is a line from my favourite movie that talks about a bouquet of sharpened pencils as a way to acknowledge that special feeling that September brings. Like so many parts of the year, September marks the passage of time – another summer vacation is passed for the school-aged and time is marching on for the rest of us. The squeak of brand new shoes, the shiny, well organized back packs and the dozens of first day back to school photos on Facebook all herald the new season.

So, here we are in a new school year and a new autumn of working and planning and moving in the direction of our dreams greets us.

I  recently had privilege to hear Anne Taylor from Curve Lake First Nations speak about traditional teachings and the medicine wheel. One concept that truly resonated was
that each day is truly a new beginning and new a time – a fresh start. The knowledge keepers – so important in her traditions – stress that all of the mistakes of yesterday can be left there and not carried forward if we intentionally set them down and decide to start again.

So, here we are, in a fresh start position. No matter which stage of life we are at, we can go out and get a new pair of indoor shoes, sharpen that bouquet of pencils and make a fresh start at something fantastic.

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