For this series of blog posts marking our #DECAde, we are looking back on where DECA started, how far we’ve come and where the next 10 years might take us and our neighbourhood. We are including interviews with some of DECA’s founders and other info and tidbits from DECA’s “archives”
A few months ago, we asked some of our founding Board members to share their thoughts about DECA. You've already read some of what they said in our previous #DECAde posts. In this, our fourth and final blog post based on those interviews, find out why our founders think DECA succeeded and their advice for anyone who wants to make a difference in their community.
*Watch this space for a big announcement about our official #DECAde community celebrations!*
Peter Schmiedchen: My hope is that DECA takes us leaps and bounds beyond where we stand now, and make our area a destination recognized citywide. The responsibility doesn’t fall completely upon DECA though. Working together with the local businesses and the BIA, we have all made this part of the Danforth great.
…This group was started by a few people who had good ideas and loved to drink wine. We were virtually strangers at the start, but we had common goals – as do you and your neighbours. It doesn’t take much…Stop thinking that Toronto is a cold, unfriendly city. Talk to your neighbour and you will realize that they want the neighbourhood to have the sense of community that you want it to have. Only shyness stands in you way.
Mary Vallis: Don't be shy. Just do it. Find something that needs doing and don't let nervousness, ego or "lack of time" get in your way. We're all busy. We're all shy. We can all easily find reasons to not do something. What takes more courage, and more dedication, is doing. Through that, you'll find yourself walking around the street one day, looking around and thinking to yourself, "I belong, I belong, I belong."
☝🏼This pic is Alison, Mary-Margaret and Catherine from the early days of the farmers' market.
Mary-Margaret McMahon: ALL you need is an IDEA! DECA is the friendliest group going. They will cheerlead for your crusade and shower you with support! BUT it starts with YOU! So take the first step and volunteer, send a compliment, join a Subcommittee, pay your membership, cook for a farmer, gather some people to start your idea — do one thing.
Catherine Porter: You don't have to have it all figured out. Just take your little idea, and meet with some people over wine (wine is key, I'd say. People are more willing to come to meetings with wine) and start to talk. Magic happens in the doing together, and it's much more fun when you don't have it all figured out. There will be side effects you never imagined — new friends; new ideas; a deeper understanding of where we live….. Go for it
Alison McMurray: I think what always boggles me is how far reaching the efforts of DECA have gone. Volunteer efforts have a way of burning out over the years and relying on the same 5 people but somehow we have managed to bring new people into the fold and continue to make an even bigger impact 10 years later. That is remarkable to me.
…There are a lot of ways to get involved with DECA that don't require attending any meetings! Everyone should be on the blog, everyone should be a member and then when an opportunity to help comes along, do it! And if you have an idea, bring it to DECA. That's how all of our initiatives started – with a little idea and some grassroots organizing.
Natasha Granatstein: We really didn't know what we were doing. We just did something. We started small and grew. A few years in, I was talking to someone who assumed that we had paid staff! Paid staff! Ha! We all have other jobs and other commitments. We just did our little bit to make our community more vibrant, walkable and safe. And, the best part? We became friends along the way so it didn't really feel like work. Also – have wine at your meetings.
Colleen Clarke: The founding members really went above and beyond to make a success of everything that was conceived of. No grass grew under anybody's feet, except at the farmer's market, lol… To get involved, just sign up and do it! You chose this neighborhood to live in, own it and get out there and do even a little bit to make a difference.
Nothing is nothing stopping you from joining us. Become a member, come to an event or volunteer! Or maybe you are interested in joining our Board at our AGM in November? Get in touch with us – send us an email!
DECA memberships are $10/household to support our community initiatives including our weekly Farmers’ Market, Diversity Scholarship, annual Arts Fair, Pumpkin Parade, Tree Lighting Festival, #DanforthEast Yard Sale, DECA Pride LGBTQ+ group and more! Sign up here.
If you want to get in touch, send us an email.