Thank you for another amazing year

Dear Neighbours,

I’ve been meaning to write this email for the past month, since I was elected as the Chair of DECA’s Board at our AGM on November 24 – better late than never! On that wonderful evening, many of you braved a windstorm to join the incoming and outgoing Board at Hirut Restaurant, where we ate, drank and generally had a great time!  We reviewed the year that we had, hearing from project leads for: DECA tree, Arts Fair, Farmers’ Market, #DanforthEast Garage Sale, Visioning, Holiday Festival, and the Pop-Up Shop/Revitalization Team.  We also elected a new Board:

Sheri Hebdon (Chair), Anita Schretlen (Treasurer), Alison McMurray (Secretary), Amanda Olson (Member-at-Large), Jane Davis-Munro (Member-at-Large), Melissa Peretti (Member-at-Large), Shelley Darling (Member-at-Large), Stephen Wickens (Member-at-Large), Catherine Porter (Member-at-Large), Audrey Kvedaras (Member-at-Large), Corinne McCabe (Member-at-Large), David Del Grande (Member-at-Large), Jodi Shanoff (Member-at-Large), Linda Ballantyne (Member-at-Large), Mark Rullo (Member-at-Large)

The Board said a special good-bye to our founding Chair, Natasha Granatstein, who stepped down from the Board after seven years (six as Chair or co-Chair). Natasha’s is the one who started the DECAdiaries blog, which has been one of our key points of communication, and I was lucky to have an opportunity to speak about Natasha’s contributions that night – here is an excerptt:

Natasha worked tirelessly on the pop-up project earlier on when it was 100% in the hands of DECA volunteers, and she has been very involved with the Art of the Danforth, along with a variety of other projects.  Whether it’s the farmers market, the Arts fair, the garage sale or the pumpkin parade, you can always count on Natasha to help out, take a shift, or just participate.  I don’t know how she finds the time or energy given her busy work and family life, but every single one of us who lives in this neighbourhood has benefited from Natasha’s efforts over the past 7 years.

We also said a special thank you to Anita Schretlen, our outgoing Chair (who is thankfully staying on with the Board as Treasurer!).  Anita assumed the role of Chair quite unexpectedly part-way through the year a couple of years ago and she carried out her additional responsibilities with grace, humour, passion and unwaivering diligence. Where many others would have been frustrated and overwhelmed, Anita truly rose to the occasion. Another AGM speech excerpt:

Anita’s specific contributions as Chair are actually too numerous to try to list. She started our very successful Facebook page and managed it for a long time before bequeathing it to the social media team. She has been the point person for everyone from Councillors to academics looking to connect with DECA, not to mention all the Board members, project leads, pop up shop team members, and our pop-up shop partner agency, Woodgreen. She has arranged for us to have proper insurance, places to meet every month, agendas at those meetings and on and on. Every single thing that DECA has done over the past three years has had Anita’s hand on it in some fashion. I could stand up here all night to try to do justice to what she has contributed, and I would still fall short.

The fact that we have so many new board members joining us this year is a testament to the type of leader that Anita has been – people want to be part of what we are doing, and Anita is a huge part of that.

Looking ahead to 2015, I am very excited to be the Chair and grateful to all new and returning Board members. We always have room at the table for new ideas and new volunteers, but to commit as a Board member shows a willingness to take on even more than just the ‘fun stuff’, and for that I am very grateful. The work of DECA is done by so many more people than the Board. In addition to so many volunteers and sponsors, I wanted to mention our very dedicated project leads, including Melanie Ramsay (Arts Fair, Reskilling), Bruce Cooper (Yard Sale), Angela Matich (Holiday Festival of Lights), Heather Bean (Pumpkin Parade) and Anne Howlett & Catherine Dorton (DECA Tree).

The thing about being involved in the community association is that you cannot escape it. Our work is our neighbourhood, our colleagues are our neighbours, and we are all working toward the same goal, even if we don’t always agree on how to get there.  So this means that we conduct ourselves, always, with the knowledge that we will run into each other at the park, at the store, or on the street. This creates a really special dynamic – one that I hope will continue to be respectful and positive.

I will continue to lead the board with integrity, and with the spirit of collaboration and openness that has always been what makes DECA so special.  We say it all the time, but were the first resident’s association that was created not to oppose, but to build.  Everything that DECA does started with someone’s idea. So if there is something else that you think we could do or should do, and you want to lead it somehow – tell us!

One last thing that I want to say, is something I also said at the AGM. I want to thank all the people who stand behind the people who make DECA happen. The husbands, the wives, the partners, the children, the friends and other loved ones. As volunteers, the work that we do for DECA is usually during the time that we would otherwise be spending with you – so thanks to you all for being the truly unsung heroes in the community.

On behalf of the Board, I wish you all a very happy and healthy holiday season and all the very best for 2015.

Yours truly,
Sheri Hebdon

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