2021 Marks 20 Years of Community-Building at The Storefront
By Nadia Heyd, Donor Relations Coordinator
Feb 3, 2021
Twenty years ago today, East Scarborough Storefront opened our doors to the community for the very first time. We still have the same welcoming and friendly approach to serving our community. Our purpose is:
To support people’s aspirations by fostering a community ecosystem that grows stronger over time. We help the community work better together for everyone’s benefit.
How did we get to be a place like this?
We started with Learning Together and Building on Everyone’s Strengths.
In the years leading up to our opening, many people in the area were in desperate need. Families who had been living closer to Toronto’s core moved out to the suburbs in search of more affordable homes. Also at that time, many refugees were housed in the motels along Kingston Road (and some of those motels are still part of the City’s shelter system). Back then, not many social services were available nearby. Taking transit to get to social services in other parts of town was a day-long affair.
Public Health staff and volunteers from faith communities were working in the neighbourhood, and doing their best to help people. The needs were so great, though, that they felt overwhelmed, and knew something had to change. So, they decided to go door-to-door to take stock of the challenges and find out from people what supports were needed. And as they went, they really listened. After such deep engagement, the solution to providing services in the community was disarmingly simple (but not so easy!):
No SINGLE agency or organization could meet the vast and varied needs of people in the community. But collectively, with organizations working together, the possibilities were great.
Our first home…Morningside Mall
After many months of discussion, consultation and building trust among more than 40 agencies, we opened our doors on February 3, 2021 inside (the former) Morningside Mall. Our partner agencies offered their service in that same space. Word of mouth brought people in, and they benefited from the one-stop-shop offered by the network of social service partners. Check out this schedule from our first year in operation:
Our Current home…4040 Lawrence Avenue East
Back in 2007, when Morningside Mall got redeveloped into Morningside Crossing, The Storefront moved to our current location at 4040 Lawrence Avenue East (did you see our last blog post about our current location?). Though our building is currently closed due to the pandemic, people can still connect with the same variety of services and partners for help with:
- Resume, interview preparation, and job search
- Learning English
- Improving literacy skills
- Building computer skills
- Legal matters
- Services for women
- finding childcare
- accessing financial supports
- Connecting with wellness supports and groups
- and more…without having to travel all over town!
The Storefront also provides access to shared spaces:
- We offer meeting spaces (and virtual meeting spaces) for local residents from a variety of age groups – from youth to seniors. It’s here that people meet their neighbours, get involved in community activities, and make their community better together.
- A Commercial Grade Community Kitchen that has helped launch several small businesses.
- An outdoor multi-sport court and gathering space.
- Community gardens, a vital source of physically distant recreation, companionship and affordable fresh produce for local residents.
Beyond Services and Spaces – a “Connected Community Approach”
The Storefront opened as response to a local need for social services. We grew into our current space and together with the community we designed and developed the some amazing physical features into the new space. However, we are more than services and spaces. The Storefront is a community development organization. We work to ensure that people in the community are well supported, and we help the whole community work better together. Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen it time and again: fostering relationships is a catalyst for social and economic improvement and is an effective way to address community challenges.
When a community challenge presents itself, sometimes we address it directly using our strengths and resources. We also know that we don’t have all the answers or capacity to address it all. When that’s the case, we serve as a community “backbone” organization: we support, connect, co-ordinate, convene partners, grassroots leaders and others in the community so that they can take a lead on local issues. And we leverage Storefront’s assets, resources, and connections to provide support, co-ordination and, if needed, leadership. We help our community thrive by encouraging people to work together.
We encourage you to learn more about our “Connected Community Approach.”
Twenty years in, and especially during this pandemic, it’s still vital for people to work together to meet the community challenges of the moment and of the future. Just like in the early days, we still believe that the whole community benefits when everyone works together. If you’re not already connected with us, please reach out today or leave a comment below to let us know how you’d like to be involved in building community together.