Building a Community – One Young Soul at a Time


“Young”, “vibrant” and “energetic” were the first words that projected into my head when Lianna and I arrived at the Courtland-Shelley Community Centre. It’s not a typical community centre like YMCA, nor a two million dollar facility that you visit for your weekly workout. Low-key and modest, the centre sits among a neighbourhood of 69 townhouses, only distinguishable through its sign that reads “Courtland-Shelley Community Centre.”

The community is uniquely structured in a way that praises the concepts of openness and connectedness. Consisting of 69 units, a basketball court and little green space, the layout allows each resident to virtually see and feel each other from their own backyards.

Our task was to observe the food distribution that takes place every Thursday. Solely run and organized by Courtland-Shelley program supervisor Doreen, the food distribution acts as a mini market, providing food for free and a social platform to chat and bond for its residents in the neighborhood.

“We get food items such as milk and canned goods from Waterloo Region Food Bank“, said Doreen. “We have milk every other Thursday and people are usually very excited about that.” Excess produce from the Emergency Food Hamper Program (EFHP) on 807 Guelph Street is the main source of perishables such as vegetables and fruits.

The food distribution takes place in the backyard of the community centre during July & August, one of the community houses that looks no different from the rest. At around 12 o’clock, the EFHP truck arrives with produce which Doreen & the summer staff members unload (sometimes with help from the older neighbourhood children) and set on the tables in the backyard. Soon, an automotive plant-like assembly of canned goods, squash, fennel, spinach, herb, and frozen pancakes began to form. Doreen usually takes on the difficult task of setting quotas, estimating the number of people that will come to pick up food and matching it against the availability of what she received from various sources.

One usually thinks that bringing food home is a job that belongs to adults in the household; however, this is not the case for Courtland-Shelley. According to Doreen, the total headcount for children aged 18 and below is around 100 in the community. On Thursday, a rather interesting scene could be found in the backyard of the community office. Children, anywhere between 7 and 15, carried grocery bags half their size and lined up one after another to pick up food items for their families. Occasionally you would spot an adult here and there, however, it resonated more of an elementary school lunch break than anything else.

This unique atmosphere is dramatically different than what usually happens at EFHP. At EFHP, children under the age of 16 need to go through extra steps in order to get a hamper or pick up for their families, simply because that their parents are still responsible for them. The main reason for this difference is the clients that each place serves. EFHP serves virtually everyone from the region of K/W with food insecurity, therefore, one must be fully checked and ID-ed in order to create a profile in the system and acquire hampers. In contrast, Courtland-Shelley finds herself filled with residents who know each other well and have trust in one another. Due to this relationship, people who go to the food distribution regularly will not need to be checked for their IDs as most of the residents are known by staff. During the summer, children whose parent comes regularly for food throughout the year can also pick up groceries for their families.

No food is ever wasted at Courtland-Shelley; any excess produce from Thursday may be used for the children’s summer program or during the year is offered to program participants on Friday morning.

One by one, Courtland-Shelley becomes a strong, energetic and vibrant community one young soul at a time. The Community Centre plays a vital role by assisting families in accessing food resources; providing a variety of family supports, offering a safe place for children to have some fun and where staff members care about every step they make in their life.

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2 Responses to “Building a Community – One Young Soul at a Time”

  1. Tweets that mention Building a Community – One Young Soul at a Time « Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brenda Halloran, Lucas Lu. Lucas Lu said: @brendaformayor Courtland-Shelley of Kitchener is building a strong #community one young soul at a time […]

  2. Advocacy and family services programs at House of Friendship « Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] To get some background on each community centre, you can read previous blog posts here, here, here, and […]

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