fbpx

Written by: Yuri Fraser

The old curse, “May you live in interesting times,” is perhaps now just a little more understandable to us all. The advent of the novel coronavirus and the manifold ways its presence has modified our lives has most certainly ushered us into some “interesting times.” For a variety of reasons, both individual and collective, life is more challenging. But one redeeming element during times of hardship is the latent opportunity to strengthen our bonds of community, cultivating solidarity with our neighbours.

The Withrow Park Farmers’ Market relies upon and is made vibrant by these characteristic feelings of community and solidarity; perhaps even more so this year. And it is the efforts of our volunteer team members that contribute considerably to these feelings. We have, once again, been very fortunate at the Withrow Market to enjoy the dedication of thoughtful, hard-working individuals that make up this year’s volunteer team. The following profiles are a chance to get to know some of the personalities of the volunteers who have lent their time and efforts with us so far this season.

 

Volunteer LindsayMeet Lindsay!
Lindsay has been a regular friendly presence at the front entrance of the market this year. Rarely taking a day off to help out, she even showed up early on her birthday to help with set up. Waking up before 7am… on your birthday… to help schlep heavy things around… Now that’s dedication! Lindsay is a fount of ebullient energy and has proven that she is equally skilled at welcoming both humans and their dogs to the market. The Withrow canine community has nothing but kind things to say (bark? woof?) about Lindsay’s affection and scratching technique. Lindsay has many years of experience working as a flight attendant and is therefore well-practiced at navigating the challenges that come with assisting others during unfamiliar, perhaps stressful scenarios. She is excellent at striking a balance between looking after others’ needs and setting firm, but fair boundaries. Lindsay’s personality and talents have been an invaluable addition to the market this year; a reliable source of support.

1) What attracted you to your Volunteer role with Withrow Park Farmers Market? I’ve been coming to the market as a customer for several years now and this was the first summer that I was going to consistently have Saturdays off from work, so I jumped at the chance to volunteer. I figure if I’m coming here every week, might as well make myself useful!

2) What makes volunteering meaningful to you?
I’ve been volunteering most of my life (since I was 11, I won’t say how many years that’s been!), so it’s always just been something I do. This summer in particular, there is a bit more meaning in volunteering. Offices are closed and I don’t get the human interaction I normally do on a day to day basis, so this helps fill that void.

3) Tell us more about yourself including your interests and hobbies – What do you like to do?
During non-COVID times, I perform with a couple of different community theatre groups, primarily performing in musicals and operettas. Obviously that’s been on hiatus for the last several months. I also practice yoga several times a week and enjoy spending time with my husband, Darin, and our pets. Our dog, Chandler, keeps us busy!

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

JulieMeet Julie!
Julie has shown herself to be a very versatile volunteer. Whenever Julie arrives on the scene, she is eager to help with whatever tasks need attention. Whether she’s greeting folks as they arrive, assisting with the flow of socially distanced line-ups, delivering thirst-quenching water to vendors in the hot summer sun, troubleshooting impromptu problems, or simply contributing to a welcoming market-friendly atmosphere, she finds multiple ways to contribute as a volunteer. Drawing upon her experience in event management, Julie’s abilities and experience have helped facilitate the latest operations of the Withrow market this year. But it’s not just non-stop work! Julie also possesses a rapier wit and a deft sense of humour that colours her conversations with both colleagues and patrons alike. Julie is a thoughtful, kind individual whose compassion I’ve felt in our interactions. Plus, a wiz with the Vitamix, I hear she makes a pretty mean gazpacho!

1) What attracted you to your Volunteer role with Withrow Park Farmers Market?
I wanted to volunteer at the market because Ive always supported locally farmed produce and it seemed like a fun & helpful thing to do. Ive been shopping at farmers’ markets for 20+ years. Depending what neighbourhood I live in determines the market I support, but for fun I will even go to NPS where they also have food trucks. What I love about farmers’ markets is I love to cook seasonally and I know how old the produce is.  

2) What makes volunteering meaningful to you?
What makes if meaningful is just helping where help is needed. One of my favourite volunteer positions was with Make A Wish. The joy on peoples faces when you arrive and the prospect you are going provide a distraction from reality – even though its temporary – is the most satisfying feeling I have ever had. My next volunteering position is with Girl Guides of Canada.

3) Tell us more about yourself including your interests and hobbies – What do you like to do?
I like watching and playing sports – i.e. golfing, bowling, baseball, swimming;  exercising at the gym, biking or outdoor bootcamp classes;  healthy lifestyle – I enjoy cooking with my new Instapot and Vitamix; laughing and good times with family and friends at cottages, dinner parties or dining on patios.  

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Volunteer MichaelMeet Michael!
Another individual who exemplifies the caliber of volunteer that we’ve been so fortunate to have this season is Michael. Michael’s enthusiasm for working with others and civic-mindedness has led him into a variety of volunteer experiences over the years. Like some of our other volunteers, Michael has had prior experience working events; this honed his instincts for recognizing the elements that are conducive to creating smooth functioning operations and an enjoyable atmosphere for patrons. Michael’s eye for pre-emptively identifying factors that could devolve into dilemmas has rescued me from potential headaches on several occasions. And speaking of headaches, though he doesn’t have any kids just yet, Michael happens to possess a rich assortment of eye-roll-inducing Dad jokes (I kid Mike, I kid). Michael always brings his sense of humour to his work with us at the market, helping to lighten the mood and build trust with our vendors.

1. What attracted you to your Volunteer role with Withrow Park Farmers Market?
I am always on the search and look out for volunteer opportunities and was happy to see one come up in my community. I live on Danforth Ave near Withrow Park and found a post this past spring about the Withrow Park Farmers’ Market opening up. I also enjoy going to Farmers’ Markets and was eager to become involved with helping out however I could. I work in the airline industry, and my company has remained closed since May due to the ongoing pandemic. Volunteering with the Farmers Market helps me use my free time to help out a great organization in my community, meet new people, and keep busy & productive. 

2) What makes volunteering meaningful to you?
I have been involved with volunteering since I was young. I was raised by my family to use my time and skills to look for ways to give back to my community or support an organization I believe in and want to see succeed. I can summarize it best with the quote “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” By supporting the Withrow Park Farmers’ Market I feel I am putting into action my decision of what kind of a community I want to live in and provide for others. 

3) Tell us more about yourself including your interests and hobbies – What do you like to do?
I am an avid fan of Podcasts and have several different ones with different themes constantly on the go. I also enjoy using my free time for cooking and baking.  Like many people during this pandemic I have been pursuing self-education in baking homemade bread – yes, I have made a sourdough starter from scratch! I have a long list of fun looking recipes I am eager to try, and I am happiest when I am puttering around my kitchen working on a new dish.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Volunteers Jason & HeatherMeet Heather & Jason!
This husband and wife duo joined Withrow part-way into the season just when we needed a little extra help. Originally hailing from Calgary, they moved to Toronto in the fall of 2017 so that Jason could pursue his Ph.D. studies at the University of Toronto. Heather and Jason are affable and amicable individuals with eclectic interests. As with many us right now, they’ve had to temporarily let go of certain communal activities and find clever alternatives in the meantime. Heather mentioned that she normally sings in the choir at Hart House, UofT, which had to be put on pause for now. However, she has found a new social outlet editing videos for her friends in the singing community, working on new knitting projects for herself, friends and family, and participating in a weekly online Dungeons & Dragons group that both she and Jason have recently joined. As of this writing, no casualties due to Gelatinous Cubes had been reported. Finally, Jason and Heather are expecting their first child in November of this year! We wish them all the best in this exciting new chapter of their lives!

1) What attracted you to your Volunteer role with Withrow Park Farmers Market?
We were attracted by Withrow Park being within biking distance of us. We enjoy being able to volunteer outdoors and enjoy the summer weather. 

2) What makes volunteering meaningful to you?
After so long stuck indoors, its very fulfilling to be able to contribute to the community. Jason and I have been self-isolating since mid-March. During that time, Jason has been continuing to work (in a more limited capacity) on his Ph.D. from home, while I have been out of work. In the “before times”, I worked as a dog walker and sang in Hart House Chorus and an a cappella group, ‘Duly Noted’. Unfortunately, singing in person is a pretty risky activity nowadays, and singing online doesn’t work well – unless you’re a very well-funded professional choir, the technology required to make online, live group singing successfully is out of reach. 

To try and fill that gap, I have been teaching myself to edit videos, and have been making multi-track videos for a few singing groups that are friends of mine, which has been a real source of fulfillment while I have been unable to contribute to society in other ways. We’ve been enjoying making a physical, tangible contribution to the community – what a refreshing change after leading very “online” lives in the past few months!

3) Tell us more about yourself including your interests and hobbies – What do you like to do?
Jason’s research has to do with constructing computer models of the ways people use transportation and how they choose where they will live. He then uses these computer models to make predictions about where people will choose to live and how they will choose to get around in the future. Jason has mostly been wrapped up in his work, but he’s been reading voraciously since the library re-opened. 

Jason and I love exploring Toronto together on our bikes, which is honestly what we spent most of the summer doing! We have really appreciated all of the new biking infrastructure, which makes this activity safer than ever before. This summer, we have ridden our bikes to the Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto Islands, Tommy Thompson Park, all sorts of places in the Don, and most recently around the Greater Niagara Circle Route.

To keep ourselves sociable at home, Jason and I took up Dungeons and Dragons, and we formed a little group with some of my choir friends to play the game online about once a week. Jason and I are brand-new to D and D and have no clue what’s going on half the time, but luckily our group-mates are very patient with us. I am a halfling cleric and Jason is a wood elf ranger, if that means anything to you! To keep up my guitar, Jason and I also like to sing together – we have recently been on a big Johnny Cash kick. One book we took turns reading recently was the Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – what a disappointment to discover there is no sequel!