Family fun on June 17, 7 pm, at Gaston Park
BY BLISS ZUNIGA-RODGERS
Food, fun and a free movie – what a dynamic combination to kick off summer!
On Friday, June 17 starting around 7 pm all are invited to gather at Gaston Park (Euclid Avenue near Joyce Street) and bring a picnic for yourself, your friend or your family and meet your neighbours. Dinner will be followed by games for the kids and then, once the sun sets, a free movie complete with free popcorn.
The event was sparked in part by Victor Toh, who is the chair of the Collingwood Neighbourhood School Parent Advisory Council. He wants his son to go to school in the kind of a neighbourhood where people stop to talk to each other.
At a recent idea jam, Victor Toh, Collingwood Neighbourhood School vice-principal Joel Levine and Collingwood Neighbourhood House executive director Jennifer Gray-Grant were discussing ways to increase community connectedness. The idea of a picnic in the park evolved into a picnic, games and movie night, which they hoped would draw even more people to take part.
“We’re pulling our school’s annual movie night from the school into the park,” Toh said. That way, they can help build connections between different facets of the community such as parents and students, community members and organizations, and the school and the wider community.
The Collingwood Community Policing Centre (CCPC) joined the group to offer one of its movie-in-a-park nights to coincide with the picnic. Collingwood Housing Co-op joined as a partner and then the Collingwood Branch of the Vancouver Public Library offered to do a pop-up library at the event.
Toh and a friend received a Neighbourhood Small Grant to cover the cost of posters to advertise the event, water bottles for attendees and prizes for the games for the children. The CCPC will provide the free popcorn. Toh and a friend have also organized music while Renfrew-Collingwood INTERactive will run the games.
Toh said they have made new community connections. “It’s about helping kids and families.” Toh would like the neighbourhood where his son goes to school to be seen as a place beyond just a series of houses and apartments. “I want people to know they’re in a neighbourhood where everyone helps support each other and is a part of something.”
There are other benefits as well, according to CCPC’s Partap Sahota. “The stronger the community and the more people that get involved, the less crime there is. Getting to know your neighbours is the best form of crime prevention.”
The CCPC looks beyond the stereotypes of the role of police, to the role of friendly neighbours in building safe communities. When neighbours know each other, they will look out for each other, for example, by checking up on their houses when they are away.
Joel Levine of Collingwood Community School hopes that events like this one will connect his students to their neighbourhood so that they take more ownership and initiative towards improving it. He’s also glad to have an opportunity to plan a fun, family event.
All are invited to join the fun at Gaston Park on Friday, June 17 starting at 7 pm. Just bring a picnic, a blanket or chairs and a something to keep you warm as the sun goes down and the family-oriented movie starts.