My Home My Hood – A Kaleidoscope of Cultures 2023
Every year during the St. James Town Festival, the community recognizes and celebrates community heroes who go above and beyond in making St. James Town a “neighbourhood of choice to call home”. Here are the St. James Town Champions for the 2023 festival.
Laura Cole (Right) receiving the award from Nick Gurevich
For an impressive duration of two and a half years, Laura wholeheartedly devoted herself to a noble cause: providing nutritious food parcels to the elderly members of our community. Her unwavering commitment has led to her successfully meeting the nutritional needs of over a hundred seniors, providing them not only with sustenance but also with warmth and care.
In addition to her exceptional dedication to the meal distribution initiative, she extends her generosity by actively volunteering in the local Bingo group. Through her selfless actions, Laura has not only assumed a vital role in the lives of the elderly but has also become a shining example of how one person’s dedication can create a positive ripple effect within the community.
Divya Sinha (Centre) receiving the award from
Barbara Dos Santos (Left) and Tatyana Watts (Right)
Divya is a highly accomplished newcomer with diverse experiences and qualifications. She has a strong background in research, teaching, mental health support, and community engagement. She has earned certifications in MBSR, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and Mental Health First Aid.
Divya served as a Harm Reduction Volunteer and Mental Health Ambassador at Sherbourne Health and provided harm reduction education and resources to at-risk individuals, supported LGBTQ+ community events, engaged the community through workshops and peer support. Divya’s dedication to improving the lives of others is commendable, and her contributions have made a meaningful difference in the community.
Zoe Kende (Centre) receiving the award from
T Williams (Left) and Tatyana Watts (Right)
Zoe Kende is a passionate and well-informed gardener who is dedicated to promoting the creation of more green spaces. Additionally, she is actively involved in minimizing food waste to generate compost for gardens in the neighbourhood.
She generously donates her time to take care of the gardens at community houses in Toronto and serves as a volunteer with Green Thumb, where she supervises the gardens at Winchester and Rose Avenue schools. Her tireless work has not only enhanced the visual appeal of these locations but has also emphasized the importance of practical environmental education.
John Petrullo (Centre) receiving the award on behalf of Sanket Rane from Barbara Dos Santos (Left) and Tatyana Watts (Right)
Sanket Rane is a newcomer student who began volunteering withTthe Corner’s LGBTQ program and began as an ambassador and now is a staple in the community. They are part od organizing and leading several initiatives aimed at the well being of 2SLGBTQ community in ST. James Town.
Green Café team Viola Haraszt (second from right), Gowthami Karunkaran (Third from right), Rafat Rehana, (Forth from right) and Rohini Bagal (Fifth from right) with Kristyn Wong-Tam (Extreme right), Chris Moise (Extreme left) and Tamara Este (Second from left)
The Green Cafe located The Corner @240 received the highest number of nominations in any award category. The initiative is an innovative approach to address food security in St. James Town and creating income generation opportunities. It is known for its dedication to serve hot, fresh, and affordable vegetarian meals to our community members. Operating diligently from Monday to Saturday, it opens its doors from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM, ensuring that everyone has access to nourishing food options. Kudos to the Green café team comprising Viola Haraszt, Rafat Rehana, Rohini Bagal and Gowthami Karunkaran.
Ayana Gurmu (Centre) receiving the award on behalf of Lalisa Gurmu from T Williams (Left) and Tatyana Watts (Right)
Lalisa Gurmu’s consistent volunteering demonstrates a strong desire to give back. Their active support in events and repairs reflects reliability and dedication, especially during community fixing events where they showcase their skills. Lalisa’s quiet yet impactful presence has made them invaluable to our team. They provide practical support and a calming influence. Darrel, from The Corner @240, praised their mental support, while Paul from Repair Café described them as persistent, observant, and a quick learner, contributing significantly to our well-organized share and reuse space. Lalisa is an inspiration to youth to be part of meaningful community initiatives with a strong focus on needs of the community.
Richard Lee (Right) and Grayson Lew (Centre) receiving the award from Nick Gurevich (Left)
The Support Enhance Access Services Centre (S.E.A.S. Centre) is a community-focused organization established in 1986. Its mission is to provide comprehensive support services, including healthcare, education, counseling, and advocacy, to individuals facing challenges such as disabilities, poverty, and marginalization. The S.E.A.S. Centre prioritizes accessibility, empowerment, and inclusivity, actively collaborating with local agencies and organizations. Through its compassionate staff and partnerships, it has made a meaningful impact by improving the quality of life for those it serves.
Sujen Sivagnanasundram (Right) receiving the award from Tamara Este (Left)
Sujen Sivagnanasundram a Rose Ave graduate with deep community ties, runs a food truck between Rose Ave and St. James Park. He offers affordable fast food, supporting youth aged 14-24 with jobs and values, steering them away from crime and substance misuse. Sujen’s truck is a beacon of hope and inspiration for aspiring young entrepreneurs, emphasizing affordability, community involvement, and youth empowerment.
Hafiz Munir (Right) receiving the award for Tim Hortons from Tamara Este (Left)
Tim Hortons on 563 Sherbourne Street has made significant contributions to the community. They provided free coffee and refreshments during vaccine clinics and encouraged their staff to get vaccinated by offering time off. Additionally, they also worked with 51 Division and other stakeholders to promote community safety, showing a strong commitment to enhancing residents’ well-being.
Asrar Mohammed (Right) receiving the award from
Nalini Pandalangat (Left)
Asrar Ahmed Mohammed, a University of Windsor student, actively participates in various volunteer activities. These include organizing events, serving as a youth space coordinator, acting as a translator in multiple languages, and contributing to post-event clean-up efforts. These experiences have deepened Asrar’s commitment to community service, and they are dedicated to making a positive impact in his neighbourhood.
Alex Yehdego (Right) receiving the award from
Nalini Pandalangat (Left)
Alex Yehdego has tirelessly committed their time and energy to making our community a better place through a variety of initiatives. They tirelessly support our community through various initiatives, including an annual youth basketball tournament that promotes camaraderie, discipline, and healthy living. This event fosters teamwork and sportsmanship while nurturing young talents. Beyond sports, they organize community cookouts that unite neighbors, fostering stronger bonds, open dialogue, and support.