Cleaning Willowdale Together

By David Nickle, Senior Advisor on Policy and Communications

A total of 2,725 students from six schools in Willowdale stepped outside last Friday to clean up their neighbourhoods, and they weren't the only ones.

Near Yonge and Finch, dozens of businesses were outside gathering litter at Olive Square ,while to the south near Sheppard, dozens more dug deep into alcoves and alley-ways to clear up trash.

And on Sunday, more than 80 people gathered at Mel Lastman Square with gloves and garbage bags to clear up streets and sidewalks from a winter's-worth of debris.

In total, close to 3,000 people did their part in local Clean Willowdale Together litter-gathering events April 22 and 24.

Grade 4 students at McKee Public School took to Mitchell Field Park to help Clean Willowdale Together.

According to McKee Public School Principal Jeannette Lang, the event was about much more than just cleaning up.

"It's about community-building, being able to do work together – a small amount of work each, for the greater good," said Lang.

For McKee students, the event was also a way to better understand their relationship to the land, and the Indigenous people who occupied it – and to learn to live more sustainably in their everyday lives.

"We talked about why it's important to avoid using plastic, about how long it takes for things to break down in the environment," said teacher Jennifer Leung, accompanying her Grade 4 class out to clean up neighbouring Mitchell Field Park over the noon-hour. "They are looking forward to getting rid of it so it doesn't have to build up on the earth."

At the Olive Square cleanup, Willowdale Business Improvement Area Executive Director Laura Burnham said the event was an important way for the new BIA to be a part of the community.

Willowdale BIA members made a difference cleaning up Olive Square.

"It's important for the BIA to reach out to residents, and it's also good timing to see the event come back as a city-wide initiative," she said. "We're glad to be part of it, particularly as COVID is winding down, and more and more events are coming back to the city."

Closer to Yonge and Sheppard, the Yonge Sheppard Centre and the BIA led a deep clean of some of the spaces in between – in particular, a narrow alley between two storefronts on the west side of Yonge Street.

For just over 20 minutes, Yonge Sheppard Centre Operations Manager David Dobrega led an expedition that hauled out a hodgepodge of litter – an old paint tray, discarded electrical equipment, roof shingles… even an old car-tire.

On Sunday, about 80 volunteers did the same, working in partnership with the Tzu Chi foundation, Climate Target Willowdale and Gibson House Museum and fanning out across Willowdale. The West Willowdale Neighbourhood Association and the Willowdale Central Ratepayers Association contributed another 20 volunteers to the effort.

In addition to McKee Public School, students from Finch Public School, Pleasant Public School, St. Gabriel Catholic School, St. Joseph Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School and Willowdale Middle School took part.

In total, about 2,850 volunteers gathered more than 100 bags of garbage, 15 bags or recyclable materials, removed 12 used needles and one discarded tire.

Left behind: a strong and healthy community, just a little tidier than it was before.

By Markus O'Brien Fehr Chief of Staff A reader recently responded to John's newsletter with an excellent question: "What's going on with the reconstruction of Yonge Street?" It's true that there hasn'