Sheri Hebdon is Chair of the Danforth East Community Association
The Danforth East Community Association (DECA) is having a big year, this being our 10th anniversary – our “DECAde,” if you will. As we look back, we are proud of the extent to which our 100 per cent volunteer-powered engine has been a catalyst for change in the Danforth East neighbourhood.
DECA was formed in 2007 by a group of neighbours drinking wine at someone’s dining room table. (Of course, nobody remembers whose house, but everyone remembers the wine!) The mission was simple: to be a positive force for change in the community. That drive remains a common thread amongst our volunteers today.
From the now locally famous East Lynn Farmers’ Market to annual events that draw thousands of neighbours together – the Danforth East Arts Fair, Tree Lighting and Yard Sale – our efforts have become one of the top reasons people enjoy living in our community. We have an urban planning group that has been influential with the city and have organized ad hoc events ranging from canning workshops to all candidate election debates. In 2011, we built on our small, grass-roots Pop-Up Shop program by partnering with Woodgreen Community Services and the Metcalf Foundation, resulting in a retail revitalization program that was so successful – reducing the vacancy rate on Danforth from 17 per cent to 6 per cent – that we ran out of vacant storefronts to pop-up into! Our blog, DECA Diaries, is a go-to resource for “news you can use” about our area, along with our Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram pages.
After spending many years in the “up-and-coming” category on real estate lists, our neighbourhood has finally arrived. But with the bidding wars and hipster coffee shops comes tension.
People moving in now may take for granted that there are beautiful shops and restaurants to walk to and not feel as invested in community-building as we were 10 years ago. There is also the issue of people being priced out of our neighbourhood and how this changes the fabric of our community.
DECA’s focus has broadened in recent years, with efforts including raising money to sponsor Syrian refugees, LGBTQ+ inclusion, and creating a $2000 annual scholarship in partnership with Scadding Court. The deadline for the 2nd Annual DECA Young Leadership Scholarship deadline is fast approaching and we encourage all applications!
I have been volunteering on the DECA Board since 2009 and I am so inspired by the ideas, effort and community involvement that I have seen from so many volunteers. I hope that people will join us so that we can continue to build and improve.
Visit our website at DECA.to for information on how to join ($10/household), donate or volunteer. Our DECAde celebrations are just beginning so stay tuned!