Each year HVRA recognizes individuals for making outstanding contributions to the Harbord Village community. Chosen recipients are awarded a citation in a small ceremony at the Spring Meeting in May or the Fall Annual General Meeting in October. The HVRA slogan is “Good Neighbours Building a Great Neighbourhood.” Read about past recipients below to see how broadly the term Community Builder can be applied. (With thanks to Richard Longley for most of the photos below.)
To nominate someone for one of these awards, please send the nominee’s name and contact information with a one-paragraph summary of their accomplishments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fall 2018 Community Builder: Gordon E. Brown
Gordon Brown has been at the heart of HVRA since its inception in 2000. Gordon was one of the 5 individuals who spent 9 months drawing up the Constitution of what was to become HVRA. Gordon was HVRA’s Secretary and later Treasurer for 8 years and set up its bookkeeping system. Since stepping down from the Board, Gord has continued to represent HVRA in effectively advocating for pedestrians in the city. Finally, in the last few years he has been one of the top canvassers for the Silent Auction at the HVRA Fall Fair.
Fall 2018 Community Builder: Judith Robertson
Judith Robertson has been nominated for this Award for doing something that most of us have seen but probably none had any idea how it got there and who maintained it: the beautiful little garden of flowers along the fence facing the Robert Street Field just north of Sussex Avenue. Judith planted it a number of years ago and has maintained it ever since. This is true Community Building: take a forgotten little corner of Harbord Village and make it beautiful.
Fall 2018 Community Builders: Erik Schneiderhan and M.P. Stevens
Erik and M.P. are originally from the United States but recently acquired their Canadian citizenship and have embraced their local on Borden Street and beyond. They organized a book club that meets monthly at Harbord House. They also started Culture 77—a series of house concerts, poetry readings and other cultural events they host in their home. They’ve certainly brought together many neighbours on the street and in Harbord Village – Community Building at its finest.
Fall 2018 Community Builder: Sandy Smith
In 2007, the Board of HVRA embarked on a project that had never before been attempted by any Residents’ Association in Canada as far as we know. The project was to enumerate every tree in HV and provide some basic data that could be input in a spreadsheet. And if there were a will 10 years later, we would repeat this and be able to factually know what was happening to our Tree Canopy. We enlisted the support of Sandy Smith, the Dean of Forestry at U of T who happened to live in HV. She got the first enumeration up and running over 2007 and 2008, and she oversaw it again for 2017 and 2018. The data is a priceless gift to HV and the City beyond.
Fall 2018 Community Builder: Coleen Whyte
Every organization needs a Coleen Whyte. We all know them: they are never in front but they are always there cheerfully volunteering to get jobs done. Coleen for many years was the person who did much of the organizing of the Produce and Bake Sale at the Fall Fair, something that has always brought in about $400 to the coffers of HVRA. More than that, for the last two years she has been one of the top canvassers for the Silent Auction at the Fall Fair which netted over $4500. We are fortunate indeed to have had Coleen tirelessly assisting HVRA with its various projects.
Spring 2018 Community Builder: Andrew Sliwa
Andrew Sliwa is everyone’s ideal neighbour. He never fails to volunteer for community events whenever asked. He is always helpful to any neighbour needing assistance—from the use of a tool to lending a bicycle. He cheerfully participates in all neighbourhood events. He even runs his very own kielbasa night for the locals. In 2017, he donated his professional expertise to create a 3-D model of the bike rack designed by the Engineering student group studying area needs. If you are looking for an ideal neighbour, Andrew and his fine family are the ones you want.
Spring 2018 Community Builder: Lisa Edwards
Lisa has been Principal of Central Technical School since 2015, with 24 years’ tenure in the Toronto District School Board. Lisa has always been friendly and fair in dealing with our community, starting with the conclusion of the contentious dome installation. Recently, Lisa helped resolve noise issues caused by the unintentional creation of a skateboard and BMX bicycle park on school grounds. Residents held a sit-in on Canada Day 2017 to voice their concerns; Lisa met them and quickly brokered a solution that restored peace in the community. Lisa stands by this sentiment: “I believe that it is important that our school and our neighbours work together to build a better community for all.” A Community Builder indeed!
Spring 2018 Community Builders: Ann Eyerman, Jessica Humphreys, Leslie Thompson, Jennifer Weinberger, Rebecca Wittmann, John Zilcosky
Several years ago, lower Major Street saw a baby boom and was suddenly happily teeming with toddlers… which put a spotlight on the high speed (and often frustration) of drivers coming off College and navigating our local traffic maze. This was also an ongoing problem for the many elderly and disabled residents of Kensington Gardens. So, in the fall of 2013, a group of concerned residents contacted the city about traffic-calming solutions. After four years, 262 emails, many city staff changes, several rounds of door-to-door canvassing and petitions, the sad hit-and-run deaths of two neighbourhood pets, and the support (and ultimately torchcarrying) of diligent neighbours and HVRA, the project was complete. In August 2017 the city installed speed humps along lower Major.
The gentle humps with directional arrows (as seen at right) now make the street safer for all walkers and cyclists—including kids going to and from school and seniors in Kensington Gardens taking an outing. The story provides a good example of citizen action that makes a measurable difference to the neighbourhood. As other areas of Harbord Village look to replicate this effort, we wish them luck and—most of all—patience. (See the timeline and some of the documents on our Traffic Calming page.)
Fall 2017 Community Builder: Gary Bloch and Amy Furness
Gary Bloch and Amy Furness were instrumental in making the renovation of Margaret Fairley Park a reality. It took over 7 years from start to finish, and Amy and Gary saw it through its many stages. There were frustrations, and delays, and miscues, and misunderstandings—but they maintained their poise and dedication to the job at hand. Amy and Gary exemplified in every way Hemingway’s maxim “Grace under Pressure” and in so doing have made our community a better place to live.
Fall 2017 Community Builder: Lynn Brophy and Miriam Ticoll
Lynn Brophy and Miriam Ticoll performed a remarkable service to the community over the newly renovated space at the north end of Central Technical School. The renovation was completed in the summer of this year and was almost immediately taken over by skate boarders and BMX cyclists. Unbeknownst to anyone on the Cenral Tech team, the park turned out to have ideal conditions for aficionados of these sports, but the noise was extraordinary. Lynn and Miriam took a leaf out of the civil disobedience book and set up lawn chairs and tables on one of the decks, and rather than demonize the boarders, engaged with them and then the school to solve the problem.
Fall 2017 Community Builder: Antero Faria
Antero Faria was nominated for his Award by three different individuals who live near his home on Brunswick Avenue south of Harbord. All made the point that Antero over many years has done so many things for people of his community, little and small, that make him the ideal neighbour. He not only shovels snow for seniors but clears the common laneways as well. He cleans eavestroughs and does small repairs for his neighbours. This is all cheerfully done and for no charge. Antero is the model neighbour and is well deserving of the title “Community Builder.”
Spring 2017 Community Builder: Celia Denov
Celia has a long and illustrious history with Harbord Village. After moving to Borden St. in 1969, she attended her first Residents’ Association Meeting. By 1972, as chair of the neighbourhood Parks Committee, Celia was involved with the city in developing parkettes at Brunswick and College and at Robert and Sussex, and organizing the first picnic in Margaret Fairley Park. In 1975, she was instrumental in getting the first traffic maze installed north of Harbord.
After a few years away, Celia was so homesick for the area that she moved back. In 1996–2005, she initiated the Fall Fair, which continues to this day. In 1999 Celia was on the committee that authored the Constitution of the new HVRA. Since then, Celia has continued to be a passionate contributor and admirer of the HVRA and therefore is most worthy of the Community Builder Award. Congratulations, Celia!
Spring 2017 Community Builder: Larry Sdao
Larry Sdao is a rare bird indeed—a veteran of the hospitality industry who develops positive relationships with the communities in which he works. Larry bought the Brunswick House in the early 2000s, intending it be run as a plus for the community. But then he signed a lease with an operator who proved to be a bad fit and was unresponsive to neighbourhood complaints. Larry took the operator to court to break the lease, very difficult to do except for non-payment of rent. But Larry had evidence of non-compliance with agreed-on actions (e.g., removing graffiti) and a stack of vituperative emails, and the operator agreed to give up his 20-year option. Many landlords would have collected the rent and ignored our pleas. Larry did the right thing by Harbord Village and therefore is most worthy of the Community Builder Award.
Fall 2016 Heritage Conservation: John Scalpello and Sylvia Swiekatun
The owners of 154 Major were presented with a Heritage Conservation award for their home renovation featuring a tasteful street-facing facade that incorporates heritage design elements and respects the aesthetic fabric of our neighbourhood. Find out more and see the before and after photos in this nomination file.
Spring 2015 Heritage Conservation: Andrew Braverman and Rachel Gerstein
The owners of 312 Optical were presented with a Heritage Conservation award for their restoration of the premises at 312 College Street. The Gerstein family has a long history of doing business in the area: Rachel’s great-grandmother bought the building in 1932 and ran a hardware store at Robert and College for many years. (You can hear some great stories about it in the interview with Linda and Michael Farberman on the Harbord Village Oral History website.)
Spring 2015 Community Builder: Rebecca Glass and Tim Gleason
Rebecca Glass and Tim Gleason are lawyers who provided pro bono work through the firm of Dewart Gleason LLB while representing HVRA at the Ontario Municipal Board during the Central Tech field issue.
Spring 2015 Community Builder: Beata Bowron
Beata is a professional planner who worked with the HVRA, the Grange Community Association, and the Huron-Sussex Residents’ Organization in our discussions with the city and the Ontario Municipal Board on the development at 245 College; she also helped later with the Central Tech file.
Spring 2015 Community Builder: Ceta Ramkhalawansingh
Seen in the photo at left addressing the Fall 2014 AGM, Ceta served with distinction as interim city councillor in the last half of 2014. She voluntarily participated as a party at the Ontario Municipal Board hearings on Central Tech —even after her term as councillor ended. She also worked energetically with residents’ associations on the development at 245 College.
Spring 2015 Community Builder: Richard Gilbert
Richard is a former city councillor and a longtime member of the HVRA board. The photo at left shows him with the HVRA Chairs Tim Grant and Gus Sinclair. The award recognizes his many years of service to the community. Among many other projects initiated by Richard over the years, he was pivotal in launching the Oral History project.
Fall 2014 Community Builder: Sharron Richards
For showing extraordinary courage and compassion in coming to the assistance of two young women who had been mugged, robbed and physically beaten on Major Street south of Ulster. Answering one’s door at 2:30 in the morning is not routine, especially to find two women in distress, one bleeding profusely from the head. On the morning of October 30, 2014. Sharron did not hesitate to bring the women inside and tend their wounds with towels; she called the police, who arrived quickly with an ambulance. Harbord Village is proud of Sharron’s actions on that night. Click here to see Sharron tell CBC-TV about the late-night knock on her door.
Spring 2013 Community Builder: Sylvia Porretta
Through Sylvia’s efforts, the entire length of Sussex Mews Laneway has remained graffiti-free for several years. Building on a network of friends and neighbours, she convinced others to join her campaign to clear the eastern part of the neighbourhood of graffiti. She bought paint and supplies. Virtually every day, she painted out tags on bins, garages, fences, and building sides as soon as they occurred, and in the winter of 2013, expanded her paintout to Harbord Street. Through her efforts, photos, and police reports, police were able to apprehend one of the principal taggers in Sussex Mews Lane. She has shown diligence, tact, generosity and community-mindedness and now is co-chair of the HVRA graffiti committee. We admire and applaud her work.
Spring 2013 Community Builder: Stephen Simpson
From August 2012 to this date, Stephen has been painting out neighbourhood graffiti on his own time, often with supplies he bought himself. Rain, sleet, snow, Stephen patrolled the Sussex Mews Laneway and other neighbourhood lanes and streets daily. When tags occurred, he painted them out. He talked to police, businesses, and neighbours to keep our laneways free of unwanted tags. He also expanded the Sussex Mews Lane paintout to a number of businesses on Harbord St. Stephen has shown that dogged determination, dedication and concern for the community can have the most beneficial results. We applaud his work on our behalf.
Spring 2013 Heritage Restoration: Anna Hagithomas and Anastasios Chatzimichail
For their restoration of 82 Brunswick to its underlying beauty and dignity.
2013 Front-Yard Gardens: Multiple Award Recipients
The photos show why these gardens and their gardeners received special awards for beautifying the neighbourhood and raising the spirits of all who walk by. Click on any photo to see enlarged images.
Fall 2012 Community Builder: Jan Muszynski
In the early 2000’s Jan was a board member for several years of the very new HVRA. But without a doubt his biggest contributions to Harbord Village have come through his enormous, tireless and enduring efforts towards the HVRA’s Annual Fall Fair. For one thing, he has worked on the Fall Fair for 19 of its 20 years. He does ALL the canvassing and collecting of items for the silent auction and raffle. During the Fair itself, he is the first one on site in the morning and the last to leave at night. In the middle he sells raffle tickets to cops and others, he helps in the set up and breakdown of the park—he is there till the very end. Throughout the day, he is all the while eternally cheerful and unflappable. Jan is the perfect Community Builder and so worthy of this honour.
Fall 2012 Community Builder: Marilyn Martin
Marilyn has been for many years a quiet force for beautifying our neighbourhood, whether via guerilla gardening or helping take care of the large flower pots on Harbord. Over the years she and her husband Bryan Mangrum have organized several charity yard sales including one in 2007 for victims of the Robert Street fire. This past spring, Marilyn helped organize the First Annual Harbord Village Neighbourhood Yard Sale with the proceeds going to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
Fall 2012 Community Builder: Judy Perly
Judy Perly, the doyenne of Free Times Café, has seen her creation become an institution inside Harbord Village and beyond. A pillar of Toronto’s folk music scene for over 30 years, Free Times has at the same time always been ready to support community initiatives and good neighbourhood causes. Judy is part of the furniture of Harbord Village and our community would not be the same without her.
Fall 2011 Community Builder: The Sharin Brothers
HVRA hereby recognizes brothers Mirwais, Ansar, Edris and Shayaq Sharin, partners in the Pizza Nova franchise located at Lippincott and Harbord, for being exemplary citizens and neighbours. As newcomers to Harbord Village, the Sharin Brothers wasted no time in joining in Community projects right from the start. As the Founding Sponsors of the HVRA Clean-up in 2010, they generously gave away hats, bags and free pizza to all participants. In 2011, they fed over 100 Central Tech students with free pizza for the same event. Harbord Village is the richer for their presence among us.
Fall 2011 Heritage Restoration: Alberto Merelles
For saving 61 Brunswick Avenue from decades of demolition by neglect through a painstaking, year-long restoration which, by honouring the intentions of its architect and the craftsmanship with which it was built, has returned this magnificent house to its original status as one of the finest among its neighbours in Harbord Village Heritage Conservation District.
Fall 2011 Heritage Restoration: Rene and Elizabeth Roy, Stuart and Joan Schoenfeld
For collaborating with each other as neighbours and with Leigh Bamford of Stone Angels in the restoration of the brickwork of 208 and 210 Robert Street, and for collaborating in the painting of these attached properties in a heritage-appropriate colour scheme. Thanks to your efforts, a splendid contribution has been made to the integrity and beauty of Harbord Village Heritage Conservation District.
Fall 2011 Heritage Restoration: Bernard King Fai Ng
For conserving the original peak of 74 Brunswick Avenue for the day when that magnificent house might be restored to its original appearance as a vibrant part of the Harbord Village Heritage Conservation District.
Spring 2010 Community Builder: Bill O’Neill
For services to the residents of Harbord Village in helping to heal past disputatious relations between the residents of our Community and the Institution that inhabits the area between Brunswick and Major Streets north of College; and by making available the wonderful venue of Kensington Health Centre for meetings and gatherings of various parts of the Community that is Harbord Village.
Fall 2010 Community Builder: Neil Stephenson
For services to the residents of Harbord Village and the members of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association. This award is presented specifically for organizing a highly successful Community Clean-Up in the South West Area of Harbord Village. Thank you, Neil.
Fall 2009 Community Builder: Rory (Gus) Sinclair
Fall 2010 Community Builder: Dale Duncan
HVRA is has been all the better for having you in the Councillor’s Office these last few years and we are sorry that you have to move on. You were the most accurate, quickest study, and most poised of associates. We learned a lot together and from one another. We always had your support, and if you didn’t know the answer, we could count on you saying so…. and then finding out! At the same time, you were always patient and professional, and that is hard to do when people get a bit riled up and upset about things. You were discreet and kept confidences. And you cared. You have made a real difference to the neighbourhood. Think only of the strides in heritage preservation and the bur oak! And the wins at the OMB, and getting the streets washed after the pipes were replaced. Some of it would seem little stuff, but little stuff really matters. We are certain we have not heard the last of one another. We look forward to watching your progress but for sure, Thank you for a job well done.
Fall 2010 Community Builder: Cyril Greenland
For services of extraordinary importance and value to the residents of our Community, formerly Sussex-Ulster, currently Harbord Village. (Cyril and his wife Jane Donald are seen at left in a photo from the 1980s.) Since moving to lower Brunswick in 1967, Cyril has been a power for good amongst us, a voice of reason in disputes, the soul of discretion in keeping confidences, indefatigable in making peace, a perfect exemplar of good humour and grace under pressure, a striver for betterment of his community, and a fearless advocate for the homeless and less fortunate amidst us. In brief, Cyril has been a rational and sane voice espousing neighbourhood community values for his entire time amongst us. We are in his debt.
Fall 2009 Community Builder: David and Kathy Wurfel
- David Wurfel has participated in many initiatives of HVRA throughout the years. He sat on the Citizens’ Committee that wrote the Constitution of HVRA, sat on the Board of HVRA and was its first Secretary, sat as a member of the Constitution and Nominations Committee for many years.
- Kathy Wurfel has been an unabashed promoter of HVRA in all its roles in the community. She has been the Convenor of the Constitution and Nominations Committee for many years and a longstanding member of the Fall Fair Committee.
Spring 2009 Community Builder: Catherine Spears
For services to the residents of Harbord Village in the matter of the HVRA appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board on 580 Spadina, said services being well above the call of duty and resulting in a complete vindication of neighbourhood planning principles endorsed by HVRA.
(Dates unknown for the following awards: please send information to email@example.com.)
Community Builder: Jane Auster
For services to HVRA. She sat on the HVRA Board for many years, was instrumental in organizing clean-ups of the neighbourhood, edited the newsletter while on the Board and continues to do so since moving away from the area in 2007. Her cheerful good nature is an inspiration to all of us
Community Builder: Cathy Nasmith
For services to HVRA above and beyond the call of duty with respect to the founding of the first two Heritage Conservation Districts. Cathy attended innumerable meetings of residents and City Staff in order to make these come about, and wrote two Heritage Guidelines reports that are examples for any future Heritage Architect of how it should be done. (They’re on our Heritage Conservation page.)
Community Builder: Carmen Gauthier
For extraordinary service to HVRA with respect to Planning and Heritage Conservation. Carmen was instrumental in researching and coordinating the accuracy of all research for HCD Phase 1 and Phase 2 and in providing documentation for and appearing as a witness at the Ontario Municipal Board in support of HVRA’s opposition to projects at 578 and 580 Spadina.
Community Builder: Helen Breslauer
Helen spearheaded a Major Street street sale which was a great success. Not only did her efforts help neighbours trim the excess from their basements and closets, it brought them all together as a community. A group of fiddlers even provided impromptu entertainment. Helen has also initiated street events in the past.
(The photos show why these houses received the awards, but other information is missing. If you can supply it, please write firstname.lastname@example.org.)