THUNDER BAY – A safe consumption site, a project honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the leader of a skateboard coalition were among those tapped for the Mayor’s Community Safety Awards on Monday.
Two individuals and four community projects were recognized with the honour by Mayor Bill Mauro Tuesday evening at city hall.
“As mayor, I see a lot of great work happening in our city,” Mauro said. “The individuals and organizations being recognized this evening are truly inspiring – they’ve dedicated their time, their expertise, and their hearts to helping others reach their full potential, and giving others hope.”
Winners were honoured with a video presentation, but could not be physically present at city hall due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Community Hero Award went to John Kelly, chair of the Thunder Bay Skateboard Coalition.
Kelly, who helped design the skate and BMX plaza at Marina Park, was recognized for his efforts to build an inclusive and supportive community around the facility.
He runs the non-profit Eclectic Skateboard Shop, using earnings to support the local skateboarding scene through competitions, free lessons, and loaner boards to new skaters that can’t afford one.
“Kids come to spend time, learn new tricks, and enjoy exercise, but it’s also a safe place where kids come to meet new people, reach out for help, and feel included,” said a statement from the city. “No wonder the skate park is perhaps the most well-used recreation facility the city offers.”
Noah Barile picked up the Young Leader Award for his work as media relations coordinator with the Tree of Hope project at just 14 years old.
The youth “has an astonishing 600+ hours of community service” according to the city, including re-designing St. Dominic’s Church website, tutoring with the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association, aiding in local food drives and at the Shelter House.
However, it was his work with Tree of Hope, which honours Murdered and Missing Indigenous Woman and Girls (MMIWG), that earned him the youth award.
“Barile began by researching MMIWG, then designed a website, created content and selected images, developed and managed a social media presence, created a GoFundMe fundraising platform, and spoke at the launch as a youth representative.”
The Tree of Hope project also earned one of four Outstanding Community Project awards, which come with a $1,000 prize from their sponsor to support community safety efforts.
Sharlene Bourdeau, a police officer with the Thunder Bay Police Service, sparked the project to honour the estimated 1,200 to 4,000 MMIWG in Canada.
Beginning in the fall of 2019, she spearheaded a committee of community members who envisioned three components: lighting trees to remember MMIWG, a GoFundMe account to raise money for rewards, and inviting anonymous submissions to Crime Stoppers.
This year, 4,000 lights will commemorate all possible MMIWG, and the Indigenous youth at Hammarskjold High School’s KZ Lodge program will build a fire pit depicting the Seven Grandfather Teachings to hold a sacred fire.
“When the Tree of Hope blazes on November 15,” stated the city, “it will bring further awareness to MMIWG unsolved cases and empower people to come forward with information to help make communities safer, reassure families their loved ones are not forgotten, and help communities heal.”
Also recognized was the Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) Program run by Dilico Anishinabek Family Care, a focused intervention program for children aged 6-11 who struggle with behavioural issues.
SNAP offers a 13-week intervention group to support children and their families with self-control and problem-solving skills along with strategies to manage their emotions.
The PATH 525 safe consumption site operated by NorWest Community Health Centres received a third community project award.
The overdose prevention service, which opened in fall of 2018, also works to connect clients to community resources such as housing, mental health and addiction services, and primary health care.
“Clients now have a safe place to consume illicit substances while receiving safe consumption education, harm reduction supplies, and overdose response,” the city said.
Lastly, the city recognized the Elizabeth Fry Society of Northwestern Ontario’s food outreach efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Elizabeth Fry Society NWO quickly reimagined their outreach, applied for funding, and created a partnership with Roots to Harvest to supply food for street-involved women,” a statement from the city explained.
Each week, Elizabeth Fry staff and volunteers arrived at Roots to Harvest to pack and assemble food bags, then headed out to neighbourhoods to connect with vulnerable street-involved women, deliver food, and see what other resources were needed.
They organized four pop-up events to allow service providers, including street nurses, Elevate NWO, and Roots to Harvest, to distribute harm reduction supplies, food, and clothing, and provide access to health screening.