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  • Writer's pictureOEV BIA

One year of Support for Woodman Ave. in OEV

On August 14, 2019, an event on Woodman Ave. in Old East Village literally shook the neighbourhood. In the early hours of this evening, there was much confusion as to what had happened but as more information came available, we immediately saw a community come together to support those in need.

Messages of support at the explosion site. Photo by Michael Bray

Although such an event seemed entirely unthinkable in this quiet portion of the neighbourhood, the resiliency and generosity of residents and Londoners alike helped soften the blow and helped to begin the healing process.

The Old East Village BIA was called early on August 15 to assist with the growing number of donations coming in from around the neighbourhood and beyond. BIA staff who are both past and present OEV residents happily supported the effort by working with area volunteers to organize the voluminous donations of toys, clothes, toiletries and dried goods,” Jen Pastorius, OEV BIA Manager said.

On top of those who call this tight-knit community home, there were many neighbourhood organizations and businesses who immediately lent several helping hands to the cause. Some of the first to step up included Anderson Craft Ales to collect physical donations, Western Fair, who offered funds and much needed space once those physical donations started pouring in (despite the fact that this very space was being prepped for the Fair itself, set to begin in a few short weeks!). Following an efficient and systematic sorting process, another key player, Goodwill Industries, stepped in to process items, provide store credits so those affected could shop for themselves, and remove items that were not deemed necessary.

OEV BIA staff and community volunteers sifted through the massive amount of donations at Western Fair.

At this same time, OEV supporters, Libro Credit Union offered a generous monetary donation as well as provided banking assistance for further funds raised and to those affected. In order to properly manage and distribute these funds, tireless and ongoing efforts from the Old East Village Community Association (OEVCA) were essential.

Another local organization that deserves ample recognition is LIFE*SPIN without whom many of the necessary leaders may not have been brought together to address the most urgent personal needs for individuals and families. This steering committee involved representatives from, the previously mentioned Libro, OEVCA, and OEV BIA, as well as those from Home Depot, London Community Foundation, Intercommunity Health Centre, ATN, Aeolian Hall, the City of London, and OEV residents.

LIFE*SPIN’s role was to facilitate bringing leaders together and establishing a mechanism for the broader community to support urgent needs” such as urgent shelter and repairs to move home, food, transportation, medication, and mental health supports, Executive Director Jacquie Thompson told us.

“[The steering committee] all worked together to ensure the families, our neighbours, could define their own needs, without judgement, as they were all dealing with significant trauma in their own way,“ Jacquie said.

Coming together in OEV. Photo by Brooke Johnson

Although many were displaced short term, some several months, while some are still waiting to be fully settled, it’s safe to say that any amount of time you’ve unexpectedly removed from your home is too long. However, through the above-outlined efforts, the outpouring of support and generosity from London as a whole, and a variety of community events, what was at first a near-fatal disaster, saw the bonds of a neighbourhood grow even stronger.

"The minute OEV became stronger..." Photo by Michael Bray

There is light at the end of the tunnel though as we’re starting to see the signs of rebuilding on Woodman Ave. where a row of houses once stood. Of course, priceless memories and experiences cannot be replaced, but the opportunity to rebuild does allow those who were most directly affected retain that piece of home by staying right here in OEV.

“Recovery is ongoing and individual, but compassion is an universal expression of community,” OEVCA board member Meg Pirie said in a press release.

We must one more time recognize the incredible work done by first responders, many of whom were injured keeping others safe, as well as those of generous residents, community organizations, businesses, and volunteers. It has been a difficult time for those most directly impacted, and the healing process is not an easy one. But, as this past year has demonstrated, when a neighbourhood like OEV says “we’re in this together,” that is exactly what they mean.

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