SCLD staff volunteer effort brightens the hallways of downtown home for seniors

It’s amazing what a little elbow grease can do to raise the spirits of others.

Late last month, residents of a high-rise building for senior citizens located in downtown Toronto watched as the hallways of their home received a fresh coat of paint from 150 staff and student leaders from York University. The 22-storey building, located at 444 Logan Ave., is an affordable housing option for low-income seniors and is operated by WoodGreen Community Services.

The Aug. 27 volunteer event was a first for staff in the Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development (SCLD) and was part of an overall orientation event that brought staff and student-staff together for a day of training and reflection.

“A team community service project has never happened before,” said Catherine Salole, director of SCLD. “It allowed our student leaders to build community and develop important skills such as communication, teamwork and leadership. As well, students had an opportunity to make a difference and live our values of respect, collaboration, care and inclusion. We were very lucky to partner with WoodGreen Community Services. They not only accommodated all 150 of us, but also let us into their home.”

The day began with an inspirational greeting from Janet Morrison, vice-provost students. She thanked student leaders for their dedication and reiterated their important role in the Division of Students. Members of Residence Life, Health Education and Promotion, York is U, a number of York student clubs, the RED Zone and student leadership teams were told how their work affects the York University community and has an impact on student success.

Based on service learning, a method of teaching that encourages personal reflection through participation in a community-based environment, the volunteers benefited from the experience because they strengthened their own skills while connecting with colleagues and the WoodGreen residents.

The visit to the WoodGreen Community Housing building turned out to be more meaningful to all involved than organizers expected. By painting the walls at WoodGreen, SCLD staff helped offset minor renovation costs in the building. Residents were also seen interacting with the York staff and students. Many were delighted to have the company during the four-hour visit. One resident expressed her gratitude for the volunteer effort and said she feared that the volunteer movement had disappeared.

In addition to collaborating with WoodGreen Community Services, the SCLD community service effort would not have been as successful without Steve Sicluna, maintenance director, Campus Services & Business Operations. Sicluna offered tips on how to properly paint the walls and brought with him York staffers Barry Cooper and Nick Spadaforahis, two professional painters from the Maintenance Department, to assist with painting.

Paint rollers, brushes and trays were donated by Steeles Paint.

In an online assessment following the event, participants expressed their approval. One student noted that “putting on a coating of paint not only refreshes the building, it revitalizes the pride of the tenants living there.” Students also noted that they were able to realize the value of teamwork, communication, patience and co-operation and the importance of community involvement.

Submitted to YFile by Kailee Travis