- Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 February 2013 19:59
- Written by Don Westwood
Last Friday evening, August the 3rd, was a perfect example of what a community is really all about. In this case, it was Old Ottawa South, demonstrating the true nature of the communal spirit, and the collective responsibility and generosity towards members of that community when faced with the tragic circumstances when one’s home and one’s worldly possessions are destroyed by fire.
The occasion was a street party organized to honour and raise funds for all the individuals that were affected by the fire on Hopewell Avenue last month, specifically the occupants of 128 Hopewell Avenue, and the three students next door at #126. All the immediate neighbours were invited to enjoy a potluck BYO-BBQ and an evening of entertainment and dancing.
And it was a resounding success, due in no small part for the irrepressible energy and exuberance of Joe Silverman, a true embodiment of the ‘community spirit’, if ever there was! Folks brought their own chairs and tables, salads and snacks to share with everyone, and whatever they wished to ‘throw on the BBQ’ as their main dish. By the evenings end, more than two hundred people had turned up, including the President of Carleton University, Dr. Roseann O’Reilly Runte, and the media from CBC, and judging by the air of jollity and enthusiasm, a good time was had by one and all.
The evening began with a few explanatory words from Joe and others, and an invitation to contribute to the collection of funds to help the victims of the fire. There was a talent show, some beautiful demonstrations of dance and singing, culminating in an hour or so of music by a volunteer group of musicians to end the evening.
The president of OSCA, Michael Jenkin, gave a short speech in which he reported that over $5,500 had been raised so far. The most moving speeches were given by two of the people who lived in each of the two houses affected. I shall always remember two things: the thanks from one of the students, Alexander Galbraith,who had been overwhelmed by the community’s generosity—he had over 30 offers of a place to stay!—and Beth Gorham and her daughter who lived at 128, who said that people had been so generous that “there was no time to wallow” as she put it. In fact, she is about to rent a property just a few houses from the shell of her house, and I believe she is determined to rebuild.
It really was a wonderful demonstration of what a community can and will do to help each other in extenuating circumstances. It was also an opportunity to meet old friends and neighbours, and to make new friends. I even re-connected with two old students of mine and their families that I hadn’t seen since the '70s! I suspect that my experiences were repeated by many of those present that evening.
A heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all involved. Such is the benefit of living in a community like Old Ottawa South!
Don Westwood is a retired architect and professor emeritus who is also on the OSCA Board.
Article photographs by Gwendolyn Gall.
Click here to see the Hopewell Fire Fund Street Party Photo Gallery (multiple photographers—add your own!)
Check out photos of the firefighters working here.