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2021 Look Back

As we enter this new year at The Dale, I took some time reflecting upon 2021 and all that happened. And it was a lot! Some of it cool and exciting, while other parts are hard and heavy. From restrictions increasing and decreasing all over the place, to moving our church outdoors, then indoors, then back to outside. It’s been a rollercoaster, so I just thought I would share some of the moments that really stick out to me from 2021.

The Dale had the opportunity to partner with many awesome local businesses, churches, and organizations. Through our Dale Registry, donations that came in made it possible to feed our community while supporting local restaurants at the same time. It was a win-win situation and it was so special to be able to offer fresh delicious meals, from breakfast burritos to roti. 

Another amazing partnership that stuck out to me this year is with The Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. Not only do they let us use their outdoor parkette to run our outreach, but they also helped us host 2 vaccine clinics! They have very kind-hearted staff there that treat the community with dignity and respect. 

For Easter, it was a lot of fun to each grow our own tomb gardens to celebrate Lent, and read through an Easter devotional booklet that we put together. Though it was something to do at home and not together in person, it felt unifying to all be doing it at the same time and discussing it with each other on the phone or during lunch. 

The hardest part of 2021 was the loss of friends known and loved by the community. It was a long year with a lot of grieving that could not be properly done in any sort of big gathering. In February, we set up a small table outside the Health Centre and gave out photos, roses, and care packages for those grieving to take home and remember their loved one. Still wanting a proper memorial, in December we were finally able to run an indoor memorial to honour, remember, and celebrate those who have died, from March 2020 to the present. A space in the church was arranged with photos around the walls, flowers, paper to write memories, and live music by a friend and his band we know from the community. Though it was a gathering of sorts, we weren’t able to have more than 25 people in the room at a time, so we arranged it to be a drop-in type of event; where people could visit, light a candle, hear some music, and then leave when they were ready. I’m so grateful for how it turned out, and for the chance to remember and celebrate the lives of the individuals I knew and lost. 

A highlight from the year, was hanging out with the girls! Though working through covid hasn’t been easy, one silver lining is that as a staff we have had more time just the 4 of us together, with all the prep we did behind the scenes, in the kitchen, and in the office. I feel blessed to grow closer to these inspiring women and learn together as a team. This photo is from our super fun staff retreat on a farm with chickens probably right behind us.

For thanksgiving, friends from Christ Church St.James came and helped us prepare a delicious turkey dinner to be packed into so many to-go boxes for the community! It was a lot of fun to cook together and create something special.

A Dale Christmas Eve tradition- outreach with our families! So many familiar faces were out and about, and it was so nice to bring our families to join our very big Dale family to celebrate Christmas.


2021 still carried a similar heaviness as 2020, and I don’t want to ignore that there were hard times throughout the year. Even so, I still believe that God is faithful, and that He has blessed us with all the joys that I shared in this blog. It is my prayer that 2022 brings more of these joys as well as many reunions (with lots of hugs).

Respect within Community

Last Monday on my way to work, I got on the subway west bound to Parkdale. If you’ve taken the subway before you’ve probably experienced for yourself, the subway can be a mix of encounters. This time in particular, I sat next to a lady who was having a bad day. She was yelling really loudly, spitting angry words, and causing people to shift away in the train. I wanted to be able to help but there was a lot of unknown in what would happen if I approached her, if it would be a dangerous situation or not. At the next stop she got off the subway and I could tell everyone felt more relaxed again. 

At The Dale we had our usual lunch planned, but this week we also had something else a little special- Flu shots! Plus the option to get a covid-19 vaccine if you didn’t already have yours (which majority of our folks do). Even after running two vaccine clinics in the summer and knowing the drill, we were still mindful to make sure things went smoothly. 

As people came for lunch we notified people that there were flu shots available and then would walk anyone who wanted one inside. While trying to keep things in order, a guy standing outside the line started shouting/speaking very loudly. It started to cause a bit of a commotion, but before anything else could happen my co-worker Meagan went over to him. She kindly asked “Hey man can you keep it down?” Right away he said “ok, case closed”. It seemed he didn’t realize he was disturbing the people around him and quickly stopped yelling. It surprised me. Though I personally don’t know this man very well, he seemed to respect Meagan and The Dale, and without getting louder or fighting back he lowered his voice. It made me think about the lady in the morning who was alone and going through something that no one around understood. Though this man at The Dale might not have been as angry, it was remarkable to me the difference in conversation when there is mutual respect and it’s with someone you know (or are familiar with). Now I’m not saying this happens every time at The Dale, we have definitely encountered situations that have escalated when addressed. But, in that moment I witnessed the strength there is in respect and relationship. 

When I started at The Dale, I was intimidated by some of the folks who spoke loudly or would sometimes yell. It wasn’t long until I got to know some of our core group when things really shifted and I was able to address people by name and feel comfortable checking in. A lot of what I’ve been learning and what I write about in these blogs always seems to come down to the power and importance of community. It makes me think of the body of Christ and the role of the church to be intentional in community with their neighbours. 

It challenges me to continue to meet new people in the Parkdale community and seek out meaningful conversations in our lunch line of people that can often move along so quickly. I’m thankful that a spirit of mutual respect has been cultivated at The Dale, that not only I check in with others, but others also check in on me. That’s the beauty of community.


My job with The Dale requires that I fundraise my entire salary! If you would like to support me in my work go to thedale.org/donate or reach out to me at livdower@gmail.com. Please prayerfully consider joining my team whether that be through support financially or through prayer! Thank you!

Church Indoors

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Back inside! It’s finally happening! We have moved our Sunday service back into the building. 

For many months now (i’ve honestly lost count), we’ve been having our service outside, under a tent, in the parking lot of the church in Parkdale that we have been residing in throughout Covid. Each week we would hope for the best when checking the weather on Sunday mornings. It was difficult to have consistency with the rain, wind, and the cold dampening our plans. We always worked with what we had, switching to outreach when the restrictions got more intense or having one on one prayers in the rain. Having to be flexible is what we’re used to at The Dale!

Besides those things, there have been a lot of perks to church outside! I know I have already mentioned it but there’s something so special about being out underneath the trees, seeing the squirrels go by, and hearing the birds all while worshiping together- and I’ve heard others say the same. Also, the openness of the outdoors offers less limits on people and where we sat was more visible for anyone walking by to see and jump in. I will miss having church outdoors, but I won’t be surprised if one day when summer rolls around we’ll end up outside again. 

At the beginning of the month, we had our first service inside. With masks, distancing, and a limit of 25 people, there was a carefulness felt in the room. Simultaneously, there was a comfort of being back somewhere familiar. These pews were the same ones most of our congregation sat in pre-covid. It was this same sanctuary where I got to know a lot of our core community members on my internship back in 2018. 

Our time together felt special- we gave peace signs to each other from across the room, worshiped with Erinn on the piano paired with an electric guitar played by a friend from the community, and we shared in communion together at the end. When the service wrapped up we all headed outside for some hot chocolate in to-go cups and for some time to catch up.

Being displaced throughout covid and in figuring out how to do church outside, has been a on-going reminder that church can happen anywhere, that it is all about the people. We are the church and will continue to be wherever we are.


My job with The Dale requires that I fundraise my entire salary! If you would like to support me in my work go to thedale.org/donate or reach out to me at livdower@gmail.com. Please prayerfully consider joining my team whether that be through support financially or through prayer! Thank you!

A Cherished Photograph

On this cool fall day, for lunch at The Dale we had a whole lot of chow mein , some pizza, and good chats. Though our lunch is done through bagged to-go meals in a line-up type of format, we still manage to meet new people, build relationships, and have some laughs. 

A gentleman who we just met and came to know throughout the Covid months, is usually found front of the line every Monday and Thursday. I’ve never had super long chats with him but I’ve learned over the months that he is quiet, patient, and kind-hearted.

Today, he came over to me asking for help with his camera. He recently got a really fancy camera and was struggling with how to work it/fix it because it wasn’t taking photos. I couldn’t think of any tips to offer him until Joanna made me realize that he actually had the camera on him. So we sat down together and I tried what I knew. That turned out to be a bust… so I called the camera specialist-Grant! My husband Grant is a photographer and a real pro with cameras. I called him on FaceTime so he could see all the buttons and I followed along his instructions, pressing what whatever he told me too. I doubted it would work at first, with nothing budging for a while and my phone battery nearing 1%. But then all of a sudden we heard a CLICK and saw a photo appear on the screen!

He was so happy! It worked! Then he said “let’s take the photo now!” I was confused at first and then Meagan also said “can we take the photo now?” Then they went on to tell me that our friend has been waiting to take a photo with us and kindly waited for a day I was there to be in the photo! Unfortunately he is leaving and we won’t be seeing him anymore so he wanted a photo to remember us. It was a really sweet moment that felt like a little miracle. The camera getting fixed was more time sensitive than I realized, and I’m grateful for how smoothly the situation resolved. A great reminder about how God’s at work, even in the little things, like making it possible for our friend to get a photo to cherish the memories. 

Nanny

“Bye love” is how Nanny always says her goodbyes. My grandma who goes by “Nanny” hasn’t changed her final greeting, from when I left her space back when she lived in my childhood home, to now when I leave her nursing home room. Always in the same tone with her Irish accent. 

For the past few months I have been visiting Nanny in her nursing home as a sort of “caretaker” role but mostly for a visit, to make sure she feels safe and surrounded by family. Though she usually forgets who I am, she knows I’m familiar and family. More often than not,  I’m June, which is my mom, and on those days I get more of her blunt honesty. Overall, I’m grateful for time there, especially after months of covid and not being allowed to see Nanny at all. 

After my first few visits I cried quite a bit. It took a while to adjust to seeing how much she changed and I thought about how long she had been trapped in there alone. Since I started, a huge blessing has been an opening in a spot for Nanny on the floor in the building that offers more nursing care. She’s busier and less lonely because all the residents on that floor gather together during the day rather than separating into their own rooms. She’s even made a friend and the nurses call them “two peas in a pod”. Her friend often barges into Nanny’s room looking for the exit but smiles when she sees us and stays for a chat or links arms with me for a walk around the halls.

Even though Nanny has forgotten a lot of things, there are beautiful moments when her old sassy personality shows or when she sings a song and somehow remembers the lyrics. I love playing the song “Danny Boy” for her because she lights up every time, and never forgets the words for that one. And the other day when Grant and I took her for a drive in the car she pointed at a building and said, “look at the size of that building, who needs it?” Which is such a classic Nanny thing to say. 

It surprised me when I realized, while watching very old home videos, that I’m starting to forget what Nanny was like before her Alzheimers. But no matter how much time has gone by I’ll never forget the ice cream soda floats she would make me and my cousins when we were kids, the way she used to come to the beach in Florida and sit on the shore to read while we played, the way Jasper (our dog) would always get a piece of her food and she would say “look at his wee face” or “the poor innocent thing”. There are many memories like those that I’ll remember forever.

We have fun, the two of us, and it’s been sweet getting to know the other people on her floor. I’ve been reflecting a lot upon what it means to grow old and the meaning of family. The moments when Nanny’s speech doesn’t make sense I daydream about the olden days and remember we’ll have those again in Heaven one day. It makes me think about the shortness of life, the urgency of time, and what type of moments I will and will not cherish when I’m Nanny. Like these visits, and like the reunion with people we all received when the covid restrictions got a lot lighter. Like the new friends that I get to make at The Dale and the chats we have on the street or sitting in the grass. Like a journey that I’ve been on recently attempting to have a more authentic relationship with God and a more stable quiet time, because I know looking back that will never be time wasted. 

Even though some of my visits with Nanny are quiet or slow, she’s been teaching me a lot. Just like she did when I was a little girl living under the same roof. 

Rebekah’s Baking

So much of what we talk about at The Dale is the power of community. Churches experience this when everyone’s different skills and gifts come together. Many parts of one body! An example at The Dale is when we would create a meal together during pre-covid days (i miss it a lot!). Some people would be chopping vegetables, some stirring the pots, some washing the dishes, and others playing music to set the vibe in the room. 

I also see this power of community come to life when fundraising for my salary at The Dale. If you don’t already know, my work with The Dale is completely funded by a generous team of donors. It’s something that I find hard, encouraging and discouraging at times, but most of all so beautiful. Through this fundraising I’m blessed with a team that prays, listens, and understands. It’s a team who I’m excited to share updates with, and who prays so faithfully. Each person is a part of the greater Dale community and each donor is the reason I am able to spend every hour that I do in the community. It’s miraculous, really.

This year, my sister Rebekah shared her very special gift of baking for my fundraising! 

In March she came up with the idea to sell Easter dessert boxes, where all proceeds went toward my fundraising! And this past July she baked her delicious scones and paired it with jam to sell in a summer strawberry box! Rebekah is known for her baking skills and generosity, never asking for anything in return. I’m proud to have a sister like her, and it is so special that she decided to use that skill for my ministry with The Dale. 

There was a lot of trial and error with this fundraiser. There were a few baking disasters but also delicious discoveries- like those cake-pops tasted better than I imagined, better than Starbucks, just saying. I’ll add a couple photos below, because I need to show off her amazing work! 

Baking with Rebekah and seeing her put all her efforts and time into this fundraiser was a good reminder that I can’t do this without my community. Between the people purchasing boxes and family and friends helping along the way, it was amazing to see this project come together only through the efforts of everyone involved!

Our Garden

Back before I worked at The Dale, I was involved with leading groups of youth to visit The Dale. This was with an organization called Project Serve that taught youth how to serve in the city (it’s really cool and you can check their website here http://www.projectservetoronto.ca). Since we had such big groups that would come, most often half the group would hear a story and the other half would visit The Dale’s garden plot! The youth would rave about this part of their day, The Dale was often their favorite place to visit.. and mine too!

In Toronto, there is an innovative and unique collection of urban gardens run by Greenest City. And how awesome, The Dale gets a plot! This summer is my first time being a part of this garden. Last summer, unfortunately, we didn’t save a plot because of Covid. This summer we wondered if it would be the same situation, but upon running into a friend in the community, we discovered that he signed us up!

In June, through donations and generous neighbours, we got a full garden in action! Now that it is late July we have so much in blossom, it’s beautiful.

Below are some photos I took to share with you! One special part of our garden is our pumpkin, planted in honour of our friend Chevy. She used to grow them herself and loved it. That is until the squirrels would come for them. Meagan and I screamed in excitement when we found our first little pumpkin last week, and had to tell the others.

I’m looking forward to seeing how our work in the garden will connect with providing fresh produce in the community!

OUR FIRST PUMPKIN
Today I went and discovered we have so many more pumpkins!

A Shoe Clinic

This past Wednesday evening, The Dale was able to host a Shoe Clinic!

I arrived in Parkdale, a half hour before the event, and there before me stood a shockingly large crowd waiting in line, ready to go. At first I was overwhelmed by greeting everyone, but it was nice to see some people we don’t get to see as often. Then I hurried inside realizing we had to get a move on things to get everyone some shoes!

Now it was super hot out, so from the start Erinn and Meagan handed out bottled water to everyone waiting in line. We also had some freshly made sandwiches that were just donated that we were able to distribute to feed the line while they waited. There were mixed emotions in the crowd, excitement for new shoes combined with the frustration of the heat and volume of people. Luckily we had some lovely volunteers to help move things along!

All of these brand new shoes and sandals were generously provided by The Meeting House Toronto, who also came themselves to help! They set up chairs in the shade where people could sit down, have their feet measured, and then we’re fitted with a pair depending on their size and preference. It was a similar event to when The Meeting House ran a winter boot clinic with us in March, and it was great to have them back.

While the Meeting House volunteers ran the shoe fitting, Meagan, Erinn and her husband, and I managed the crowd. For the most part we were amazed at how it all came together with only a few bumps in the road! Being in the line is always the best job. It is nice to catch up and have some chats. It is also how I have been able to meet a lot of new people (and sometimes cute dogs)!

Miracles at The Dale never cease to amaze me. Just like the Boot Day, the ratio of shoes to people seemed too good to be true. Though we didn’t have the exact amount, it was pretty close to it! We will be following up with only a few people to get them the right size. It was amazing to see the joy on people’s faces when they got a pair they loved or that fit better than they thought. Some people walked the line showing off their new shoes and others went and got their friends to get a pair too.

God really heard our prayers, and I am so grateful for another successful shoe day!

Fun in the Sun

I am not always good at putting my thoughts into words. So to share an update on how things have been going lately, I thought I would share some pictures.

The heat has been picking up, so below are some good moments we’ve been able to have at The Dale this summer so far.

To help keep people cool while they wait outside, we have been able to distribute Freezies! I love getting to hand them out because so many people light up when they see the cooler come out.

This Sunday, we had another lovely day for an outdoor church service. It was beautiful to come together in this way and see a lot of faces we have been missing. There was “Passing of the Peace” done with peace signs and elbow bumps, community prayer, a thoughtful message by Erinn, communion with miraculously the exact number of grape juice cups, and live worship music for everyone to enjoy at the end. It felt life giving to be together and do normal things, even if it was done a little different.

Outreach in the sun! Even though it is hot, it is great to be able to spend more time outside with people. Sometimes that looks like driving the van around with snacks, Gatorade, summer kits, etc. and sometimes it’s done by walking on foot with soup, bread, and water.

Strawberry season! A great thing about June is that it is best time to pick strawberries and make some jam. This is a little bit of a sneak peak of the (soon to be announced) baking fundraiser that I will be doing with my sister again. So if you like strawberries, jam, and scones, keep your eyes out for a facebook post coming soon!

Happy Summer Everyone!

A Day of Receiving

One of the best things about community is the two way street of generosity. Even though, in working at The Dale we are often giving to the community, lately I have been amazed at the amount of receiving that happens in a day. 

I especially noticed this last Wednesday. Erinn, Joanna, Kim, and myself geared up for our usual afternoon outreach with our lovely van- Morrison. That day, Erinn and Kim took the van, while Joanna and I walked the streets with bags of snacks and drinks. During our walk, Joanna and I met a kind lady sitting outside Dollarama. We chatted with her for a while and then turned around and talked to a gentleman sitting on a bench. They were both so nice and the man on the bench was excited to offer us some funny jokes. While finishing his jokes the lady then said she wanted to sing us a song and burst into singing “O Canada”. It was a sweet moment, I loved seeing both of them so full of joy. As we walked away I thought about how outreach doesn’t always mean us giving necessities to the community, but instead we are so often on the receiving end of things. Receiving the gifts of songs and jokes!

Later that day, Grant came to walk around the neighbourhood with me to take photos of some local restaurant owners for our upcoming fundraiser (more details on that to come!). The two of us met and chatted with some really friendly people. Our last stop was at a restaurant that serves Tibetan food. Parkdale is home to a large population of people from Tibet, it is commonly also called Little Tibet because of this. And yet, all this time I still have not been to any of the Tibetan restaurants, though their food always looks so good. When Grant and I met the restaurant owner he was so excited to get his photo taken and to be a part of our fundraiser that he could not let us leave without giving us some food. He started putting together a bag full of dumplings before we could speak and he even gave us some delicious mango lassi. Again, I walked into this task as something for me to do to give but came back being the one receiving the generosity of others. And this is just what one day looks like.

I feel that during this year and a half I’ve been at The Dale I have been learning from the community first hand how to give in different ways. Not out of money or abundance, but out of the sincerity of heart and with whatever one has to offer.

Delicious gift of Tibetan Food!