Edmonton Team Lends a Helping Hand
On May 1, 2016, a wildfire began southwest of Fort McMurray, Alberta. By May 3, it swept through the community, forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta's history, displacing 88,000 people. Recognizing the sheer volume of evacuees that would require accommodations and supplies, Kingsway Mall reached out to the City of Edmonton to offer assistance. Within days, Kingsway reopened the doors to its vacant Target space to house the operations of the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services. This became the only location in the city to distribute basic supplies to evacuees from the Alberta fires. After a week of operation, with the help of over 4,000 volunteers, almost 31,000 people received supplies from what was once vacant space. Not only did the Kingsway team assist in the operations and communications of the space (65,000 square feet stocked and open in less than two days), they volunteered their own time and continued to keep the mall running in a first-class fashion. In the mall, they handed out hundreds of tote bags filled with water, gift cards, coupons and a daily list of retailers offering evacuee discounts. Kids received bags with puzzles, games and juice boxes, and pet-sitting services were also made available. Care packages were delivered to the local hospital for evacuee moms who just gave birth.
On May 27, after three weeks in operation, the Kingsway donation distribution centre invited evacuees to return for a second time. Knowing the demand would be high, Kingsway coordinated an Edmonton Oxford volunteer day with its City Centre teammates. Expanding our efforts across the country, we donated service fees from gift card sales for the month to help those in need. The result was over $25,000 donated to the Red Cross.
At the end of what was a three-month operation, Kingsway Mall assisted almost 75,000 evacuees with the help of 8,500 volunteers through the distribution centre. Total response efforts equated to a value of $185,000 in donated space, resources and man hours. Kingsway Mall was recognized by ICSC Foundation with the Canadian Community Support Award for its efforts.
2016 NXT City Prize
The 2016 NXT City Prize, presented for the second year in a row by Oxford, awards people under 35 for their big ideas to help inspire, create and activate Toronto’s public spaces. It also provides a platform to connect these young leaders with city builders to help bring these activations to life. Approximately 100 submissions were received and on November 25th, the winners were announced at the NXT City Night after-party, at District28 in Toronto's east end. The party featured interactive art installations, local eats from Toronto’s hottest kitchens and the opportunity to mingle with like-minded young leaders.
This year’s top prize of $5,000 was awarded to Andrew Patterson and Lucas DeClavasio for Toronto Streetcar Safety Murals, which proposes to use colourful artwork painted on the road space between sidewalk stops and streetcars to help keep exiting passengers safe. Judges were impressed by the simplicity and cost effectiveness of the idea and the role it could play improving the safety of pedestrians and transit users. Honourable mentions went to Urban Chats for their real-time speech translation stations and Double Exposure for their app that would bring history back to life through the use of augmented reality. Oxford is proud to partner again with NXT City, and help support tomorrow’s city builders, customers and partners.
Meanwhile, Oxford is making its own waves in connecting office workers to public space. Whether it’s our recent extension of the PATH to Toronto’s waterfront, or connecting the occupants of our office buildings to surrounding public spaces through health and wellness events, we too are helping to create what’s NXT for Toronto.
Experiencing New Cultures through Oxford’s Volunteer Sponsorship Program
Through Oxford’s Volunteer Sponsorship Program, Preeti Varma, Manager, Learning Solutions, had the opportunity to travel to Africa with the hope of changing the lives of others. What she didn’t expect was how the experience would change her.
Preeti travelled to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, as part of Me to We’s “Adopt a Village” Development Program. She had the opportunity to work alongside community members, leaders and learners from the tribe to understand their challenges and to be a part of the long-term sustainable solutions that are being implemented to empower entire communities to break out of the cycle of poverty.
Preeti’s initial thoughts upon landing were quickly replaced by a deep realization of the power of community: “In the Maasai community, there is no individualism. The entire community is a supportive unit – they share what they have, so they have what they need. They are profoundly grateful for the things we often take for granted – rain for their crops, education for young girls, and being able to listen to the US election on the radio, despite having to walk 8 kilometres to the nearest one. The Maasai are a testament to the human capacity for resilience. Hard work is a way of life there, and I experienced the satisfaction and thrill of helping build a school with my own hands.”
“I am so lucky to work for an organization that cares so deeply about others and believes in taking action to impact change,” says Preeti. “In representing Oxford on my volunteer sponsorship opportunity, I continued to develop as a community leader and an ambassador for Oxford in our global community.”
In October 2014, an initiative involving all Oxford’s greater Toronto area shopping centres was created to raise funds for the not-for-profit group, Youthdale Treatment Centre. The Youthdale Treatment Centre is a non-profit, charitable community agency that supports youth from the ages of 12 to 18 by offering outpatient consultations, residential treatment and psychiatric crisis response. Oxford’s shopping centres donated “new” items that had been turned in to lost and found and never picked up between October and December 2014. While collecting these items, representatives of the Youthdale team were blown away by the overwhelming positive feelings of goodwill received from each of the shopping centres. This initiative generated over $11,000 in value to be auctioned off to raise funds for Youthdale.
In 2016, all of Oxford’s shopping centres in Ontario, Hillcrest Mall, Scarborough Town Centre, Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Square One Shopping Centre, and Upper Canada Mall, were involved in the Youthdale Lost and Found initiative. Overall, this initiative generated a total collection of donated items worth over $22,000 in value, doubling the amount collected in 2014. These items were used by the Youthdale team in making gift baskets for a silent auction. These funds helped create even more services for the Youthdale community, enabling them to continue offering mental health services for children and their families, and created opportunities to send these youth to camp.
Elevated Eats at Yorkdale
In the summer 2016, Yorkdale Shopping Centre built an outdoor rooftop urban farm, aptly named Elevated Eats, utilizing parking spaces at its on-site office tower. The goal of Elevated Eats was to enhance food education and food choices for everyone. The urban farm set out to donate all grown food to local food banks, and create a space to serve as an educational playground for the area youth.
To celebrate the launch, City TV’s Frank “Frankie Flowers” Ferragine was on hand, assisting the team with planting and education. Throughout the summer, Frankie and 10 volunteers tended to the garden.
The educational component consisted of 10 lesson plans for grades 1–3 based on the Ontario Curriculum. Various lessons looked at nutrient recycling, types of bags in the garden, hands-on gardening skills, pollination, healthy soils, plant anatomy and more.
During the first harvest in June, Elevated Eats was able to fill five crates with leaf and butter crunch lettuce. Over the course of the growing season, the garden produced more than 30 varieties of seasonal vegetables and fruits including green beans, swiss chard, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, lettuce and tomatoes. Staff located in the office tower also were able to enjoy the space and would make time to take their lunch outside.
Looking forward, the crates that contain the plots can eventually be relocated to a larger growing area at Yorkdale. All vegetables grown from the garden were donated to the Daily Bread Food Bank.
Elevated Eats would not have been possible without the support of Frankie Flowers, Bradford Greenhouses, Garden Gallery, Scotts Miracle-Gro Canada, Southwest Greens, IFCO, and Bonnie Plants.
Hoarding for Humanity Puts Waste to Good Use
At one time, temporary construction enclosures made of drywall (also known as hoarding) created a lot of waste at our shopping centres. Used to enclose storefronts undergoing renovations, the drywall was not typically re-used after its short useful life. To remedy the problem, Oxford became a leading partner of Hoarding for Humanity. Partnered with Habitat for Humanity Canada, Hoarding for Humanity puts hoarding to use in charitable community building projects.
Oxford has more participating properties and has donated more hoarding than anyone else in the program. To date, Scarborough Town Centre, Square One, Hillcrest Mall, Upper Canada Mall and Oxford Urban Properties have donated more than 113,000 square feet of hoarding. Laid end-to-end, these drywall sheets would reach the height of 16 CN Towers! That's a lot of waste diverted from landfill, and a win-win for all involved.