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BIG IDEAS Newsletter Returns
Once again, our newsletter ended up having too much summertime fun. When we finally located it, headed for one more bacchanalian music festival, we had to lure it back with promises of more pictures and less print. Newsletters can be so self-indulgent! Regardless, here it is, uninterrupted until Christmas we hope, bringing you leading-edge ideas that make you much, much smarter (oops, we mean better-informed) than your non-profit colleagues.
What I Did On My Summer Vacation
As so many BIG IDEAS readers have done before him, Tommy Little writes about how he spent July and August 2023.
Is There Life Out There?
While ordinary Canadians are consumed with interest rates and the price of food and housing, astronomers are looking for signs of life on planets revolving around other stars. Surely, with billions of galaxies each comprised of billions of stars and billions of planets, somewhere life exists. Are we getting close to knowing?
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It’s Always About Community
In this Blast From the Past, Tom talks about a condominium association and its focus on community.
Consultants have their summer vacation destinations decided for them. This makes life easier. No poring over websites to compare cruises with RVing, yurts with BNBs. No need to read the reviews and decide which are genuine. Wherever our clients call home, off we go, at least now the pandemic is over.
Hence my time, and my colleague Nancy Collins’ time, in Dresden.
For the geographically challenged, of which I am one, Dresden is near Chatham. For the more geographically challenged, Chatham is between London and Windsor. Both are close to Highway 401 as it makes its way southwest towards the US border at Detroit.
For the economically challenged, of which I am one, Dresden is agricultural. It has a canning plant, Conagra, that makes Aylmer’s tomato products. Besides tomatoes, area crops include seed corn, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cucumbers, pumpkins, green peas, field peppers and sugar beets. It is the breadbasket of Canada.
For the historically challenged, of which I am one, Dresden was a destination in the mid-1800s for American slaves seeking a better life. Among them was Josiah Henson, who was “the driving force behind the Dawn Settlement (located close to Dresden), a model community for former slaves….Its goal was to employ and educate former slaves, and a focal point of the settlement was the British-American Institute, an industrial school.” Henson “…was also involved in the Underground Railroad, and he served as a model for the title character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1851–52)”. He is the first Black man to be featured on a Canadian stamp.
Today, you can visit the Josiah Henson Museum of African-Canadian History, which “… recognizes the accomplishments of Josiah Henson through interpretive videos, interactive exhibits, numerous artifacts and tours that reflect the Black experience in Canada. The two-hectare (five-acre) site consists of the Josiah Henson Interpretive Centre, with its Underground Railroad Freedom Gallery and North Star Theatre, plus three historical buildings – including the Josiah Henson house – two cemeteries, a sawmill and numerous artifacts that have been preserved as a legacy to these early pioneers.”
For the cuisinely challenged, of which I am not one, given I currently go around 230 (pounds that is), Dresden is the home of the Union Block Bakery. Situated in a former shoe store on a corner on main street, Union Block is the creation of Kathy Kiar, an accountant who found culinary religion in the form of a café of her own, serving great sandwiches and even better desserts, in part by relying heavily on local suppliers. On our last visit, Nancy opted for the Bakery’s special offering of six pastries for $12.99, because just one butter tart, or one fudge brownie, or other taste treat, wouldn’t be nearly enough for the long drive home.
For the accommodation challenged, of which I was one, there is the Hub & Spoke BnB, also right in the downtown. If you have ever stayed at the Retro, an upscale hotel in downtown Chatham, the Hub & Spoke will look very familiar, with good reason. The owner of H&S, Matt Lessard, also a builder, was involved in the renovation of the historic building that produced the Retro. He put those lessons to work converting a storefront into two very visitor-friendly suites for anyone spending time in Dresden. A beautiful example of repurposing existing space.
Just caution, BIG IDEAS readers: when you are searching for information about Dresden, be sure to specify Dresden ONTARIO. On one of our sojourns, Nancy was checking on places to eat and googled “Dresden”. She was amazed with the number and variety of options, that is, until she realized that they were all located in Dresden GERMANY.
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Board Recruitment (Stop the BIG LIE)
Member and Director Qualifications
Provides details about the three key duties of a Board - Leadership, Oversight and Managing Itself
Besides going to Dresden, summer gave me the opportunity to watch more educational videos about the Universe and our expanding knowledge of its origin and current state.
Of all the themes being explored in these videos, the predominant one is the search for life beyond Earth. This is due in large measure to the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope last year. JWST can identify planets revolving around stars, as well as the characteristics of those planets’ atmospheres, in spite of the miniscule size of a planet compared with a star, and their distance from JWST. While this won’t allow scientists to determine whether life exists, the composition of their atmospheres will provide powerful hints.
Meanwhile, it is possible life exists within our solar system. Of the planets, Mars is a candidate and maybe Venus. More likely are the moons Europa and Enceladus that revolve around Jupiter and Saturn respectively and which are believed to contain liquid water oceans under their frozen exteriors.
Latecomers to flying, millions of years after birds and even dinosaurs, humans first got off the ground in balloons, then gliders. Adding engines for propulsion, we finally stayed aloft, at least for short periods, seconds actually, in the early 1900s. Over the 100-odd years since, we have managed not just to stay aloft but to exit our planet, reaching all the other large bodies within our solar system and sending five space craft beyond it.
If other aspects of our world seem to be in disarray, we can take some solace in such a fantastic accomplishment. Having done so much so quickly, can the discovery of life, some kind of life, somewhere, be far behind?
Blast from the Past is comprised of earlier BIG IDEAS that you may have missed the first time around and that contain brilliant (our word) and helpful (hopefully your word) insights into the sometimes quirky (our word) world of non-profits. This article is about a condominium association that is concerned about community and was first published in 2014.
Last Saturday, my colleague Nancy Moulsdale and I assisted the Board of Humber Bay Shores Condominium Association in addressing a range of planning issues. This non-profit association represents about twenty condos and their Boards of Directors located in southwest Toronto, starting with the Palace Pier and moving west along the lake.
One of the things that impressed us was the number of events HBSCA sponsors each year to enhance the sense of community in that area. These include a spring lakefront cleanup, a regular summer/fall farmers market, a waterfront festival, Shakespeare in the Park, a family skate and a putting contest. Any revenue it generates through these activities goes to support the work of the Association.
Of course HBSCA focuses on other issues too, like transportation and taxation, but one of its key commitments is making Humber Bay Shores more livable for condo owners/renters and those visiting the neighbourhood. We were struck by the fact that “community” is as important a concept to this group as it is to the many human service organizations we work with.
2023 Update: In revisiting the HBSCA website in September 2023, nine years later, HBSCA’s initiatives remain the same: spring cleanup, farmers market, waterfront festival. “Community” endures.