It’s an area with many challenges, but life in the North End looked pretty bright last Thursday night.
Aboriginal Visioning for the North End and North End Community Helpers Network held its 10th annual Lighting up the Avenue on Dec. 5 at Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre (472 Selkirk Ave.), adjacent Powers Park and the Indian Family Centre (470 Selkirk Ave.).
"It’s a report-back session, an annual general meeting that we have but we do it up quite big," said Kristi Havens, chair of North End Community Helpers Network.
"Aboriginal Vision for the North End started 10 years ago and every year they do a report back to the community to let them know what they’ve been doing to bring positivity to the North End and bring to light any issues, but that sort of gets glossed over because we have a community feast, entertainers and a Santa visit, and we light up the amphitheatre at Powers Park and then we sing Christmas carols."
Denise Everett, a volunteer at Aboriginal Visioning for the North End, said Lighting up the Avenue is important to the community because it shows proof of a united North End neighbourhood.
"It’s good for the community because the community is seeing that there are people who actually care," Everett said. "I’m a community member. I live right on Selkirk Avenue. I’m now giving back to the community that once helped me, because there’s so many organizations here that helped me get to where I am now."
At Lighting up the Avenue, giving back included actual gifts. Prior to the event, Havens said Santa had enough presents for 500 children. Over 40 gift baskets were also raffled off.
Jean Pelletier from Aboriginal Visioning said the gifts are a big deal for low-income earners in the community.
"Some people don’t get a present at Christmas," Pelletier said. "Some people don’t have money to buy a present for somebody they love, so they get a chance at winning something, taking it home for themselves or gifting it to somebody they love."
The positive vibes were visible at the jam-packed Ndinawe before the street lighting ceremony, with community members sipping on hot chocolate and crooning karaoke Christmas carols, including one rousing rendition of White Christmas that got the whole room singing along.
"If you look around, most of the community members here already know each other," Pelletier said. "This is bonding, seeing old friends. They get to sit down, enjoy some entertainment, get a hot meal, and then they have a chance to get a prize.
"Everybody’s having a good time. Everybody’s smiling."