People of the Danforth
There’s a peculiar phenomenon that I stumbled across on the internet the other day: The Danforth Community group on Facebook, filled with missing pets and keys, business ventures, quirky events, and a bunch of really lovely people. After my initiation (my request to join was approved), it felt like I had opened a treasure chest of community secrets. I dug through hundreds of posts discussing matters related to the Danforth, and honestly, I got jealous.
I don’t live on the Danforth, nor do I visit the area often, but looking through the group unleashed an itching curiosity as to what made their community page so lively—the members were so helpful and outgoing. People were willing to return lost items, offer their backyards for neighbourhood dogs to play in, and occasionally help out sick raccoons in the area. I needed answers as to what made the Danforth unique—so what better way to do that than to post on their group. Surely enough, four members generously accepted my request for an interview.
The first person I met was Lanrick Bennett Jr., the Executive Director of The Laneway Project. This initiative is focused on improving laneways all over Toronto for sustainability and accessibility. He’s also “the first Bicycle Mayor of Toronto.” Lanrick is dedicated to improving bike lane safety, a project affecting him personally, because so much of what he and his family does is related to cycling. Amidst the most challenging part of his year (losing his father from Parkinson’s and dementia complications), cycling made a difference. “My son Jackson and I were able to pay tribute to [my dad] during the first Bike for Brain Health by Baycrest. Riding over 25 kilometres and raising over $2000 to support their research.” Lanrick is also fighting for better housing options on the Danforth, to help “our homeless community find safe housing…And tackling food insecurity.”
Lanrick gave me a sense of the type of people living in the area—an incredible first impression from meeting my first citizen of the Danforth. But I couldn’t expect everyone to be as concerned with the people and community as Lanrick. Or so I thought.
Cindy Ramintang is an acupuncturist living on the Danforth who, with her peers, opened AcuHeal Toronto, an acupuncture clinic in the area. Cindy and I talked about what’s important to her—her family and her practice—but what stood out was her wisdom on health. “Everyone is so busy…they forget their health is the most important. People come to see me, they get injured and say, ‘how can I work?’ You got injured! It’s you first.” Cindy feels most fulfilled when seeing positive change in her patients. With acupuncture, “you’re waiting for the magic to happen—sometimes it doesn’t. So, when it happens, it’s really great,” she says. “Especially with the terminally ill.”
It’s evident how much Cindy cares about the wellbeing of others. I think that’s something we need more of in our lives.
The next person I spoke to was Mark Razon. Unlike the others, Mark doesn’t live on the Danforth, but (just like me) he wants to. “I’ve got to convince my wife to give up our driveway.” He’s worked in the area for eight years, now at his new gym, Zone W Training, “a female-focused strength and cardio group training studio.” With the pandemic baby boom, he’s noticed an increase of families in the area, noting that a women-focused gym would be beneficial in a “family-friendly neighbourhood” like the Danforth. “Most of my clients are busy moms and busy women.”
Mark’s focus is on the importance of community. Being involved and meeting other people is key to business, and that’s crucial on the Danforth. “The neighbourhood is very ‘shop local,’ very supportive as a whole.” Creating trust with the people of the Danforth is vital since, “It’s a small neighbourhood within a big city. It has that small-town feel.” Everyone knows everyone and if you’re trusted, then you’re supported.
“Everyone knows everyone and if you’re trusted, you’re supported.”
My final interview with a citizen of the Danforth was with Biljana Durickovic, a chiropractor at Flourish Chiropractic Studio. Meeting Biljana fully convinced me on the character of those who live and work on the Danforth—our conversation felt the most uplifting. This year, Biljana created a Facebook group, Stressed Out and Overwhelmed Women of East York, where she shares how to manage stress. “I don’t think anybody is going to come out of the last couple of years unscathed…For me, it was all the pivoting—that was very stressful.” As someone who’s also acquainted with Cindy, she plans on “inviting other practitioners like Cindy…And bringing in their expertise to support folks who are stressed out.” In our discussion, I opened up about my stress, and although I don’t live in the area, Biljana kindly invited me to the group, “you go to school here, so it’s okay.” I’m now a regular visitor of that group page.
Aligning with her lifestyle and career, Biljana’s top value is health. “[If] your health is well, you’re limitless in a way.” Especially when dealing with the harsh realities of life and the constant “pivoting,” health is fundamental. Regardless of what you do, “life is going to happen to you. But you’re going to bounce back faster and easier than if you’re working from a lower level of health. That’s why it’s really important to me.”
“Community is a way for us to heal.”
After these four conversations, I understood the reasons why The Danforth Community Facebook group was so captivating. People on the Danforth genuinely care about one another. They care for each other’s health and safety. They care for their neighbourhood. They put effort in creating sincere connections with people they come across, and as someone viewing the Danforth from a distance, I see why their Facebook group is so engaging—because the people are compassionate. Maybe it really was a stroke of luck that I only met empathetic people, but I’d like to believe that these individuals are really who the Danforth houses. To them, community matters. Like Biljana says, “we need each other… Community is a way for us to heal. We need that connection.”