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Kensington_Market

As a lot of you may already know, major commercial developer Riocan wants to build a 3-story shopping mall including a 2-story suburban-size Walmart and parking lot at Bathurst/College right between Kensington Market and Little Italy. The City’s official plan doesn’t permit malls like this to be built close to residential neighbourhoods, which is why the Ontario Municipal Board has already once rejected the mall. But Riocan is applying to have the area re-zoned to let them build the mall.

As a response to impending threats from developers, a group of local artists in Kensington Market have come together to raise awareness and money for the protection of Kensington’s unique culture. The campaign will kick off June 27th, with the “Save Me” group art exhibition. The exhibition will showcase a collection of original artwork and live performances by artists living in or inspired by the neighbourhood, with proceeds going towards establishing a trust for the creation of fixed-rent, live-work and retail spaces for artists in Kensington Market.

Date: Thursday, June 27th
Time: 7-11 PM
Location: 185 Augusta Ave, Kensington Market
Cost: FREE

In addition to the exhibition, local residents through Change.org have launched a petition to enable city planner Liora Freedman to put a stop to the development proposal.

SIGN THE PETITION HERE

For more info visit: 185augusta.com

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SickKids_Scrubs_2

In a city that is constantly go go go, it was heart-warming to see some of Toronto’s most influential take a moment to support SickKids Hospital at this year’s 12th annual Scrubs in the City: BLOCK PARTY.

This year’s festivities took place in support of the new, 21-storey, 750,000 square ft., state-of-the-art facility called, The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, set to open in September 2013 downtown. It will bring along with it, over 2000 scientists, trainees and child health research staff from SickKids to join forces in hopes of making new discoveries and develop new ideas in regards to children’s health.

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Over 800 people gathered at the beautiful Evergreen Brick Works, including our contest winner Nazneen Qureshi, and raised a record-breaking $400,000. “We were thrilled with the turn out of this year’s Scrubs in the City event, and we want to thank all of our guests and sponsors who made the evening truly memorable,” said Amy Milne, Director of Events at SickKids Foundation. “All of the funds raised make an important difference for the thousands of families whose lives are deeply impacted by the research and discoveries that happen at SickKids.”

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Our personal highlights of the night were performances by two SickKids patients who totally rocked the block! Jake Zeldin AKA Lil JaXe is a 14-year old rapper who has a severe stutter but it miraculously goes away anytime he starts to rap. Amanda Raya who is a visually impaired 14-year old singer/songwriter, also took to the stage, tickled the keyboard and sang, bringing the audience to a wild applause.

The next Scrubs in the City event is set for June 12th 2014, don’t miss out!

For more info check out: facebook.com/sickkidsfoundation

Posted by Samira Zia Rehman

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Introducing Sandra Sorial

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How many times have we heaved a heavy sigh saying, ‘Man, if I ruled the world…”? We dream about peace on earth, eradication of poverty and for the Tupac hologram to go on tour, right? But there’s always this little voice that chimes in telling you that “you can’t”. We want you to meet Sandra Sorial of SALT, who is showing Toronto and the world what happens when you tell that little voice to shut up and just go with your gut.

“SALT is a social enterprise that supports local artisans in impoverished communities around the world by telling their stories and marketing their products around the globe” explains Sandra, who founded SALT in the summer of 2011 along with her partner, Rafik Riad. It’s a simple idea that is creating a huge effect. For example, when a woman living in the slums of Cairo is able to sell a handmade silk tablet cover or change purse using traditional, hand-woven techniques through SALT’s efforts, it can provide her with an income, a chance to seek out education, health care and not to mention, recover her dignity and self-worth. Sandra recalls, “One artisan I remember, when asked why she does what she does, said: ‘this work to me, is freedom’.”

So where did her yearning to extend a helping hand beyond borders come from? She talked about a special day at school for kids in her motherland, Egypt, called, “Visite Sociale”, which is essentially a day where children are volunteering in the community, exposing them to all the daily difficulties of some less fortunate. She says, “It made us realize from our early childhood that there are a lot of inequalities and there is a lot of room for us to do something about it. It was also the time we realized that doing something good is not out of privilege, it is a responsibility.”

Witnessing inequalities first hand was a harsh reality that propelled her to dedicate her work to help serving those in need. After years of hard work, gaining experience globally about what works and what doesn’t, Sandra and Rafik combined minds to create SALT.

“We started with one partnership and now have grown our enterprise to over 10 organizations serving thousands of artisans especially women and individuals with special needs. Our first event was an open day that sold out! Before our website launched, our line was carried at Toronto’s Ritz Carlton and now our online store is up and we are always onto greater heights.”

Every single day we make decisions on who pockets our money, at the hair salon, restaurant, the mall, etc. If you take few moments to educate yourself on who you are supporting, you can change your habits in a way that helps someone out there struggling and praying for better days. “We are so lucky to be living in a diverse city like Toronto and privileged with access to information. Ask questions, get informed, shop ethically! It’s fun!”

To shop or learn more visit: saltmatters.com

Posted by Samira Zia Rehman

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Toronto LGBT Film Festival

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It’s kind of like TIFF, but with a twist. Yesterday marked the official kick off of the 23rd annual Toronto LGBT Film Festival put on by Inside Out. Inside Out is a non-profit registered charity which makes its mission to educate and unite people of all sexual orientations, race, ages and abilities through the art of film.

In 1998, Inside Out initiated the Queer Video Mentorship Program where youth under the age of 25, who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual, are mentored as they create their first film expressing ideas and feelings about the LGBT community. What’s really awesome is that these films not only get screened at the Toronto festival but also around the world and are distributed to schools and communities free of charge.

What started out as just a small group of people watching films by and for the LGBT community, is now the largest festival of its kind in Canada and draws over 35,000 people including the some of the biggest movers-and-shakers in the industry. It lasts 11 days and in addition to screenings, it will feature panel discussions, artist talks and of course, lot of parties! Their sincere effort to bridge gaps and offer guidance, education and acceptance among the youth is undoubtedly challenging attitudes and changing lives.

To get tickets or learn how to get involved: insideout.ca

Posted by Samira Zia Rehman

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Doors Open Toronto

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The 14th annual Doors Open Toronto is back this weekend, May 25-26, with more than 150 buildings of architectural, social, historical and cultural significance. This year’s theme is “Creators, Makers and Innovators” and features many older buildings that have been redesigned, re-invented and re-purposed into modern 21st – century spaces.

Here are just a few featured buildings on our list to see. For a complete list CLICK HERE.

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Native Family and Child Services

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Riverdale Hub

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Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

For more info: toronto.ca/doorsopen/2013

Follow @1LOVETO #DoorsOpenTO

Wendel Clark x Dixon Hall

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The kids of Dixon Hall hit the Ryerson rink at Maple Leaf Gardens with a special guest around for the ride, Toronto Maple Leafs alum, Wendel Clark.

Dixon Hall is an organization dedicated to serving “those with the greatest need, to give hope, dreams and possibilities to those who would otherwise have none.” Since 1929, they’ve continually grown and expanded their breadth of services to promote a better quality of life for Toronto’s ‘at-risk’ youth and homeless people. They also have senior services as well as providing connections and links to jobs and job training to those falling on hard times.

Grandparents, parents and children, came out to meet the hockey star, chat and snack on pop chips. Clark, happily signed autographs and talked to us about why coming out and supporting Dixon Hall was important to him saying, “Well, I think it’s great when the kids are active. Activity is the best thing for all our youth and the more active they are the better and what better way than with Canadian sports?” We can tell he’s still a supporter of getting goals accomplished on and off the ice!

For more info: dixonhall.org

Posted by Samira Zia Rehman

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GalaOfLight

The incredible work and accomplishments of Street Haven at the Crossroads is nearly impossible to describe. However, we had the honour of catching a glimpse into their remarkable 47 years at their annual “Gala of Light”.

Street Haven, was founded by the late, Peggy Ann Walpole who worked as a nurse in Toronto in the 50’s. She saw many women come to St. Michaels Hospital to be treated for a variety of problems but felt an unsettling feeling watching them be discharged with no reassurance that they would be cared for or worse, go back to a dark place. So she opened up a small space with one table, four chairs and welcomed those who entered her doors.

Today Street Haven is undisputed anchor in the city, providing food, shelter, and most importantly, hope to women who need healing. They take in those who seek refuge from domestic abuse, substance abuse, women who are sick, homeless, leaving gang life or simply someone who feel as though they have no one in the world; they make it their mission to make a broken woman whole again. Gita Schwartz, Executive Director of Street Haven, says she hopes that more people become aware of the plight of many of the city’s women and understand that helping one woman, creates a domino effect of positivity and hope.

After providing over 43,000 fresh meals, providing support to 78 women in their addiction program, providing emergency shelter to 745 women for over 12,000 nights in just 2011 alone, guests from Toronto and all over the globe gathered at The Fifth Social, to mingle, dance and sip on cocktails in celebration and appreciation of Street Haven’s 47 years running.

Some of the highlights included an intimate performance by Divine Brown, a silent auction benefitting Street Haven and the flipbook station where attendees took home free flipbooks of themselves as a memento of the night. Guests included Cable Pulse 24 Anchor and Gala MC Melissa Grelo, Toronto born Singer/Songwriter Jesse LaBelle and Designer Elizabeth Victoria who all came out to show their support and recognize the life-changing efforts of Street Haven.

To learn how you can help or get help visit: streethaven.com

Posted by Samira Zia Rehman

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ShopSmall

As young entrepreneurs we truly understand how important it is to support small businesses within our communities. We’ve always loved to find those one-of-a-kind neighbourhood gems, so we took the American Express pledge to #ShopSmall and visited 5 of our favourite shops in Toronto.

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Our first stop was Magic Pony on Queen Street West. If you’ve never been there before, let’s just say it makes you feel like a kid again. They have everything from designer toys, cool housewares, giant poster art, plus some hard to find books and magazines. We bought “Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes” by Toronto artist Michael Cho, who we blogged about back in September of 2012.

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We made our way down Queen Street West until we got to Spadina where we ate lunch at What A Bagel! We managed to get the last available table during their busy lunch hour rush and ordered the “Old School” and their vegetarian breakfast. If you get the chance to eat here, ask for the owners Ely or Isaac and tell them that we sent you!

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Our 3rd stop was Another Story Bookshop located in Roncesvalles Village. One of the reasons why we love this independently owned bookstore is because they focus on literary themes such as social justice, equity and diversity. They also highlight local authors and hold book readings and launches for local talent.

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After a long day of shopping we needed to relax and refuel, so we headed to Yorkville to visit our friends at Sotto Sotto for dinner. This famous Italian restaurant has played host to celebrities for years, including Brad Pitt, Oprah, Diddy, and of course our very own Drizzy Drake. If you’re looking for a small, private dinning experience, look no further, Sotto Sotto is perfect for date night. (pay attention fella’s)

Shout out to Angelo for always taking care of us!

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We decided to end off our night with a few cocktails at SpiritHouse located at 487 Adelaide St W at Portland. This specialty “spirit” bar has over 400 bottles to choose from, including a small selection of local beer such as Mill Street Organic, Steamwhistle, Tankhouse and Amsterdam Blonde. Next time you’re looking to try a new drink, try the “Toronto Cocktail”.

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American Express recently conducted a survey to see how Canadians feel about shopping small and “Word-of-mouth” was the #1 way we find out about small businesses in our neighbourhoods. Do you have a favourite Shop Small business? Get out there and spread the word! Show them some love by voting in the Neighbourhood Gems contest on Facebook. Each vote earns you an entry into a draw to win a $50 Amex Gift Card!

We would love to hear about your favourite Toronto business! Tweet your recommendations to @1LOVETO @AmexCanada #ShopSmall

RISE_Poetry

It’s hard growing up these days
And it’s so easy to get lost
Getting caught up in a place
You don’t belong.

VISA is at halfpence
Parents on your conscience
Boss needs some patience
–You’re looking for guidance.

But don’t despair, RISE Poetry, takes care.
It’s for everyone, not just budding Shakespeares;
Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere.
Idle mind, beware.

Creator, Randell Adjei, overflowing with love, started this club
As a step up for youth tryin’ to come up.

“Our movement believes in equality and fairness, a first come first served basis,
Learning something about themselves and their purpose.
I’ve been arrested, I’ve been robbed, I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum”
RISE provides a space for thoughts and expression
Growth and protection
Love and acceptance

I heard David Delisca speak against racial profiling and felt a hum of rage.
Ifrah Hussein reminded us about social stereotypes, from gender to race.
You might even catch Poetic Justice preaching ‘Pac and his anguish,
“Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished”

Getting involved makes sense.
“We’re now looking for volunteers to help out with organizing future events”
Like feeding Toronto’s roaming homeless
“We’re looking for Writers, Web designers, Videographers, a couple of key components.”

April 22nd at Lula Lounge, RISE will celebrate one year!
A perfect night for your inner Poe or Plath to appear.

For more info follow @RisePoetry

Posted by Samira Zia Rehman

Follow @1LOVETO #RISE

ShopSmall

We’ve always loved to support local artists, creators and business owners, which is why we’re so hyped about the new Amex #ShopSmall program. The program is designed to celebrate the significant role that small businesses play in driving Canada’s economy, while adding to the culture and diversity of each unique neighbourhood, and we’ve teamed up with our friends at American Express to help highlight some of our favourite neighbourhood businesses.

We encourage you to join us in taking the pledge to #ShopSmall by supporting your favourite local businesses. These businesses are owned and operated by people just like you, who help to make our communities a better place to live.

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American Express is also looking for Toronto’s Neighbourhood Gem to help celebrate the role small businesses play in our community. Show some love and vote for your favourite Shop Small businesses in the “Neighbourhood Gems” contest!

HOW TO ENTER
- Visit the American Express Canada Facebook page and search for your favourite #ShopSmall business in Toronto
- Vote for your favourite Shop Small Merchant once a day from April 1-21 and you’ll automatically be entered into a daily draw for your chance to win a $50 Amex Gift Card
- The Top 5 businesses with the most votes will move on to the final round of voting
- You can vote from the Top 5 Shop Small Merchants from April 29 – May 5

www.neighbourhoodgems.ca

Good Luck!

Follow @1LOVETO & @AmexCanada #ShopSmall

Introducing Sheyla Abdic

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When Sheyla Abdic made the solo trip to Toronto from Austria to pursue her studies at York University and start a new life, she never thought she’d also find herself smack dab in the middle of an emotionally and mentally troubling situation. No, not that 12 page, single spaced, fully annotated paper, but rather, the firsthand discovery of the stark divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Through media and gossip, Sheyla was starting to have a not-so-pretty picture painted of an area nearby known as, Jane and Finch, a troubled neighbourhood rattled with stigmas and stereotypes. She explains, “Being a naturally curious person, I walked into Driftwood Community Centre at Jane and Finch and began to volunteer my time in order to observe the dynamics of everyday life myself”. She began mentoring the ‘Girl’s Club’ and observed the sub-culture within the area drenched in fear and accustomed to fighting to survive, literally. “There have been many occasions in which one of my girls would start crying, just because of hunger pain. Behavioural problems were prevalent absolutely every single day. Children simply cannot concentrate in school or during play.” The lack of funding and constant struggle to meet the basic needs of the children at Driftwood, gnawed at her subconscious.

Meanwhile, to support herself, Sheyla was using her exceptional academic talents to tutor children from upper class families ready to dish out the dinero for their kids. By putting herself through school by tutoring and scholarships, she understood the enormous power that education has and how it can transform a person’s life. Although everyone has the potential to become a success, not everyone has the necessary means or opportunities.

“I began to ask myself, what if there was an after school program in place that could help Toronto’s high risk youth with their studies by using the same quality tutors that wealthy people would pay for, to volunteer their time, keeping them engaged in academics, while at the same time providing them with financial assistance for their hard work…” So Sheyla developed, The Ace Project which does exactly that and is under the umbrella of her company Ace One Tutors which launched officially after winning a 2011 nation-wide competition for female entrepreneurs called, “Start Something with Alesse”. While pursing her goals towards medicine, Sheyla keeps herself busy with tutoring and The Ace Project.

“I believe it all comes down to not only the choices that people make, but most importantly the opportunities that are presented to them.” Thanks to her initiative and innovative idea, more children will have a leg up on that ladder to the top with an ace up their sleeve.

For more info e-mail Ace One Tutors at: info@aceonetutors.com

Posted by Samira Zia Rehman

Follow @1LOVETO