It was a day bracketed by dignitaries and celebrities, laughter and fun, dreams and possibilities.
It was a day of community at its best.
It began with the invited guests, Acting Minister of Municipal Affairs, Greg Weadick, Minister of Human Services, Manmeet Bhullar, CEO of Cedarglen Living, Scott Haggins and CEO of Boardwalk Residential who was also standing in front of the crowd as Chairman of the Boards of the Calgary Homeless Foundation and The Resolve Campaign, all of whom marked the occasion with their words. Our Emcee, Gerrad Oishi, Acting CEO & Pres of CHF shared his vision of how the property, and homeless will be transformed and then en masse, the group unveiled the plans for Stepping Stone Manor, and wrote the first wishes to be hung in the Wishing Tree as the assembled crowd huddled beneath umbrellas and applauded.
Seven hours later, the day ended with three performers from Cavalia who marked the occasion with their words too. Words they hung in the Wishing Tree as one stepped onto the shoulders of the other and balanced high above our heads, stretching high to place her wish in the upper most branches she could reach.
“We wanted to make our wish hanging different,” the one performer said, the lyrical notes of her French accent trickling in the chilly evening air.
Those of us left at the house applauded their dexterity and daring and agreed, it was different and fitting for the occasion.
And thus the day came to a close.
A day that began with sunshine peeking through grey clouds and then transformed itself into dark skies that showered rain then sleet then snow upon the heads of the almost 100 people who gathered to mark the kick-off of Stepping Stone Manor, the name of the project we were celebrating yesterday.
And then, the speeches concluded, the plans unveiled, the first wishes hung, and the sun shone again!
And still, people stayed to engage and learn and take part in the festivities by hanging wishes in the trees and reading ones already hung. Over the afternoon another 100 people walked by, stopped in, chatted, engaged and hung wishes. Some wishes for community, for the people who would one day reside at Stepping Stone Manor. Some wished for themselves, for loved ones, for the environment and the world. One man, hung wishes with the names and date of birth and end of life of his friends who had died on the streets. “It is my memorial service for them,” he said. It was touching and moving to see the care and thoughtfulness he took in hanging his wishes.
It was the best way to celebrate community and people. There were neighbours, people walking to and from sections of the city. There were people experiencing homelessness. There were school girls completing an assignment on philanthropy and school children running home with their mothers who stopped to make sure they hung their wishes too. Everyone hung wishes. Everyone shared in the spirit. People from all walks of life, including those who brought their dogs as they took their evening strolls and checked out what was going on at 222 15th Ave SW.
And everyone was interested, supportive, appreciative of the work being done.
We constantly heard, “We need more of this housing.” “What a great idea.”
Some, leery of stopping, asked if we were taking donations.
Not at all, though you’re welcome to donate anytime you wish, we told them. Today is about celebration. Today is about hanging wishes on the tree so that your wishes can be part of the wish for communities to be strong, vibrant, welcoming places.
And so they wished.
Had a cookie. A cup of coffee.
They spent time admiring the artwork on the side of the house. The photos on the front as the music played and laughter and chatter filled the air.
It was a wonderful day to celebrate all that makes us strong. All that makes us people. All that makes us a community.