Apartment residents build community through Christmas service, regular gatherings

kelly arene tree

Apartment resident Kelly Conant is one of several active knitters who cover two trees that are later donated to the Salvation Army for distribution to needy families.

There may be high-rise apartment dwellers in the city who are effectively insulated from their neighbours.

But the 175 residents of 340 Willowdale Cres. aren’t among them.

Indeed, for at least the last two years, many of them have come together for the Christmas season to reach out to the needy, notably through the Salvation Army and specifically by knitting dozens of mitts and toques.

A unique aspect to the endeavour is where the residents place their knitwear prior to the donation: they hang them on two trees expressly set up for the purpose by superintendents Barb and Larry Park.

But it’s the residents that making the real difference.

Among them is Kelly Conant, who’s been a resident for three years.

“This is our way of doing something tangible for those who need the help,” says Conant. “We enjoy helping out and there are so many of us here that are involved in the project.”

Among them is 99-year-old Clem Saucier, who’s knitted numerous toques for the trees, located in a community room in the apartment building, although he’s currently admitted to Bluewater Health.

Residents also collect canned goods which are donated to the Inn of the Good Shepherd.

One of the resident families is Arene Brown-Parsons (pictured at right with Conant). Arene and her husband Gus Parsons, who delight in the community they’ve seen develop at the building, which is just north of Exmouth and west of Capel.

“This is my calling,” said Arene, who is, like her husband, now retired.

“We really are a community,” she added. “Not only do we do the trees every year, but we have monthly coffee and conversation gathering and potlucks as well.”

And don’t forget the $865 in proceeds from a recent bake sale they donated to the Salvation Army.

“We do what we can, but just as importantly, we’re doing it together,” says Brown-Parsons. “That’s what real community means.”

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