From left: Paula Kirman, Gary Garrison, and Colleen Chapman. Mike Siek
Gary Garrison was surprised to receive the Garry Spotowski Volunteer Appreciation Award at the annual general meeting of the Boyle Street McCauley Community Newspaper Society on November 5, 2019. Gary was chairing the meeting, but staff members Paula E. Kirman (the newspaper’s Editor) and Colleen Chapman (Volunteer Coordinator) managed to introduce the award presentation without his knowledge under the agenda item, “Other Business.”
Paula and Colleen also had a back-up plan in the event that their chair inquired about the award. They planned to tell him that since two Spotowski awards had been given at the society’s 40th anniversary gala on March 9, they would not be offering another one at the AGM.
The Spotowski award recognizes and honours long-term volunteers who have made invaluable contributions to the paper and the community. Using those criteria, it is easy to see that Garrison is exceptionally well qualified.
Gary is a long-term, dedicated volunteer who is retiring from the newspaper’s board after six years (five as chair). He has written articles for the newspaper and is a block carrier.
“It was absolutely wonderful working with Gary,” Paula says, “and I know I speak for all of the staff. He was an incredible chair, with so much wisdom and knowledge. He is an accomplished author and editor, he understands the publishing of a community newspaper, and he helped us through some difficult times. I learned a lot from him.”
The “difficult times” Paula refers to include periods of political turbulence in the community, and the possible demise of the paper this past couple of years due to precarious finances. “He had heavy responsibilities, handled with kindness, strength, and competence,” Paula says.
Gary’s involvement in the McCauley neighbourhood since he moved here in 2003 extends well beyond the newspaper. Board member Mike Siek says, “Gary is a prominent member of the community. I see him at most of the local events I go to, often sharing his songs and poetry.”
Gary co-authored McCauley Then and Now, a booklet about the history of McCauley, with Sara Coumantarakis, and he wrote the copy for smaller booklets about Church Street and Chinatown.
“I moved here because I wanted to be able to live without a car in a place close to downtown where there was a sense of community in the neighbourhood, where people cared about each other,” Gary says. And he stayed because of “the friendliness and hospitality of McCauley and the diversity of people from all over the world, the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic rainbow of people, including homeowners, renters, and people in need all coming together.”
“I am honoured to get this award,” Gary says, “and grateful for the opportunity to be part of the effort to work on a vision for the paper’s future while figuring out what to do to ensure it even had a future. But in all honesty, this was a team effort, and all I did was play my part. I’m glad that was enough to keep the paper going.”
Anita Jenkins is a retired writer and editor who lives in Boyle Street.