The 519 Church Street Community Centre, located in the ‘Village’ around Church and Wellesley streets in downtown Toronto, has provided progressive facilities to Torontonians since opening its doors in 1976.
For Emma Pratt, a student in University of Guelph-Humber’s Family Community and Social Services program, working as an intern in the centre’s fundraising and development department has been satisfying on a personal level.
“I went to (a) Catholic high school growing up, so I saw a lot of negativity towards the LGBTQ community. For me to be able to work with them and give back in a way feels really rewarding.”
Programs offered at the centre focus on topics like anti-violence and anti-poverty, as well as family services, including queer and transgender parenting.
There’s a group for LGBTQ individuals aged 50 and over.
The centre is home to over 80 community-led programs, a feature Pratt said that she is particularly enthusiastic about.
“A lot of the people that volunteer with the centre at one point or another used services that they provided,” she said. “I think it’s awesome to see people giving back to something that helped them.”
Increasing awareness of off-campus resources is an important job for Maureen Carnegie, Co-Chair of Humber’s Gender and Sexual Diversity Committee, who recently organized a field trip to the 519 for Humber’s LGBTQ student group.
“It is a hub for the LGBTQ community in Toronto, with quality and responsive programming,” Carnegie said. “It’s a very welcoming and interesting place.”
Chris Coletta, 19, a student in the University of Guelph-Humber’s Media Studies program, had a different stance.
“I don’t like to make a big deal out of being gay,” he said.
“As much as I respect the support and all that it has to offer, I personally distance myself from these organizations due to the fact that I don’t like to exploit me being a part of the LGBTQ community.”
Yet Coletta is still ultimately appreciative of the work being done toward promoting acceptance and approval.
“It’s a reminder that not everyone has negative opinions,” he said.
And for Pratt, her work supporting the community was validated after spotting recent mayoral candidate Olivia Chow at the centre’s recent annual gala.
“Seeing a political figure so involved in what we do is really nice to see,” she said.