‘Tis the season for red – for more reasons than one
by Justyne Edgell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Uxbridge is on the edge of the holiday season, the season of red, white and green. There will be more red this year, however – as of Monday, Durham Region is in the Red-Control zone of the province’s COVID-19 framework. With rising case counts in the GTA, Durham is now under tighter restrictions in an attempt to control virus transmission north of the city.
Social gatherings are now limited to five people indoors and 25 outdoors. Businesses and workplaces are required to have advanced safety plans, precautions and screenings in place. Bars and restaurants have limited serving hours, and all non-essential travel should be avoided.
It’s the traveling between regions that has many of local business owners wary about accepting customers in person.
“While we always want to encourage business it is a worry,” says Kimberley Kelland of Kimberley Kelland Fashions on Brock St. E.
One idea that came out of a Monday evening BIA member Zoom meeting was to ask customers for ID before entering stores to verify whether they are from Durham, and not from a greater impacted area.
Rebecca Harman, owner of The Bridge Social, doesn’t want to ward off out of town visitors just yet.
“About 90 per cent of our customers are visitors from out of town anyway, and always have been. People who come to use our trails and then shop. We couldn’t survive without their business.”
Harman says she and her staff are being just as careful now as they have been throughout the past nine months of the pandemic, and will continue as far into the future as needed.
“We will keep offering online shopping and curbside pick-up for anyone who is uncomfortable coming into the store. We are staying positive, remembering there there will always be risks, no matter what you are doing in life.”
Keeping safe options open for all customers, is something business will be keeping in mind this holiday shopping season.
“I will be offering online shopping, porch pick up as well as delivery, for any customers who are looking to shop but would rather not come in in-person,” says Kelland. “Since we have a small store, I’m also asking that my customers call before entering, just so that we can keep track of how many people come in at once.”
Christina Curry, owner of Keith’s Flowers, shares shop space with Kelland. She says she is confident that “the blondes of 14 Brock St. are taking every necessary precaution,” by taking “sanitizing and health of our employees, community and clientele very seriously.”
Uxbridge’s active COVID cases numbers eight, all of which are in home isolation. Durham’s total active case count is 410, with nine currently hospitalized. For daily updates on case numbers, visit durham.ca/COVIDCases
TOWN HALL – Notes from the November 23 Council Meeting
by Roger Varley
Council moves against hate symbols: Uxbridge council passed an amendment to the township’s sign by-law on Monday, making it an offence to display signs which contain any pictures, text or symbols that are offensive or hateful.
A report from deputy clerk Josh Machesney said it is not the aim of the by-law to interfere or limit freedom of expression, but it will ban signs which are “indecent, offensive, or promote violence, hatred, contempt, or discrimination.”
Councillor Bruce Garrod commented that the by-law amendment “shows the municipality has stepped up in a big way.”
In response to a question about anti-abortion demonstrations that occur at times at the intersection of Brock and Toronto Streets, with some signs that some people find offensive, clerk Debbie Leroux said the township will have to take a careful approach.
“It’s something we can take a look at, but we have to be careful,” she said, adding there is still freedom of speech and expression. “It could be addressed if circumstances warrant.”
Senior’s centre to be fully accessible: In a report to council, deputy treasurer Tobi Lee said the township has received just over $128,500 from the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream, which provides $250 million in combined federal-provincial funding to local governments across the province. Investments under the program are aimed at supporting public infrastructure, with no money having to come from municipal coffers.
Lee said township staff recommended that the money be used to make the senior’s centre fully accessible. Council approved her recommendation.
Township displays flag of a different stripe
by Roger Varley
A small group gathered at the township offices on Friday to unveil a flag marking Transgender Day of Remembrance.
In keeping with the township’s flag policy, the blue, pink and white striped banner will be displayed in the lobby of the offices for the next three or four weeks, but not on the flagpoles outside.
On hand for the unveiling were Mayor Dave Barton, deputy mayor Willie Popp, councillor Pam Beach and Rev. Elizabeth Allen, who heads PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Durham NW.
Allen, a member of the Canadian International Metaphysical Ministry, said the day is set aside to honour transgender people who have died or otherwise been victims of violence because of their status.
“The suicide rate is incredibly high,” she said. “The murder rate is incredibly high. We remember those who fought for their rights. It’s difficult to be transgender and survive. They need a time to be honoured and remembered.”
Allen claimed the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969, which eventually led to the international gay right movement, were started by a transgender woman.
She said discrimination against transgender people usually begins with bullying at school.
“Events like this can help eradicate bullying,” she said.
Allen said the coloured stripes on the flag represent those who identify as men, those who identify as women and those who identify as neither. She said it is generally accepted that approximately 10 per cent of any given community identifies with the LGBTQ community.
A few minutes after the flag was unveiled, a township worker lowered the flags on the township flagpoles to half-mast in honour of OPP constable Marc Hovingh, who was killed on duty on Manitoulin Island the day before.
Bicycle packers wanted by Africycle
by Lisha Van Nieuwenhove
It’s that time of year again – not only for gift giving here at home, but also for Uxbridge charity Africycle to load up a shipping container destined for Malawi, Africa, sending donated bicycles to the locals there. And Africycle is looking for help packing that container.
On Saturday, Nov. 28, between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., volunteers are asked to gather at the new location of the Africycle container, 14 Victoria St., Uxbridge (across from the Second Wedge Brewing Co.). All volunteers are asked to wear a mask and bring appropriate work clothes/gloves.
Africycle collects donated bicycles in Canada and ships them to Malawi, meeting the mobility needs of the people in Zomba, Malawi, a district of 600,000 people. The Africycle shops in Malawi help provide a livelihood for the locals who operate them, as well as supply better quality, affordable bicycles to members of the community. The project ensures that Malawians have a better opportunity to access healthcare, education and markets, so that they can attain a healthier, more sustainable quality of life.
Africycle has also developed a bicycle loan financing program that helps women in rural areas gain access to mobility that would otherwise not be available to them. Africycle has now trained women in these villages to manage and enrol new beneficiaries to the program.
This past year, Africycle donated bikes to needy causes as well. One such donation was to 20 young girls who were rescued from early childhood marriages. These bikes now allow the girls to attend school regularly and receive support from the local chief and her support network. Africycle also supports 500 children annually in orphan care programs and uses funds to pay for school supplies and school fees.
Note: Africycle no longer accepts bike donations at the Habitat for Humanity parking lot on Reach St. Bikes are now accepted ONLY at the 14 Victoria St. location.
For more information, visit https://www.africycle.org
Trail Capital gets a ‘Holiday Trail’
by Roger Varley
Already officially recognized as the Trail Capital of Canada, Uxbridge is about to open a new, temporary trail: the Holiday Trail.
The aim is to encourage both visitors and local residents to visit and support the retailers in the downtown area by tying into the Optimist Club’s annual Fantasy of Lights. The festival runs from Dec. 5 to Jan. 2 in Elgin Park and features lighted displays installed by local businesses, organizations and families.
Uxbridge tourism co-ordinator Lisa John-Mackenzie said the idea of the Holiday Trail is to promote a journey through the Fantasy of Lights and the downtown shopping area. Thirteen downtown business have joined in the initiative, decking out their windows with Christmas displays to help lure shoppers to visit before or after the car drive through the Fantasy of Lights. Among the holiday themes are “The Nutcracker comes to Life,” presented by the Bridge Social and Blue Heron Books, and “Santa’s Workshop,” presented by the Lemonade Stand. Children can receive a wave through the window from Santa and Mrs. Claus, hosted by H. Bee Architecture, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday to Saturday from Dec. 5 to Dec. 19.
The shops are also offering online shopping, with curb-side pick-up available.
Several food establishments along the Culinary Trail will offer a range of hot drinks, snacks and meals to go.
“We are hoping this will provide exposure and awareness of our local businesses and also promote the virtual shopping options,” John-Mackenzie said.
Mayor Dave Barton said the Holiday Trail “is the perfect way for people to safely celebrate the season. I love how our local BIA businesses have joined in on the fun. We all must do our part to ensure our downtown businesses are successful this holiday season and that our loved ones have ways to celebrate safely.”
At council on Monday, Barton also called for support of local businesses, saying: “This is a message to all of council, staff and to our residents.”To check out all the stores taking part, simply type #holiday trail uxbridge on social media.
Uxbridge charities prepare for a COVID Christmas
by Justyne Edgell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
For those who are less fortunate, the rolling around of the holiday season can often bring added stress, with the worry of providing Christmas gifts and holiday meals. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this year doubly difficult for many families, with the loss of income and the struggles of isolation. Uxbridge is at the ready, however, setting in motion the many charities and support groups that run fundraisers and programs specifically for those in need during the holiday season.
The Uxbridge Loaves and Fishes Food Bank helps to put food on the tables of between 80 and 100 families each month, and will continue operations through the Christmas season.
“We’ll be open for our clients every Wednesday from 1 – 4 p.m., including Dec. 23 and 30,” says Don Metrens, board member of the Food Bank. “If you are new to our Food Bank, please call us in advance to pre-register at 905-852-0392.”
“We thank our generous community for their continued support, and welcome everyone who needs assistance,” says Metrens.
The Salvation Army will also be in operation this holiday season with its hamper program going out to registered families in need this Christmas.
“The hampers will include clothing for the children, and something special for the parents, along with toys for every child, as that’s what Santa brings to children at Christmas, and far be it for me to change Santa’s plans!” says Bev Northeast, chair of the Uxbridge Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army guarantees delivery just before Christmas to ensure families can prepare and wrap gifts as they please, and have them ready for Christmas morning. Money for the hamper program, along with other initiatives it runs throughout the rest of the year, is raised through donations to the Salvation Army Christmas Kettle at fillthekettle.com
“That is the magic of Christmas, what Christmas is all about, and I am pleased that I can be a part of this magic in a small way,” says Northeast.
Another Christmas hamper program helps families specifically with children under 18 who need assistance at Christmas.
“We have businesses, families and individuals who sponsor the families and buy them groceries for Christmas day and gifts for the children,” says Gloria Ross, chair of the Hamper Program. However, this year it will not be items given, but rather gift cards.
“Because of COVID, this year we felt it was safer for all involved that we give out gift cards from local merchants and let the families do their own shopping.” says Ross.
Ideally, organizers would like small denomination gift cards that can be added to others and given to the families in a bundle. Gift cards are needed by the end of November. People who are interested can contact Gloria Ross at 905-852-5659.
The Optimist Club of Uxbridge will be running its two annual fundraisers again this year – the Christmas tree sale at Canadian Tire, and the Uxbridge Optimist Fantasy of Lights, which will be held at Elgin Park from Dec. 5 through Jan. 2.
Esther Veens, program coordinator for Sunrise Pregnancy and Family Support Services admits, “It has definitely been a challenge, ensuring that we are meeting the needs of families in the community amidst the uncertainty and limitations that COVID has created.”
After moving most of its programming to Zoom or to outdoor sessions, Sunrise is now back meeting indoors, in the basement of the Uxbridge Baptist Church. As for their annual Christmas “Angel Tree,” drive which usually runs at a local school, Veens says it is a little different this year and will be open to all community members who wish to donate.
“They will receive the age and gender of a child who is part of our programs and can purchase an educational toy(s) and book for them. We will arrange for drop off or pick up of the items by Dec. 7. These gifts will be part of our annual Christmas party for Sunrise families in mid-December.”
Bakersville is going virtual
The Animated Gingerbread Village in Port Perry is – like everything else in 2020 – going virtual.
Every December, volunteers assemble a miniature, magical winter wonderland with gingerbread creations made by the community, and put them on display in the Kent Farndale Gallery at the public library. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this can’t happen this year, but that isn’t stopping the little village, or its volunteers.
“We may not be able to come together to celebrate the holiday season, but we would still like to spread the Christmas spirit,” explains Tracy Pastic, a member of the Bakersville Gingerbread Village committee.
As always, anyone can enter a creation and there are no admission fees. There also is no deadline, theme or size limit.
“Building a gingerbread house from scratch, or even by using a kit, is a great family activity; especially when cooped up inside,” says Pastic.
Adding external decorations is usually done by the committee when the village is assembled in the library. This time it’s up to the entrant to bring his or her creation to life from the comfort of home. Entrants are asked to take a few photographs and post them with a description on the Bakersville: Animated Gingerbread Village Facebook page.
“Over the years, we’ve heard some funny stories about near catastrophes in the kitchen, so small anecdotes about the process would also be welcome,” says Pastic.
The Facebook page is open for everyone to access and enjoy.
“We can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!” laughs Pastic.
COVID testing eligibility – here’s what you should know
by Justyne Edgell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Ontario is now in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the province has recently updated who can get tested and where. To be eligible for testing at a COVID assessment centre you must fit into one of the following categories: be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by the Health Department or the COVID Alert app; be a resident or staff member of a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified by the Health Department; be eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care.
If you qualify for testing at an assessment centre, below are some local options you have for testing:
Markham-Stouffville CAC: same-day appointments are available, you must first register at 289-378-2419
Ross Memorial Hospital: drive-through option (first come first serve)
Southlake Hospital: same-day appointments, you must register first by calling 905-895-4521 ext. 2162 option #1.
All those who do not qualify for testing at a COVID Assessment Centre, including those who are asymptomatic but personally wish to be tested, can be swabbed at a participating pharmacy.
Social gathering counts remain at 25 people outdoors and 10 indoors, with maintained physical distancing. It is encouraged that in situations where two meters of distance between people is difficult or not possible, face coverings should be worn.
More information regarding the current situation of the COVID pandemic, testing procedures and self-assessments can be found at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/ or https://www.durham.ca/en/health-and-wellness/novel-coronavirus-update.aspx
COVID can’t keep a Co-operator down
by Lisha Van Nieuwenhove
One of Uxbridge’s more established insurance companies is almost new again, thanks to the passion one man brings to an industry that many might consider staid or dull.
Financial advisor Jeff MacLeod came to The Co-operators office in Uxbridge in January of this year, and was just beginning to know his way around when the COVID-19 pandemic landed. This made it challenging to get to know his new clients and their needs better, as he likes to do his consultations in person.
“It’s okay to do home or auto insurance online, but for life insurance, it’s difficult to do that way because those interviews can sometimes be two hours long!” says MacLeod.
It’s the personal interaction that MacLeod says he enjoys most about his line of work.
“I’m really dedicated to what we do, to helping people. I like to take the time to view a portfolio and really advise people on what their options are, what they should do,” says MacLeod.
He also says that he likes to take a holistic approach to insurance.
“At renewal time, I like to really look at a client’s current situation and make suggestions based on what’s happening now, not on what happened five years ago.”
Eighteen years in the business means MacLeod knows exactly what to talk about with each client. He began his career in insurance with a competitor in 2002, and became and advisor that specialized in life, commercial disability and wealth (RRSPs, TFSAs) insurance. After spending eight years as an independent broker for another company, he decided to join a team that was 100 per cent Canadian owned, so The Co-operators seemed a natural fit.
“That was a big one for me, being all Canadian owned. I saw that the reps from Co-operators really had longevity with the company, and that there was great integration with the community. I haven’t had the chance to do that yet, because of COVID, but I really plan on The Co-operators being a big part of Uxbridge.”