In early 2000, Hamilton Police Officer Cathy Wever was assigned to patrol the Sanford area. She immediately recognized the community’s distress and the incredible struggle facing neighbourhood children and youth. She was appalled by the lack of services offered in the area and dedicated herself to creating a healthier Sanford Community. Cathy joined forces with like-minded Sanford School VP Lori Kyle, and they worked tirelessly to recruit other City partners in an effort to overcome the many barriers to servicing the Sanford area. Although Sanford School was attached to the Norman Pinky Lewis Recreation Centre, there was no accessible community programming for impoverished local residents. The City’s ‘fee-for-service’ model for community programming necessarily excluded neighbourhood children and families who could not afford to pay for services. In addition, Pinky Lewis was a known hangout for area gangs and drug addicts and a frequent site for illegal activity and violence. Cathy and Lori felt that providing Sanford area children/youth with quality recreation opportunities would help generate a sense of community, and would be a major step in alleviating some of the crime and poverty issues plaguing the neighbourhood. The Barton Community Kids partnership committee was formed to help facilitate free after school programs run out of “Pinky” Recreation Centre. Just as some headway was being made, Cathy was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, she passed away in January of 2001, leaving a hole in many hearts, and in the momentum of effort to improve the Sanford Community. Without Cathy, Lori faced diminishing support from Hamilton Police and Pinky Recreation Centre staff.
In September 2001, the City appointed Laura Troccoli-Ormond as Recreation Coordinator at Pinky. Outraged by the exclusion of struggling residents in desperate need of community programming, Laura immediately joined forces with Lori Kyle to advocate for Sanford residents. They believed the City and the School Board had an obligation to operate differently in severely impoverished neighbourhoods to prevent further exclusion of the already disadvantaged. Enlisting collaborative support was an ongoing battle. As they continued to advocate for unique City and School Board program delivery models to serve the Sanford Community, Laura and Lori realized they would have to secure grants to fund local programming. Seeking grant money was considered an interim solution to funding needs until the City and School Board reallocated resources to better service the Sanford Community.
Grant applications and administration required countless volunteer hours from Laura and Lori, but the new funding supported program expansion and renewed resident interest in community activity. They continued to seek more sustainable financial solutions as grant money was limited, indefinite and required frequent reapplication.
In 2004, Public Health Nurse Laura Laverty was assigned to work at Sanford School, where Lori Kyle was now the Principal. First hand witness to the extreme poverty and distress of Sanford children, she joined forces with Kyle and Troccoli-Ormond, focusing on community health promotion. The 3-member Sanford Committee continued to enrich programming, adding school nutrition and healthy cooking components. Sustaining the Sanford School nutrition program was challenging; the school had grown to 800 students and donations were limited and intermittent. Persistent networking led to contact with a young Rotarian named Alex Moroz, a Sanford resident dedicated to improving the quality of life for members of his community. Alex shared the Sanford Committee’s vision and joined their cause, committing support from the Rotary Club of Hamilton. Kyle, Troccoli-Ormond, Laverty and Moroz officially formed the Sanford Community Development Committee, and in March of 2005 they held their first meeting. Around the table sat representatives from the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, Hamilton Public Health, the City Recreation Department, Hamilton Police Department, Hamilton Fire Department, and the Rotary Club of Hamilton.
In 2006, a new school named in honour of the late Cathy Wever, opened to replace Sanford Public School, and the Sanford Community Development Committee was renamed the Wever Community Development Committee (WCDC). As a unique, untraditional, cross-boundary partnership, the WCDC Executive set out to draw on resources to collaboratively create a Wever Community Hub by providing safe, shared social space (Pinky Recreation Centre and Cathy Wever School) and an associated “hub” of programs, services and events promoting community participation, mobilization and resilience.
Over the past eight years, WCDC (now Wever CORE) Sub-committee members have created a unique cooperative environment through their own cross-boundary collaboration, and by reaching out to many public and private community partners. As an official Rotary Club of Hamilton sub-committee, together, the sub-committee members employ a truly integrated approach to mobilize community assets in an effort to reduce barriers to participation and provide positive learning opportunities through accessible, quality programming for disadvantaged Wever residents.