During the eight and half years that I have worked at The Dale, we have operated without our own walls. All of our programming, and all of our admin work, has taken place in a huge variety of spaces. This is been pretty amazing, and pretty complex.
When I first started at The Dale, Erinn did her admin work by “hot-desking” (using whatever desk was available) at Sketch, an arts-based youth program whose office was in Parkdale at the time. Or she would set up shop in her local library, or work from home. She carried her office in a bag, complete with a tiny stapler and a compact scanner. I had less admin work to do, so I mainly just worked on fundraising from my couch.
We held our two-person staff meetings wherever we could; sometimes at a local coffee shop, sometimes in an emergency room, sometimes in the back of a cab on our way to a funeral. As we grew, we eventually settled on The Rustic Cosmo, a Parkdale cafe, as our Tuesday morning staff meeting spot.
A number of years ago we felt the need for a space to gather later in the week, to provide a structured place and time to chip away at each of our individual bits of admin work and fundraising. Our friend Wendell, the pastor at First Baptist, generously offered us the use of the church’s downstairs kitchen, complete with wifi and a coffeemaker (ie. the essentials), and so that became our Wednesday morning workspace. Any admin that happened during other times in the week happened from our own homes.
When COVID hit, all of our weekly drop-in and meeting spaces closed, except for one: Epiphany and St. Mark’s Anglican (ESM). Last week marked one year since this little church at 201 Cowan Ave became our COVID headquarters. For the majority of the past year we have run outdoor drop-ins and outreach out of this space, conducted our staff meetings over WhatsApp, and done admin from home. But about a month ago we received keys to what is now our very own office (at least for now), as part of our rental agreement with ESM!
Right now I’m sitting with Meagan in our cute little office that we’ve furnished and decorated to be homey and yet conducive to desk work. We have the essentials (again, wifi and a coffeemaker), plus a four person desk, two comfy armchairs, a chalkboard wall, a warm-toned area rug, framed photos of the lake taken by a community member, good lighting, the first of (inevitably) many plants, and… a printer!! Whoa.
I’m still a little in shock that this space is ours. The church has plans to do major renovations down the road, but for now its here for us to use for meetings, a bit of storage, and to help those of us who struggle with self-motivation (ie. me) to work away on our laptops in companionable quiet. We will continue to be a church that is present throughout the neighbourhood, doing outreach with Morrison (our van) and on foot. Once COVID is over, we hope to re-commence using multiple locations around Parkdale. AND it feels so nice to have a little bit of space to call our own for a while.
Thank you for being on this journey with me, and with The Dale! I can’t wait until COVID subsides and I can invite you to our office for a coffee 🙂