November 2nd, 2017 at our first Circle night, we knew, within minutes, that lives were going to change. Yes we had a lot to learn and we happily dove in, knowing that every minute invested in this initiative was going to significantly impact the community.
Throughout our months together, the Leaders and Allies built formidable relationships and have grown to care about each other like a family. In the first few meetings the group took the time to get comfortable with each other and by February we easily settled into our groove.
We have each grown and been supported. Our very own Circles Coach, Michelle Peddle, learned how to cook her first turkey dinner. We prepared food together, tried new things, who knew tofu was so delicious. Took big leaps out of our comfort zones, tried yoga poses that looked impossible. Asked the hard questions and held space as they were answered.
Our child minding staff Ashley G, Ashley P and Jenna engaged in structured play, literacy and numeracy support for our young leaders which led to a unanimous outpouring of appreciation for Circles from the little ones. Their parents reported that days before “Circles Night” the kids could barely contain their excitement; which the parents took advantage of to use as positive incentive throughout the week. “That’s awesome, why don’t you share that at Circles!” We were all wowed when the tooth fairy came and when gold stars were given. We offered hugs and support when pets were lost and challenges met.
On our last night together, before our summer break, we officially announced the Circle Matches (Leaders with Allies) and we were blown away by the enthusiasm and camaraderie shown by all. The week before, the Allies and Leaders came together to discuss how they could share the great energy and sense of belonging they had been creating, with the community. After a lot of discussion they landed on an amazing idea. They decided that if Michelle volunteered to run the half-marathon at the Butter Tart Trot (a charity run during the Butter Tart Festival that raises funds for for Camp Quality), we would all join her and volunteer at the event as a group. That last night we celebrated by making supportive signs and balloons for the runners, we laughed and like a family joked about who would need 6 alarm clocks and 4 texts reminders to wake up at 5:00am (yes you read that right!!!)
We made our way to the race site at 6:30am Saturday morning to volunteer and cheer on the racers. We were met by the warm and gracious leaders of the event, Irene & Courtney Parker, and were quickly put to work! One of our Leaders brought her children who were a welcome addition, sharing their positive energy and joy with each racer who crossed the finish line. They were appropriately tasked with handing out medallions and hats! This gave them the chance to join Michelle and help her cross the finish line! Kids definitely have a way of putting things in perspective, both Michelle and I knew that that day, those moments would be remembered for a long time!
We were all so excited and grateful for the opportunity to give back and be part of this renowned community event! Invigorated by the positive energy of over 600 runners and volunteers our Leaders declared that next year we are running as Team Circles. Amazing!!! For all of our leaders this was their venture into the world of volunteering and I guarantee it won’t be their last!
Michelle and I were chatting yesterday about how blown away we are by the amazing transformations we have witnessed in our Circles group this year. All of our Leaders have stretched themselves outside their comfort zones and openly discussed how proud they are at how far they’ve come. We are proud to say that every member has expressed a deep desire continue with Circles and to keep their plans moving forward and their momentum high.
We have a few fun Circles gatherings scheduled for the summer (boat cruise and bowling), along with 2 Getting Ahead sessions…which all of our Leaders have chosen to volunteer at, as co-facilitators!
We have an amazing group that has really come together and started to become a family! We are eager for September when we have the chance to add a few more Leaders and Allies to the mix!!!
Our Allies, similar to many Allies from Circles all over North America, have shared that the relationships they have built with the Leaders and each other have been mutually beneficial and rewarding. The true sense of belonging and connection has been felt by all.
Some of the “Plan of Change” elements our Leaders have voluntarily undertaken, which ultimately lead them towards their ultimate goal of financial self-sufficiency, are:
- Literacy upgrading & post-secondary preparation
- Enrollment in post-secondary courses
- Enhanced relationship and increased use of local education providers – Gateway Centre for Learning and the North Simcoe Adult Learning Centre
- Entrepreneurship (product design and prototype creation, connection with business supports)
- Workplace Readiness Training
- Vocational Assessment
- Enhanced relationship with and increased use of the YMCA Employment Resource Centre
- Volunteered at a local Charity event
- Research into other volunteer opportunities
Health & Wellness
- Access to non-crisis health care supports
- Action towards and discussion about proactive health strategies (mindfulness, yoga, meditation)
Circles is a voluntary program, each member chooses to take the time and energy to show up for each other and themselves. We, the Leaders, Allies, kids, volunteers and staff are proof that great amounts of learning and action can happen when you take the time and energy to build relationships of mutual respect.
Thank you to each Leader, Ally and advocate who helped make our first year such a great success! A special thank you to our guests Gayle Montgomery and Kim Godin of Circles Canada and Forrest Willett, a local, world renowned motivational speaker for sharing your stories of growth and success. We are well on our way to creating a powerful, supportive community where there are enough relationships, reasons and resources for everyone to thrive!
See you in September!!