Sustainable Orillia (SO) Welcomes Fresh Faces at Volunteer Event.

On Sunday Feb. 11th, close to fifty concerned citizens gathered at the Orillia Museum of Art History, to share, learn and commit to their roles as part of our community’s sustainability movement. The first ever, SO Connects event.

Introduced by President, Stan Mathewson, the ‘SO Connects’ event reviewed highlights of SO’s history over the past five years, plus an update on SO’s goals and vision. Then SO’s newest board member Sarah Patterson stepped into the role of facilitator and we were well underway for a stimulating afternoon.

Sarah framed the purpose for the afternoon with an African proverb that speaks directly to the heart of volunteerism and what SO hopes to accomplish through a broader base of volunteers and supporters:

If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.

Indeed, in the face of the encroaching climate crisis, we do have far to go. Beyond the fifty folks gathered that Sunday afternoon, there will always be room for everyone on this journey. If you are interested in learning more and doing more to combat climate change, then please click on ‘’ to indicate your interest in joining this movement. A member of SO’s board of directors be in touch.

A highlight of the afternoon was the keynote address by former mayor and local business leader, Steve Clarke. Steve spoke to both the small steps individuals can do to offset climate change and reduce carbon emissions, and to the larger, more macro, change that needs to take place. He encouraged those present to get involved, to use their voices to advocate for the needed changes.

Many readers will recall that Sustainable Orillia was originally launched as a Mayor’s Task Force, with then-mayor Steve Clarke’s input and support. Steve continues to keep an eye on all matters sustainable and Stan Mathewson’s announcement that Steve has agreed to head up a new Community Engagement initiative on behalf of SO, was enthusiastically welcomed by all present.

The goal of the initiative is to ultimately deepen SO’s reach and messaging across the city and surrounding region. Over the next three months, working with several members of SO’s board and others, the team will devise a plan aimed at engaging the community in sustainable activities, ultimately bringing more local residents into the sustainability movement.

Following Steve’s message, Sarah shared a short, compelling TED talk by Anaya Elizabeth Johnson titled “How to Find Joy in Climate Action” (click here to view) followed by an exercise to identify what volunteers can do to capitalize on what they are good at, what needs doing, and what will bring them joy.

One family in attendance, the Khattaks, who are new to Orillia, demonstrated significant leadership and
passion, taking the initiative to share their perspectives on climate change and what they as a family can do. From 7-year-old Omar and older sister Fatima, to parents, Naheed and Aziz, each one spoke in turn with passion and knowledge – sproviding a great example for all of us.

During the latter part of the afternoon, sector teams took their place across the front of the room. Each sector lead took a few moments to talk about their projects, encouraging those present to come by their respective tables at the end of the session to sign up where they felt best aligned to contribute. Throughout the event, there was healthy interaction with many thoughtful questions coming from the floor.

SO is currently reviewing its structure and goals for the next five-years. Events like ‘SO Connects’ and the upcoming Community Engagement initiative will inform those deliberations and help SO become more relevant to what our neighbours and fellow residents expect and need to push back climate change and reduce carbon emissions.

Overall, ‘SO Connects’ succeeded in bringing more people into the sustainability movement. It was a positive event with new learnings and acquaintances. Thanks again to everyone who participated and who helped to organize the event. SO looks forward to working with you, and with all Orillians and regional friends to ensure the future sustainability of our community.

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