The Girl Guides at St. John’s is more than a historical story, and more than the story of a rental client of St John’s space. To provide some insights into the rich relationship between the Girl Guides and St. John’s, several of the current volunteer Guide leaders, including Diane Bosman, Rachel Vickerson, and Johanna Henderson, responded to some questions:
How important is it to have Girl Guides at our location at 288 Humberside Ave.?
“The families that are a part of the St. John’s Guiding family draw from around the neighbourhood, many within walking distance of the church. The location continues to be a convenient centre for the Bloor West/Junction/High Park area. Several other groups in the area closed during the challenges of the pandemic making the continuation of the St. John’s location even more critical for the families of this area.
"The long history of Girl Guides at the location is also a point of pride for our units. We’ve seen many sibling groups go through Guiding with us and been able to build long-lasting relationships with families in the community. Some of the families are also former or current attendees at Early Enrichment Daycare, which speaks to the ways in which St. John’s acts as a community hub.”
What do you like about our building and space? What would you like to see improved?
“The location is excellent for our group. Prior to the pandemic, I believe that the daycare space worked well for the sparks and brownies. However, in the 2 or 3 years prior to the pandemic, the daycare space was becoming a challenge for the older age groups: Guides and Pathfinders. In 2010, the Guides had use of up to 4 different daycare rooms and the kitchen. This gave us lots of options for suitable space for each activity, and sufficient noise control to let the girls focus.
"By early 2020, we were reduced to a single room – pre-set for preschool activities – and no kitchen access. This was a challenge for the number of girls we had, noise-management, and limited the types of activities we could effectively do. The Pathfinder group found that the lack of a suitable food preparation space was a difficult restriction for their group, as sharing food is often a key component of social activities for young teen girls.
"The sanctuary has been a better space for many of our activities due to its size and options for girls working in smaller groups away from each other. We also found that the front-steps were a great meeting space when we were keeping to outdoor gatherings only. With the improvised shift to the sanctuary, there are some challenges around supply closets still being in the daycare space, key availability, and locking up procedures.”
Does anyone remember the Girl Guides helping at our Holly Tea event or any other events?
“We do remember the Holly Tea! Some of our girls assisted at the tea as a community service activity in December 2019. They enjoyed helping very much and talked with members of the church community about their own past experiences in Girl Guides.
"One of our Guide leaders, vaguely remembers helping with the Holly Tea when she was a girl member with one of the units (approx. 20 years ago). Also, one of her leaders got married at St. John’s in the late 1990s and the Pathfinders and Rangers participated in the recessional on the front steps.”
That former Guide leader is Quita Taylor, daughter of long-time St. John’s parishioners May & John Webster, and spouse of Michael Taylor, St. John’s Tech and Communications Teams leader, webmaster, and editor of this newsletter. Quita and Michael were married at St. John’s in August 1998, with the support of the 12th Pathfinders and Rangers, as the included wedding photo illustrates. Quita Taylor will be sharing her memories of her time as a Guide and as a Guide leader at St. John’s in next week’s newsletter.
Are there any other types of church community events that the Girl Guides could help with or would be interested in helping with?
“Yes! I think any of the groups would be happy to strengthen our relationships with St. John’s in ways that are not religious based. Girl Guides is an inclusive and non-denominational organization. However, I know that Girl Guides and St. John’s hold many values in common, such as community, justice, inclusivity, anti-racism, LGBTQ+ rights, Indigenous justice, and care of the environment. These would be great areas for collaboration. We have often wondered whether there are projects the girls could do that would be of help to St. John’s. Our latest idea was to learn about pollinator gardens from a local community organization and then seeing if St. John’s might like us to work with them to build one… or at least to plant some pollinator-friendly plants.”
Any other thoughts about Girl Guides and St. John's West Toronto Anglican Church?
“We are proud of the long history of 12th Toronto Girl Guides. But it is the continuing connection to the St. John’s location that makes our long legacy evident. Two of the current Guide leaders were former members of 12th Toronto and recall meeting in this space, our Jr. Leaders are teenagers who attended this unit as girls, we even had a girl guide who chose to attend our unit as this was the same one her grandmother had attended. Many times, adult guests and visitors have told us how their sister/mother/friend attended this unit; they know this because it is in the St. John’s church. I expect that many of your parishioners have been a part of Guiding here in the past. While the relationship between St. John’s and Guiding has evolved over the years, we are personally very interested in continuing and strengthening this 80+ year relationship.”
Some additional stories of the 12th Toronto Girl Guides