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Local AOTS Project In The Spotlight

George St. United Church, Peterborough, Chemong Village , AOTS Community Homes Inc.

Chemong Village is located at1025 Chemong road. It is a beautiful housing project of 60 units arranged in a community-like setting. The project was begun in the late 1980s by the AOTS men's club who responded to the need for affordable housing in Peterborough. They worked tirelessly to raise the resources required to secure the site and build homes that would house families in need of safe secure affordable housing.

The History of the Project:
It all started on a cold blustery night in February 1989. George St. AOTS Men's Club gathered in the basement of their church to hear the story of how some churches had responded to community need by sponsoring rental housing projects. Projects that allowed residents to pay rents that were related to their income. Though a spark was kindled, it required persistence to follow the continuing flame in the burning bush in order to translate this vision into real homes for families and individuals in Peterborough.

Though everyone knew there was a need for affordable housing, Governments who controlled and granted the allocation of subsidies, wanted sponsoring groups to show a specific need for their project. Information from local planning and social service agencies was gathered to get specific names of people who were actually in need. The club set up a booth in a local mall on successive Saturdays. Shoppers were asked to complete an " Expression of interest" form if they needed affordable housing. Over 200 did! If evangelism is carrying the good news to the market place, members of George St. Men's Club discovered contemporary evangelism.

Positive that their work would lead to a housing allocation from the Provincial Government, the club incorporated AOTS Community Homes, a non-profit housing corporation. They hired a development consultant to pursue their dream. Applications in 1989, 1990, and 1991 failed. Undeterred, they kept improving their application. A number of local agencies, such as the John Howard Society and the youth related organizations, were brought on board when it was discovered that many youth, alienated from their families, might benefit from secure housing which would assist them in getting on with their lives. A percentage of the proposed units were allocated to these youth with support services coming from the co-operating agencies.

The application for a housing project was successful in 1992. Even better, the City of Peterborough had a piece of surplus land that it was willing to sell for the project. Planning began, surveys and soil tests were completed. A zoning application was filed and a public meeting was called. Some opposition arose and the Peterborough City Council refused to re-zone the land. Despair! But, only for a day! Looking anew for a piece of land, the group linked up with a builder who was holding a prime piece of land for a condominium development. . Although deemed too expensive, tentative negotiations began. All the planning and design work and firm contracts had to be signed before year-end or the allocation would be lost. The Ministry Of Housing needed our final application before Christmas, because those who had to sign off on the project would be away between Christmas and New Years. Everything came together except that the project could not be built within the cost guidelines imposed by the Ministry Of Housing. Despite tough negotiations, agreement could not be reached with the builder. An at 8 P.M on December 23rd the project died. Perhaps the builder caught some of the meaning of Christmas. By December 28th he accepted our contract proposal and Ministry officials were brought back from holidays to sign off with their approval.

Construction began in the late spring of 1993. Three clusters of stacked townhouses were built to a total of twenty-eight, two, three and four bedroom units. Two units included designs to accommodate the physically disabled. A small three-story eleven unit apartment building with one bedroom units and a community center completed the project. Wonderfully located close to good shopping and other community amenities, the project has been praised for " curb appeal". The first residents moved in , in early 1994. The turmoil and exhilaration of construction soon gave way to the daily tasks of property management. The Board hired an experienced property manager to look after the day-to-day operations. An Operations Committee was struck to supervise. The Board majority is appointed by the George St. AOTS Men's Club, but has always strengthened itself with other representatives of the congregation. Financially, the project has always lived within approved budgets. Physically, the project maintains its look of newness and residents are proud to live there. Socially, thirty-nine families and individuals have affordable housing. Nobody, unless they have been there themselves, fully understands that affordable housing assists in family stability, better diets and a more hopeful future. Not all the youth are able to meet the challenge of independent living, nor are the social agencies that promised to support them. Shrinking social service dollars have forced most social agencies to curtail their outreach programs. Evictions have taken place due to unit damage and non-payment of rent. There is a great satisfaction in the one's who have settled in stable family arrangements and others who have gone on to post secondary education. If real evangelism is the proclamation of good news, Chemong Village, as the George Street AOTS Men's Club housing project is called, continues to burn brightly in the middle of Peterborough.

Now 15 years later the project fills an ever growing need for affordable housing and the commitment of George Street continues. Programs for the Chemong Village Community are supported by AOTS and the wider congregation with activities for children's and community events.

Founding Directors
Harold G. Hubbell - President
William Gilbert - Vice President
Doris Neufeld - Secretary
Carolyn Porteous - Treasurer
Robert Bark
Richard Batten
Art Harding
Douglas Johnson
Rev. Donald Nicholson
John Pearson
Jack Sackvillle

AOTS Central Region Round-Up 2010

April 16th, 17th and 18th
The Salvation Army Jackson's Point Conference Centre,
1890 Metro Road North , Jackson 's Point, Ontario L0E 1L0

"Blown by God toward Newness"
Action is urgently needed to reverse the impact of climate change on the poor and the earth In our retreat time together, we'll explore what our faith has to say about eco-justice. When creation is threatened, people of faith are called to speak out and act as an expression of their commitment to life, justice and love.

Rev Will Kunder (Secretary of Manitou Conference) is the Theme Speaker at this event.

"Slavery run by the Governments" -Addictions by Bill Clark
"Discovering the HANDSHAKE" by Harold Lorenz
"God's Politics" by Rev Brian Bigelow
Visualizing the Future "What is God Calling Us to Do" by Jim McKibbin

Event Music By
Jim Watson and Ken Little



For More Information
Registration Form
Phone: 905-722-3501

President’s Report - February, 2010


Again this month I have a pot pourri of items. It has been a busy time in the life of our church and our organization.

A Great Day for AOTS

The Dondi Project (an AOTS supported initiative to rebuild the Lutamo School at Dondi, Angola) received a great infusion of support both financially and spiritually at the Steering Committee meeting on January 12th at Church House. Several Church House staff provided an overview of how the actually funding would work. The overview included a status report on the latest engineering study for the school and well as thorough description of the logistics related to the actual transfer of the funds.

Many of us in AOTS have not had such a direct connection to an outreach project so it was a very valuable overview. All of this will rely on the relationship between our United Church (UCC) and the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola (IECA).

A number of different plans and programs were discussed and a timeline and program plan was developed built around drumming events and drumathons led by the Abbey North Drummers. It was a very enthusiastic meeting. Our vice-president, Harvey Douglas flew in for the meeting and he brought some wisdom having completed work on the western tour.

At the close of the meeting John Patterson, co-chair of the steering committee presented me with a cheque for the Dondi Project for $60,000. I was both delighted and honoured to receive it on behalf of AOTS.

AOTS has pledged to match contributions at a 1 – 10 ratio up to a maximum of $10,000 and I am pleased to report that we have now contributed our maximum. That means that the Project has now raised over $100,000. So Dondi is well underway.

Wetaskiwin AOTS- adapting to a changing world

The website received a wonderful annual report from the AOTS club of First United Church in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. As chairman, Dan Liddle says, they are an AOTS club because “that is what we do”. They are very much still making a difference.

In October, their church burned to the ground apparently due to the work of an arsonist. And while this is an enormous loss, they have decided to start again and rebuild their church. Because of the nature of the fire little in the way artifacts, historical documents or memorabilia could be saved. It was a devastating loss.

By November, the club had organized a Ham supper which fed over 300 people from a temporary location.

Same-sex marriage - as one that serves

In February, the Wetaskiwin club was asked to cater the wedding of two woman members of the congregation. They didn’t hesitate. As Dan Liddle points out, “We did the best we could and successfully catered Sheila and Linda’s June wedding with about 150 people present. They are both very active in the church. This past year has provided an opportunity to demonstrate our ability to adapt to the ever changing world.”

Black History Month

February is Black History month. The dominion Institute provides the following overview of the Underground Railroad. “Between 1840 and 1860, before the American Civil War, enslaved Africans followed the North Star on the Underground Railroad to find freedom in Canada. It was not an actual railroad but a secret network of routes and safe houses that helped people escape slavery and reach free states or Canada. Sometimes there were guides available to help people find their way to the next stop along the way. Travelling on the Underground Railroad was dangerous and required luck as much as a guide.

The "railroad" actually began operating in the 1780s, but became known as the Underground Railroad in the 1830s. The organization used railroad terms as code words. Those who helped people move from place to place were known as "conductors" and the fleeing refugees were called "passengers" or "cargo." Safe places to stop to rest were called "stations." Conductors were also abolitionists—people who wanted slavery abolished. They were Blacks and Whites, men and women. Many of them were Quakers or Methodists.

Places had code names to help keep the routes secret. Detroit, from which most left the United States, was known as "Midnight." The Detroit River was called "Jordan," a biblical reference to the river that led to the promised land. The end of the journey also had a code name, such as "Dawn." People could communicate without being specific: "Take the railroad from Midnight to Dawn." The refugees arrived all across Canada, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, but most came to what is now southwestern Ontario, to places such as Windsor, Fort Erie, Chatham and Owen Sound.

It is impossible to know for certain how many slaves found freedom by way of the railroad, but it may have been as many as 30, 000.”
“Some of the conductors and others associated with the railroad became famous for their efforts; Harriet Tubman, Mary Ann Shadd and Josiah Henson are but a few.”

As for me, our club recently co-sponsored a fundraising event at our church and I was given the honour of acting as MC for the event. We had a lot of fun and raised some money for the church. On March 20, we’ll be doing our own Dondi Project event and I am looking forward to a very successful evening.

Thank you