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The Way I See It ...

Community Champions - Edward Pickersgill (June 2022)

When I was selected as one of the Guelph Y’s Women of Distinction in 2018, my category was Community Champion. Not only was I humbled by the award itself, I was honoured by the category. Nothing feeds my soul more than helping to empower others, especially those who have faced, or are facing, adversity and challenge. And I have met a lot of people in that situation. I was also one of them, at one time, which is why I am so passionate about the work that I do in this regard.

I have spent the last ten years in particular helping others to share their stories and speak their truth. I firmly believe that doing so helps not only the person telling the story, but also those who read that story. There is power in vulnerability, and that power provides hope to those who may have lost their way.

Because I spend most of my time helping others write their stories, I am grateful to be given the opportunity to write regularly for the Herald. It’s nice to be flexing those writing muscles again!

I spent a lot of time considering what I would write about each month, and after being reminded of my Women of Distinction category, I decided to highlight a different Community Champion each month. Someone who is working to make our community better, often with little or no recognition.

For this month, my focus is Edward Pickersgill. For as long as I can remember, Ed has been working with the marginalized population in Guelph; from 1995 through Fresh Start Housing Centre, and then at 40 Baker Street. Weekend services were made available in 2005 with the opening of Gallery 150, then Baker Street Art Gallery in 2008. Both provided a place to gather and create art. In 2007 Change Now Youth Centre closed and Our Place Youth Centre was born, and since 2017, Ed has been operating on the street, at what is known as The Bench, located on the corner of Wyndham and Woolwich. At that location, Ed and his team of volunteers provide food, clothing and other necessities, donated by local businesses and individuals, to those in need.

He receives no government funding, and relies solely on donations. It is a valuable service to so many who need not only the food and clothing, but also the emotional support and the accompanying message of being valued and cared for.

I first met Ed in person about ten years ago, and was struck by his understated presence. He is not one who wants to be the centre of attention, and he dislikes being referred to as a hero. But the work he does is important, and his unfailing commitment to this work is to be commended, and highlighted.

As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

If you know someone who you consider a Community Champion, please email me at I’d love to hear from you!


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