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Building community starts with a bowl of soup, says Victoria maven

Grace Gerry holds a bowl of soup and a plate of scones at her home in Fernwood where she hosts a semi-annual lunch for her neighbours, encouraging others to do the same to help build community. - Sharon Tiffin/News staff
Grace Gerry holds a bowl of soup and a plate of scones at her home in Fernwood where she hosts a semi-annual lunch for her neighbours, encouraging others to do the same to help build community.
— image credit: Sharon Tiffin/News staff

Grace Gerry was born in Donegal, Ireland, and raised in a community where strangers were hard to come by.

Gerry's family ran one of two pubs in the small town, a "community hub" that she found was sorely lacking when she moved to Victoria 18 years ago.

"Canadians seem a bit more shy about community. I'm not as shy," says Gerry from her Fernwood home.

For the past nine years, Gerry and her husband have been nurturing their community once again by hosting semi-annual drop-in meals for their neighbours.

"The first year we did this, we went to everybody around the block and talked to as many people as would open the door," Gerry says. "We made lots of soup, and wondered if anyone could come. Thanks to a snowstorm, we had 40 people show up. And they weren't in a rush to leave."

This year's holiday soup event took place Dec. 21, where dozens of neighbours stopped by for the neighbourly festivities. Gerry hosts a barbecue event during summer solstice, as well as a monthly women's event at her home.

"I know 90 of my neighbours by name," she says. "Stitch by stitch, the garment is made. And that's what we're doing."

In November, Gerry was recognized for her community-building efforts with a YoUnlimited Award at a gala at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel.

"If there was a disaster, it's not your Facebook friends, it's your neighbours you're going to turn to," she says. "If you know your neighbours already, you have a huge advantage. And it's just more fun, too."

Gerry hopes more Greater Victoria residents are inspired by her efforts, and start up their own events. For a list of tips in hosting your own neighbourhood get-together, visit Gerry's website at gracefulsolutions.ca.

 

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