They call her the grandmother of Thorncliffe Park.
Alice Carriman can frequently be seen walking about the community working on something or other and on Mar. 24 she was recognized for her decades of dedicated volunteerism.
Wearing a white dress adorned with a corsage given to her by the Leaside Garden Society, Carriman was honoured with the 2012 Agnes Macphail Award at a ceremony at the True Davidson council chambers. The award is named after Canada’s first female member of parliament.
The native of Grenada received the award based on the decades she has spent in the area planting gardens, fundraising and starting various groups and programs.
“When I first moved to Thorncliffe 35 years ago I never thought I would stand here and receive such a prestigious award from the community,” she said. “Growing up in the islands, my parents taught me that a community is what you make of it, which is why I have always had a passion to volunteer in my neighbourhood.”
Local resident Amy Sutherland, who nominated Carriman for this year’s Agnes Macphail Award, said she was inspired by Carriman’s selflessness and dedication when she moved to the neighbourhood eight years ago.
“When I first came I noticed this woman and she was always outside, always busy sprinkling seeds and watering trees and picking up garbage and knitting and carrying bags of things all over the place,” she said. “I noticed that everyone else knew her too: young people, old people, new Canadians, established Canadians — they all knew her and her name was Alice.”
In addition to growing gardens throughout Thorncliffe and surrounding East York communities, Carriman was instrumental in the establishment of the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office and helped create a tenants association in her building. She also started a breakfast club at Thorncliffe Park Public School, where she occasionally teaches children how to knit, and began the East York Spelling Bee.
“I’m not really sure what kids in Thorncliffe would do without Alice,” Sutherland said. “I think we’d be pretty bored if we didn’t have Alice around.”
Carriman spends most of her time trying to improve the community directly rather than trying to affect change from within an office. Recently, she marched through Thorncliffe Park with 1,500 students for an anti-racism demonstration.
“Alice has generally avoided committees and meetings and boards and all those kinds of official things,” Sutherland said. “I remember after one very long, pointless meeting she said to me ‘I just think about how many crochet squares I could have made if I stayed home.’ ”
Though Carriman has a hand in nearly every community improvement project in Thorncliffe Park she is perhaps best known for her gardens.
“A garden reminds me of a community in that what you put into it is what you will get out of it,” Carriman said. “It takes a lot of patience and persistence, but the final beauty is well worth the wait.”
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