Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"A Community Hero"

"She's good at what she does and there was no reason for her to be suspended. I bought this orange vest that I'm wearing here for $20 at Mark's Work Warehouse ... besides that though I think that her presence and her love and her support of the community is essential. It goes beyond her assisting children and community members across the street: this is about bringing joy to the community and just seeing someone enjoying what they do. It is so rare. It's really inspiring."
Vanessa Dunn, Dufferin/Gordon Streets organizer of appreciation for Kathleen Byers, Toronto

"It speaks volumes about doing what's right. We don't have to follow along like good little soldiers and do the status quo. We should not be afraid to stand up and live our truth, to be ourselves."
"I'm not a person that gets down."
Kathleen Byers, the dancing crossing guard, Toronto

"I thought this is a great opportunity for me as part of the working class to come and support someone who is just trying to do their job. My main concern is that there is a bureaucracy that creates unnecessary restrictions on lower-wage workers to act in a certain way. People get fired for small things all the time and usually it's the employer who has the rights in that situation; so I would like to see that change and I think this is a great opportunity by uniting all the people in the neighbourhood and throughout Toronto."
Fashion retail employee, Yonge-Eglinton resident

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Former fitness instructor, Kathleen Byers, now 65, has been acting as a school crossing guard in her neighbourhood for the past decade. She was suspended from her post for the sin of appearing in a music video holding her official stop sign and reflective vest. She hadn't received permission from the school board that employed her. She had been given warning that she was expected to behave in a sober manner, holding up her stop sign at the appropriate time, to escort children arriving at the busy intersection en route to school.

She obviously felt that the zest and enjoyment of life communicated to the children she was responsible for added to both her experience and theirs, while committing to their safety and her responsibility for that condition. And she is obviously an individual who doesn't appreciate having her initiatives curtailed by authority, feeling she was perfectly capable of continuing to do the important task she was delegated to conduct, while indicating her exhilaration over it.

Her dancing and prancing, singing and high spirits offended authorities, and that was that. She was admonished over her intransigence, and finally suspended. Her response to that suspension after ten years of representing the best safety interests of neighbourhood schoolchildren was to finally, in exasperation, resign her post. Subsequently, her intersection at Dufferin and Gordon Streets, opposite to Grove Community School was the venue several days ago of a community appreciation event recognizing Ms. Byer's work for the community over the years.

Neighbourhood parents and children gathered together a few days ago at the intersection where Kathleen Byers had conducted her important work, to acknowledge what her presence and helping hand meant to them all. Many of those among the hundred or so who turned out came dressed in colourful costumes. They all good-naturedly, and in a celebratory mood congregated to conduct themselves in a manner quite like how Ms. Byers had done, which had earned her the ire of school board officials.

They danced in a Conga line to a portable speaker playing the tunes "Dancing Queen", "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and other such classics of their genre. Kathleen Byers, along with one of her six daughters, was also present, joining in the celebration of her ten-year-tenure as crossing guard dedicated to light-heartedness. Now that she is without her long-held job, she has four hours a day in the school week to consider, and she plans to spend them cooking, and enjoying long perambulations in her neighbourhood.

Photographs: Colin McConnell, Toronto Star

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  • At 6:00 PM, Blogger L said…


    Can you please remove my name from this blog post (I am the one to whom the last quote is attributed). At the time this article was first published, I had contacted the author of this news story to remove my name from the original piece. I did not know she would be publishing my full name or even directly quoting me. The original source no longer has my name in it.



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