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University Settlement

June 12 – 13, 2010 University Settlement is hosting its Swim 1910 contest. Participants who swim the farthest in 19 minutes and 10 seconds can win great prizes including airfare for four within Canada, a VIA Rail trip to Montreal, spa, theatre and sport packages, electronics and much more. Even Debra Shime, University Settlement's Executive Director, will be out there to compete.

Swim 1910 registration information and a complete list of 100th anniversary celebration events are available at usrc.ca.

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Photographer: Denise Militzer

University Settlement gears up for its centennial celebrations

100 years of planting deep roots in the local community

"This is a tree that some of our after-school program kids painted with a local artist," says Debra Shime. Shime is the executive director of University Settlement, a multi-service neighbourhood centre in downtown Toronto.

The tree is painted on a wall in the front entrance of the centre. Woven into the trunk and branches are words like "family", "welcoming", "love." The words are written in Farsi, Chinese, and English, the three major language groups served by University Settlement.

"We did interviews with our board members, clients, and volunteers. We asked them, what does University Settlement mean to you?" explains Shime. "These words are ones that were common themes in many of the answers we got."

The tree is a testament to the impact University Settlement has had in the community. The centre is housed in a modest building. Flanked by the impressive architecture of the Art Gallery of Ontario and Ontario College of Art and Design, you would have no idea of the treasures inside University Settlement.

Those treasures include a full roster of services offered to the community since 1910. The services include daycare, after-school programs, support for newcomers to Canada, a music school and much more.

"We have a real cradle to grave approach to service delivery," says Shime.

University Settlement sees almost 30,000 people come through its doors every year. The centre's capacity to provide services to those clients is in large part owing to the funding provided by United Way donors.

"The core funding we receive from United Way is essential to keeping us operating," Shime says. "Without it, we couldn't do what we do."

The agency was one of the first to join United Way Toronto when it was established in 1956. Shime is proud of that long tradition as well as the ongoing support of United Way from the centre's staff and volunteers.

"We run our own United Way campaign here. Our staff and community know how important it is to give back."

One former client of the centre's "Out of the Cold" program for homeless men and women went on to be hired as part-time staff at University Settlement. With his first paycheque, he made a donation to United Way.

"If a person like this individual can give to United Way from his part-time paycheque, then we can all give something," says Shime.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the centre has a lot planned. A concert honouring the music school was held at the Glenn Gould Studio on April 18; a swim competition is slated for June; and, the Annual Grange Festival in the fall will boast games and activities 1910-style.

When asked what the next 100 years holds for University Settlement, Shime replies: "Whatever our community asks from us."


University Settlement gears up for its centennial celebrations was a feature story in our quarterly newsletter, Community Matters: June 2010. » Watch the video.

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