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East York people, places, events & insights

Baptist pastor to receive 2017 Agnes Macphail Award

Rev. Jim Parker -COURTESY

Rev. Jim Parker -SUPPLIED

If your image of a Baptist minister is of an elderly gentleman sipping tea in a cloistered room, you’ll give your head a shake when you meet the 2017 recipient of the Agnes Macphail Award presented annually to a community activist in the East York area.

Reverend Jim Parker —or “Pastor Jim” as he’s known to most parishioners at Bethany Baptist Church on Pape Avenue and described on its website—  is a force for action in his local community.

In addition to serving as current chairman of the Pape Business Improvement Area, being the founder and operator of several local recreational youth basketball leagues through his “East York Strategy,” serving as chaplain to Toronto Police Services 54 Division and as a member of its Community Police Liaison Committee, Rev. Parker has also been active working for the local Bethany Food Bank and still finds time to be the co-ordinator of chess clubs at nearby William Burgess Public School and Westwood Middle School.

Nominator Pauline Adams compiled letters from 22 supporters or groups to show the extent of Pastor Jim’s volunteer leadership in the East York community.  In her letter of nomination she commented that “there is no one more determined to eliminate conflict and uncertainty from our community than Rev. Jim Parker.”

Rev. Jim Parker with members of East York Strategy high school basketball team -SUPPLIED

Rev. Jim Parker with members of East York Strategy high school basketball team -SUPPLIED

One of the letters, from Salim Hadad, proprietor of Milk Mart Convenience, described how when there was a drug problem in the area, Parker talked to the police about getting out of their cars for patrols, got business owners to improve lighting around back doors and marshalled residents to clean up graffiti and litter and then add street flower boxes.

Another local clergyman, Rev. W. Alex Bissett of Riverdale Presbyterian Church on Pape Ave., wrote about Parker’s founding of the “East York Strategy,” a series of elementary, middle and high school sports leagues “for which he gives up many late afternoons and early evenings and for which he provides leadership” and that operates at no charge to the families.

Dr. Alysse Rich wrote to describe Parker’s efforts with the Bethany Food Bank, noting that “Pastor Jim has not set out to help his own church community, but … to assist all those in East York who need it.”

Agnes Macphail -SUPPLIED

Agnes Macphail -SUPPLIED

The married father of two girls told East York Chronicle “it was indeed an honour” to be named recipient of the 24th annual award, which, since being established by the former Borough of East York Council in 1994 has been conferred on a resident who has been an outstanding volunteer leader in community life in areas including, but not limited to: women’s rights, fairness to seniors, criminal justice and penal reform, international peace and disarmament and to adequate housing, health care and education.

The award, given out by the Agnes Macphail Recognition Committee, is named after Agnes Campbell Macphail (1890 – 1954) who was the first woman elected to the House of Commons (1921) and the first seated in the Ontario Legislature. Elected to the Commons in 1921 as a result of the suffragette movement, Ms. Macphail also went on to become the first female member of the Ontario Legislative Assembly after being elected to represent the East York area in 1943.

Parker, who joins a distinguished list of previous recipients, will be joined by many of them when he receives the award next month at a ceremony held each year on the anniversary of Macphail’s birth, March 24.

The 7 p.m. event at East York Civic Centre, 850 Coxwell Ave., will also include a speech by Manny Szeptycki,  the 2017 winner of the Agnes Macphail Public Speaking Contest held Wednesday, February 22 at the East York Civic Centre.  The grade 8 student at Westwood Middle School spoke on the topic of “Food Waste”.

-with files from Lorna Krawchuk


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