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A Fond Farewell from ED Lily Cheng


It is with gratitude and sadness that I say goodbye as Executive Director of NeighbourLink North York. I was recently elected to be the City Councillor for Willowdale and will begin officially on Tuesday, November 15. The vision behind NeighbourLink is one I hope to bring to City Hall - and that is, that we all need a village. We all need opportunities to know each other and care for each other. Now, more than ever, we need this same idea to be carried into the political arena where so many of us have disengaged because we don't see our role in the decisions that are made. The best future for our community is one that is shaped by all of us.


I still remember when Beth Little, previous board chair of NeighbourLink North York, invited me to bring my grassroots community work under the umbrella of NeighbourLink North York. This was in many ways answered prayer as I sought a path of sustainability for the Willowdale Covid Response Network and other community initiatives. At the time there was virtually no budget, no staff, and no infrastructure. But there was an alignment of purpose - to empower neighbours to help neighbours.


2 years later, I can hardly believe the tremendous growth we have witnessed. This is a testament to the generosity and kindness of the people of Willowdale. It is because of each of you that we have been able to create a unique food bank model that provides healthy fresh food served with care and dignity. It is because of you we have created signature community building events like the upcoming Willowdale Christmas Market & Walking Parade, Willowdale Yard Sale Day and Let's Move Willowdale.


From turkeys, to fundraising, to 100+ gift baskets for single moms on Mother's Day, we have witnessed many miracles along this road. I thank each of my staff team who have held my hands as we took leaps of faith greater than any of us could have imagined. I think all of us can agree that in many ways, we held each other as a community through Covid and we have each been blessed greater than what we have given.


I want to extend a special thanks to Maria Speare whose faithful leadership over the last few months allowed me to step away from operations to run my campaign (I ceased to be paid the day I filed to run for office). I also want to thank the entire team whose diligence allowed the work to continue in my absence.


I am so grateful for this amazing group of people: Colleen Stevens is an amazing outreach worker whose humility and willingness to be a listening ear has built deep relationships with the community we serve. Sebastian Biasucci has become the voice of NeighbourLink with engaging newsletters and communications that capture the spirit of what is happening. He has also organized large scale events with passion and skill. Lily Su is a masterful conductor of the 415 Food Hub with a deep commitment to honouring and caring for our clients. Miriam Roopanram has been doing the hard work of building infrastructure while leading our summer program team with spirit and commitment. I also want to thank our prayer team - Faith, Margie, Doug and Ruth who have continued to undergird our work with prayer. As you can see it has taken a village for us to build this organization!


As much as this is a departure, it certainly does not mean we won't see each other at future NeighbourLink North York events and volunteer opportunities. As the board embarks on a search for a new Executive Director, I am confident that a perfect candidate will be found who will take NeighbourLink North York into this next chapter of growth.


While we have accomplished a lot, sustainability remains a challenge for this small fledgling charity. I hope you will consider NeighbourLink North York as you plan out your year end giving. They will launch their campaign on Giving Tuesday. I also hope to see you all at the upcoming Willowdale Christmas Market and Walking Parade!


If you would like to keep in touch with me, you can sign up for updates here: www.lilycheng.ca Please do not reply to this email as I will not receive it. You can send me personal messages here: lily@lilycheng.ca. My official new email will launch later this week, councillor_cheng@toronto.ca


Again, thank you for your ongoing support of NeighbourLink North York and for sharing this journey with me. I look forward with great hope and expectation for the new adventures that await us all in 2023.


Warmest Regards,

Lily Cheng


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