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Making friends with strangers: Liberty Village Residents’ Association inspires community

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The founder of the Liberty Village Residents’ Association started with no experience in community building and now has his own business building, you guessed it, communities.

Todd Hofley moved into Liberty Village in January 2011 and there was no community social media presence or group.

At the time, Todd would go to neighbourhood parties and discovered that people had issues they want to talk about and discuss.

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“I didn’t know what to do about it right away,” Todd explains. “So I thought, I’m going to have a meeting.”

Hofley hadn’t ever been in a residents’ association before and thought only a few people would show up to the first meeting.

“You always hear on media that condo owners don’t want a community, that they want to go in their condo and lock the door.”

Well, the opposite happened.

“Someone told somebody who told somebody who told somebody and 25 people showed up!”

Fifty people showed up at the next meeting, and 100 at the next one.

Now, every single person who lives in Liberty Village is a member.

“Sometimes it takes years to make friends, but not here,” Hofley explains. The LVRA Facebook page helps connect people.

But how does it come to life in real life?

Hofley tells a story about a woman who had just moved to Liberty Village from the inner suburbs and posted to the LRVA Facebook page.

“She posted ‘listen I’ve just moved here and my internet provider screwed up three times, does anybody have DVDs they can lend me?”

Twenty people offered up their DVDs, some even took photos and posted them to the page.

“They were willing to put on boots and jackets on a cold December night to give a complete stranger their personal private property,” Hofley explained.

“It’s nothing short of astounding; it’s amazing. We’ve created a sense of trust.”

“Because we’re so connected now, I can be in Istanbul and tell someone where to get their bike fixed in Toronto. There’s something tremendously wonderful about that.”

It doesn’t stop with the LRVA Facebook page.

“There are off-shoot groups including string quartets, entrepreneurs … whatever people are passionate about,” Hofley says.

“There are even hundreds of instances in which our organization has helped people get jobs.”

The LRVA has been a work in progress. Hofley explains that the group’s success is a result of a lot of people putting in a lot of hours, he’s probably volunteered 6,000 hours in five years, and that’s just him.

“I want to stress that it’s always a group effort. There’s no way that the organization could have been this big without the people in it and the people that were in it who moved away. Without their vision, it just couldn’t happen.”

Now the organization hosts events such as movie nights and a Christmas open house.

“How can you not like connecting people? ” he asks. “When I see a boyfriend kissing his girlfriend at movie night, or a kid laughing, that makes my heart leap out,” he says.

Hofley didn’t have training before the group started and now has made a business of it.

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He started Communify, what he calls a community-building consultancy that works with people, condos, and “hopefully government” to create communities.

“People are coming around to the idea of community because of the precarious nature of work, wages, and the nature of communication,” Hofley says.

“I would love to see these associations in every single condo community in Toronto,” Hofley says. “This should exist in Jakarta, Mumbai, Hong Kong too … places that are going massively vertical.”

“It’s been exciting; it’s transformed my life.

 

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Diana Pereira

Diana Pereira is a journalist, a university journalism teacher, a world traveller, a fair-weather kayaker, and a frequent bruncher. She's working on her mermaid status, travelling to as many countries as she can that include a body of water and when she's home in Toronto, you can find her in a kayak on Lake Ontario.

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