›› Lee Herrin

This coming spring marks ten years since Fernwood NRG’s Board of Directors sat down to confront the brutal fact that the heart of our neighbourhood, the Fernwood village, was unhealthy—and that, more importantly, neither the government nor the private sector had the means or the tools to fix the problem.

On the one hand, the City government was using an increasingly heavy-handed enforcement approach to put pressure on the owner of the boarded up Cornerstone building. City crews came into the building, cut the water and power, and evicted the upstairs tenants.

On the other hand, though the ­building was for sale, no private sector purchasers seemed eager to purchase a boarded up property with no income. Capital wants to minimize risk and seeks a return measured in dollars, not in neighbourhood health.

And so it seemed the building would sit indefinitely, as it had been already for several years.

In considering what our organization could do about the challenges in Fernwood at that time, we began to articulate a set of principles that would guide the actions of the organization we wanted to become—one which was focused on the ­neighbourhood as a whole, and not just on running a facility in the neighbourhood. After much discussion, we drafted the “Declaration of Principles and Values” that appears here.

Some might say: “what use are lofty words when your neighbourhood is ­suffering?” We transform reality first in our imagination, second in the way we talk about the future, and finally in the material world.

The principles and values we articulated in 2005 painted a word-picture of a very different organization than the one we had been, which provided services to those who walked through the door. The values we aspired to would not allow us to sit by and hope that someone else would fix the ­problems in our neighbourhood (as we had been for several years previously). Rather, our new values dictated that we put the neighbourhood first and take direct action to improve its health and vitality.

It is now ten years later, but those principles and values endure and guide the work of Fernwood NRG today, even though the reality we confront is no longer brutal.

Looking for Fernwood NRG’s 2014 Annual Report on our Principles and Values? Last year, our membership agreed to change the organization’s fiscal year to a calendar year. Previously, we reported out on the past year’s activities in February and our finances in October. Going forward, we will try to do both together in April. Watch the April Vibe for our Annual Report.