Green Wood Coalition started in the summer of 2006, when Amy Brinkman, a young woman who worked and lived at Trinity College School in Port Hope, was out walking and discovered the Greenwood Tower Inn.
This motel, on the eastern edge of the town, had seen years of decline and was offering monthly accommodation to individuals and families who might otherwise be homeless. It had a reputation among social agencies as being the most concentrated case of poverty in all of Northumberland County. Some social agencies wouldn’t even let their workers visit clients onsite, because of safety concerns about the property.
Amy told some friends from her church about the situation at the motel and suggested that they join her for a visit there. Amy remembers, “we started simply wandering around the Greenwood Tower complex and gradually struck up friendships with some of the people there. It was humbling, and often surprising, to hear their stories, and to realize we were alike, with the same need and desire for dignity, hope, and a purpose in life.”
Out of the relationships that Amy and her friends started building with people at the motel came the idea, from the residents themselves, of regular shared dinners in the motel’s former restaurant. “From the beginning,” Amy remembers, “these meals were very communal and were about a group of friends getting together to share food. It wasn’t about ‘us’ and ‘them’."
By 2009, that small group had grown to more than a dozen individuals, now calling themselves the Greenwood Tower Initiative. They felt that it was time to seek better solutions for the residents of the motel and others in the community They met with other helping agencies, and this process resulted in the formation of the registered Not-For-Profit organization called Green Wood Coalition.
Events of the next year would significantly shape the future of Green Wood. The motel property where the group had been working was sold, renamed The Tower Hotel, and with the support of Green Wood, many residents were able to continue living at that location as renovation started and conditions were improved by the new owner.
Also that year, David Sheffield was hired in the role of Community Outreach Worker, allowing Green Wood to expand its scope beyond the motel, to similar needs in the town.
Green Wood has evolved with, and responded to, the changing needs of our community. Staff, along with dozens of Green Wood Community members and a dynamic board of directors, are becoming a significant influence for positive change in Northumberland County, while staying true to their founding values.