The co-op members now had houses and a place to call home. They had built a community that valued sharing and friendship. Of course, the community was not without flaws. Families experienced the same challenges and difficulties that any family might. Yet the core values of sharing and friendship endured.
The co-op movement not only helped the Grimsby members develop the necessary skills to build their homes, but it helped them develop the skills to be strong and passionate community leaders. Despite Grimsby’s initial opposition to their arrival, many of the men and women became notable members of the town. As Father O’Brien remarked many years later, “We weren’t just building houses, we were building people, and when that hit us, we were jumping up and down with joy.”
The members who were parishioners of St. Joseph’s Church contributed to a new church building and the town’s first Catholic school. A principal of the nearby elementary school noted that the co-op children had a great sense of sharing and community. Some co-op members became strong leaders in religious organizations of various denominations. Others worked quietly and persistently in the service of others.
Jim Denvir was presented with the 1986 Citizen of the Year Award by the Chamber of Commerce. He and others in the co-op reached out to the community with a Christmas hamper program. They joined Mike Barretto, a close neighbour and friend of the co-op families, when he initiated a coordinated effort by church and community groups. This collaboration laid the groundwork for the Grimsby Benevolent Fund. Today, its hundreds of volunteers continue to make a difference to those in need in the Grimsby area.
Some co-op members also joined the Town Council, taking on roles such as alderman and reeve for the Town of Grimsby. These co-op politicians worked hard to improve life in Grimsby. One project involved protecting the local shoreline. They felt just as committed to building the community as they had to constructing their homes.
Sod turning ceremony in January 1954 – John Blake Footage. Watch the video with the transcription (EN).
Dorothy Forbes – Neighbourly help right from the beginning (subtitles available in FR and EN). Watch the video with the transcription (EN).
Avryle Wilson – People of the Co-op (subtitles available in FR and EN). Watch the video with the transcription (EN).