‘It Feeds My Soul to See People Coming Together Like This’

Citizen, business owner encouraged by kindness, outreach in Peterborough during pandemic

A message of encouragement left by Ashley Bonner on the Hunter Street Bridge over the winter. Photo by Ashley Bonner.

A local business owner and social worker is feeling heartened by the way Peterborough residents are responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

From people sharing their knowledge and resources Peterborough-wide to individual neighbourhoods looking out for its residents’ immediate needs, Ashley Bonner, owner of Smarketing, says the community-building efforts unfolding during these trying times is inspiring.

“For me, it’s providing some light,” Ashley tells Electric City Magazine.

“You can focus on the negative or you can focus on the positive.” She’s seeking out the examples that demonstrate, ultimately, how people care.

“This is going to bring people together and show ways we can work together as a community and I think it’s going to bring those micro-communities together a lot more too.”

“There’s an online community of the helpers. For me, that’s the light. It feeds my soul to see people coming together like this.”

She points to the success of Peterborough Shares, a Facebook group that is helping residents find necessities from food to toilet paper and more and generally providing ways for Peterborough residents to support each other throughout the pandemic. Electric City Magazine profiles that effort in another story.

As a social media guru, Ashley is also playing a part in keeping the community connected to resources by updating and maintaining a Google document she created.

It’s open to anyone wishing to make additions and she expects it will evolve to encompass a plethora of resources beyond the health and activity links she has already compiled. “This is really a community effort I’m just doing what I can as it comes along.”

Ashley says the workshops she runs as part of her business have been cancelled because of the pandemic so she has time and skills to offer. “Sharing resources is something I’m an expert at.”

In addition to the community-building work happening at a city-wide level, there are many connections being forged within smaller communities as well.

Ashley Bonner

For example, in The Avenues area of the city, neighbours have connected through an email mailing list. Through the initiative, organizers have identified who needs help, who can offer help, who is trained in First Aid and more.

“I think that’s so brilliant to be co-ordinating at a micro-community level,” Ashley says about The Avenues’ work.

Last week she began a similar group for the East City community in which she resides. “If people in the different communities could do that, it’s a way to help us all get through this.”

Moving forward, she’s hopeful once the pandemic is over there will be a lasting impact of the community-building efforts happening now. “Neighbours are going to start to get to know each other more — breaking down some of those individualistic tendencies,” Ashley says.

“This is going to bring people together and show ways we can work together as a community and I think it’s going to bring those micro-communities together a lot more too.”

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