One thousand lives touched by the kindness of a quiet mom

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Phyllis Nashen with Jeremy and Nathalie dropping off Holiday gifts with Stephanie at the Shriners Hospital (Dec. 12, 2018)

When a mother of four very active boys realizes they’ve all grown up and don’t have the same needs for her protective and nurturing ways what is she to do to continue providing happiness and joy to young children? Many return to their chosen professions or choose new ones. Some take time for themselves. Others choose to volunteer their time for a host of charities and community organizations.

My mother had volunteered in public schools in the capacity of a social worker, helping kids who didn’t fit in, or had difficult family situations or acted out in class. She would help them by playing games with them and sharing in one of her favourite pastimes, drawing and painting.

She also decided that she would continue to spread a little sunshine to some far less fortunate than her own kids and she turned to the Shriners Hospital in Montreal. Since late autumn of ’75, my mom has repeated her annual tradition of going out and purchasing little gifts for kids who would be spending their holidays in the world-renowned children’s orthopedic hospital. In the early days, she would head out to Woolworth and Kresge, two long forgotten department stores and stock up on 25 toys for little girls and boys. Her gift wrapping would be unique for Christmas and Chanukah, for boys and for girls.

Mom was always very organized in preparing for her annual pilgrimage to the Shriners before her winter treks to Florida. Now at 90, my mom no longer vacations down south but that hasn’t slowed her own Santa’s Workshop in getting ready for these kids.

Phyllis Nashen, an unlikely Santa Claus, with Julie at the Shriners Hospital (Dec. 3, 2010).

For several years she recruited my daughters to help with the toy purchases, gift wrapping and the drop off at the hospital. My mother always believed that acts of kindness and charity were very important for the whole family to partake in.

“It’s important to me to put a smile on their faces,” Phyllis says.

While assisting my mom in wrapping gifts in December 2010 when my daughter Nathalie was seven years old, she said, “This is my project – I do it every year for Christmas and Chanukah. It is a Mitzvah (a good deed).”

That same year, my eldest, Nicole was 10. She remarked that this activity was lots of fun. “It makes me feel good knowing we did something to cheer up the kids who will spend their holidays in the hospital. Some can’t even get out of bed and they need even more happiness.”

Through the years my children have learned important life lessons from my mother’s generosity and acts of kindness. Indeed, our entire family is involved to varying degrees of volunteerism and community life.

Nicole and Nathalie Nashen (aka Phyllis’s Elves) deliver gifts at the Shriners Hospital (Dec. 3, 2010).

“It makes me feel good to share with others and to make the kids at the Shriners happy by doing a small thing like this,” Phyllis explained. “I’ve taught my children, and grandchildren, that we’re lucky to have what we have and we must appreciate this and give a little back.” My mom always loved children and thought that she could continue making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Maybe some didn’t have family close by. Perhaps some didn’t have family at all. “I like giving, not receiving,” Phyllis says.

My father, George, 95, couldn’t be more proud of his wife. “She has always shown compassion and acted with kindness,” dad says.

Nathalie, now 15 says she is, “incredibly proud of this legacy that my grandmother has created. I will be honoured to participate this year once again, and every year that Bubs (as Phyllis is affectionately referred to by her grand-kids) continues to do this.” Nathalie goes on to say,”My Bubs is like a candle spreading light, illuminating the next candle, and the next, one thousand times over.”

What’s my mother’s message to my own children? “Don’t be selfish and think of yourself. Think of others first,” she says. “Imagine the smiles on all of the faces you’ve touched, without ever knowing them or seeing them,” she says.

Though she never met face to face with a single child at the Shriners, her message is one of pure love and goodness. “I hope you enjoy what I’ve given you. I hope you’ll be healthy as possible and live a long and happy life.”

For more than 40 years my mom has wrapped and delivered holiday toys to bring joy to more than 1000 children who had to be in the hospital instead of at home with their families. My mom created 1000 happy moments out of gloom, turning 1000 frowns into smiles. We’re mighty proud of my mom, 1000 times over.

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How about a Minister of Animal Welfare?

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Mike Cohen is a masterful communicator and a novel idea generator. Here Mike gets impressive publicity on his passion for animal welfare and a major plug for his outstanding annual Cats Concert.

Would you like to see a Minister of Animal Welfare?

 

Quebec election: A councillor calls for new ministry of animal welfare

 

‘There are so many municipalities with different laws on pets, but the provincial government needs to take leadership,’ says Mike Cohen.

Côte-St-Luc councillor Mike Cohen and Nancy Reich with twins LuLu and MiMi, whom she adopted from a litter born to a feral cat. DAVE SIDAWAY / DAVE SIDAWAY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Mike Cohen has a big beef with the major provincial parties: “They are not really addressing the needs of thousands and thousands of constituents.”

Namely, cats and dogs.

Cohen, the Côte-St-Luc city councillor responsible for animal protection, has a soft spot for pets, particularly cats. But he laments that while the provincial parties have made billions of dollars of promises to two-legged constituents in this election campaign, they have talked precious little about animal welfare.

For the last eight years, Cohen has been at the forefront of Côte-St-Luc’s Trap, Neuter, Release and Adopt Program, which has successfully dealt with the plight of nearly 500 feral cats in the community. To raise funds for the program, the Côte-St-Luc Cats Committee, which Cohen founded, will be holding its annual benefit concert, featuring the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra, Oct. 9 at the Syd Wise Auditorium.

Cohen estimates that Côte-St-Luc alone is home to many thousands of homeless cats. “And that doesn’t take into consideration all those that die daily.”

“So, do the math and draw conclusions about the number of feral cats as well as homeless dogs throughout the province,” says Cohen, who started the Côte-St-Luc Dog-Owners Committee this year.

“I think it’s insulting that provincial governments over the last many decades have basically thrown these animals under the umbrella of the minister of agriculture. That ministry has sort of been responsible for animal welfare, but has achieved only limited success.”

Cohen’s concern is shared by the Montreal SPCA. In July, the Montreal SPCA mandated Léger Marketing to undertake a poll assessing the importance of animal welfare to Quebec voters. The survey determined that 72 per cent of Quebecers felt it was “very important” or “somewhat important” for candidates to address issues affecting animals during this election campaign.

So in August, the Montreal SPCA sent out a questionnaire to the main political parties to learn more about their positions on several animal welfare issues.

“All the parties to which the Montreal SPCA sent its questionnaire — apart from the Quebec Liberal Party, which refused to participate — seem to recognize the importance of animal welfare issues in the eyes of voters, as all of them state that this is an issue of great importance,” Sophie Gaillard, director of animal advocacy at the Montreal SPCA, notes in her analysis.

“Yet only two parties suggest concrete measures to improve animal protection in Quebec. The Coalition Avenir Québec and the Parti Québécois both responded to only a small number of the questions submitted. Only Québec solidaire and the Green Party of Quebec took the time to answer the questionnaire in its entirety and seem to have given these issues serious thought.”

Québec solidaire wants the Montreal model — requiring pet stores to source animals for sale from shelters — to be expanded throughout the province. As well, it’s against the permanent chaining of dogs and no-pet clauses in residential leases.

Green Party concurs on the latter two issues but would also like to ban the sale of all cats and dogs in pet stores and on the internet, and to impose mandatory sterilization on pets with the exception of small, family-scale breeders.

Cohen isn’t surprised by this seeming lack of interest on the part of three of the major provincial parties and suggests that the situation will only change when pet owners and other concerned citizens speak up and force politicians to address animal welfare issues.

“Animal advocates have been shunted to the side, but the time will come when the situation with homeless cats and dangerous dogs will reach epidemic proportions here and something will have to be done,” Cohen says. “There are so many municipalities with different laws on pets, but the provincial government needs to take leadership and have laws that bring all the municipalities together.”

He concedes his passion for pets hasn’t been a lifelong affair.

“I honestly didn’t like cats 23 years ago, but they came as part of my marriage,” he says. “I’ve since had four cats and they’ve been like humans to me.

“How many other voters out there feel the same way? Yet we have no idea how the provincial party leaders feel about pets — if they even have them. We haven’t heard them bring this up during the campaign. So I’m calling for the next Quebec premier to appoint a minister of animal welfare. Time has come for an animal program with some teeth.”

Maybe claws, too.

AT A GLANCE

The annual Côte-St-Luc Cats Concert, featuring the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra, takes place Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Syd Wise Auditorium, 5785 Parkhaven Ave. Tickets: $15. Reservations: http://bit.ly/catsconcert.

bbrownstein@postmedia.com

Florida moves to stop time shift, should Canada follow?

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Florida has moved a step closer to making Daylight Saving Time permanent and end the dreaded and dreary semi-annual ritual of moving clocks back and forth. I have called upon our Members of Parliament to do the same for the last several years right here on my blog. Put an end to this archaic time-waster and let us have more sunlight all winter long.

I hope thew Florida Governor signs the Bill and that the US Congress follows suit. The chain reaction will surely push our parliamentarians to finally end moving our clocks back and forth.

Barry Wislon picked up on this movement in his recent Postscript vlog.

So let’s keep the momentum going. Blog it, shout it and call out your MP. The sunshine is back and we should keep it that way, all year long.

N

More:

Daylight Saving Time: Let there be light

Are you ready for clock confusion?

This time I’m voting to scrap time change

I’m tired of falling back!

Giving thanks in CSL

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Sure there’s always something to complain about. Life is so unpredictable and things go wrong all the time. Small irritants fester, emotions get the best of us, anger fills the void, we point and lay blame. It happens.
Today, I prefer to focus on the positive, to offer a word of thanks. And appreciation.
Our community is made up of diverse people, who don’t always agree and may not even be on best terms with one another. But one thing everyone can find consensus on is in expressing thanks to our amazing volunteers throughout Cote saint-Luc. They are the backbone of our civic organization and the driving force of our city.
Thank you so much to our star power volunteers at EMS. For your dedication, your heroic efforts and your sense of duty and caring for all of us.
Thank you to our committed and generous volunteers at vCOP for your time and perseverance in patrolling our city again and again, keeping us safe.
Thank you to our local Public Security agents, police officers at station 9 and firefighters at station 78. You are all the front-line resources keeping us safe and sound.
Thank you to all CSL residents for whatever efforts you make for our community, and the special place it has been and will continue to be.
Let’s agree to be helpful and hopeful but not unrealistic, to be polite and neighbourly rather than heaping scorn and above all, thankful for whatever we have, as a community.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Follow the yellow brick road to the CSL Dramatic Society’s production of The Wizard of Oy

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The Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society is staging its third annual Senior Summerworks Production The Wizard of Oy, a musical comedy geared towards senior actors and audiences.
Performances run through Sunday night at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium in Cote Saint-Luc City Hall.
The Wizard of Oy written by Ari Sterlin, who founded Senior Summerrworks in 2015, parodies the classic Wizard of Oz, transforming it into a hilarious and touching story about a woman searching for her youth.
CSL Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, the visionary behind the Dramatic Society, welcomed guests to the opening performance last night. “This production, like all of our presentations, is to bring you happiness,” Brownstein said.
“The CSL Dramatic Society is continually expanding to allow more and more opportunities to the members of our community and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it,” said writer, director and choreographer Ari Sterlin. “Sit back and enjoy the show!”

A satirical and joyful spin on the classic Wizard of Oz the cast followed the ‘yellow brick road’ and even the orange traffic cones in search of Oy.

Six year old Ryan Hill was the precious little star playing the role of Toto while Dorothy was played by returning funny woman Hannah Sheffren. Also returning to the stage was Ellen Rabin in the role of Mayor delighting the audience with her comedic lines and hum-along songs. Shout out to Adena Schnarch with her infectious smile, Helen Gwiazda and Judy Kenigsberg all of whom are veterans of the Summer Workshop.

Ellen Rabin as the Mayor, Hannah Sheffren as Dorothy, Ryan Hill as Toto, Mitch Kujavsky as Henry and the guard, and Melanie Chahine as Em

 

The cast sing nine memorable tunes departing from the traditional words such as in ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, with emphasis on local venues including the Cavendish Mall.

The Senior Summer Workshop strives to pair seniors with young emerging artists ton produce a musical parody with themes and subjects pertinent to senior citizens. Nonetheless my two teenage daughters Nicole and Nathalie, regulars in Anisa Cameron’s Bialik Theatre Productions,  loved the show as did my eight year old son Jeremy. “It’s fun, local theatre for the whole family,” said my wife, Judy Hagshi.

Louis Schiff plays the Cowardly Lion,, Jeff Waxman as the Tinman, Norm Spatz as the Scarecrow along with Hannah Sheffren as Dorothy. All of them did a sensational job singing solos. And of course the adorable Ryan Hill as Toto.

 

Don’t miss the matinée and evening shows this weekend. There are only four performances:

August 24th | 7:00 PM

August 26th | 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM

August 27th | 11:00 AM & 3:00 PM

 

Bravo to the entire cast:

Starring: Hannah Sheffren, Ryan Hill, Christine Dandurand, Dan Sterlin, Norm Spatz, Jeffrey Waxman, Lou Schiff, Toby Clark, Judy Kenigsberg, Bev Silverman, Janet Garmaise, Helen Gwiazda, Melanie Chahine, Mitchell Kujavsky, Ellen Rabin, Adena Schnarch, Phyllis Schnarch

 

Written, directed and choreographed by Ari Sterlin

Produced by Mitchell Brownstein

Musical Director Daniel Witkowski

Stage Manager Emma Loerick

 

Tickets available HERE
Or in person at the Côte Saint-Luc Library or Aquatic and Community Centre

Volunteers rescue and neuter Côte-St-Luc’s stray cats

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Veterinarian Dr. Marlene Kalin and Michael Cohen, the Côte-St-Luc city councillor responsible for animal protection, with Gidget, a stray cat that is available for adoption, at the Côte-St-Luc Hospital for Animals in Montreal on Aug. 9, 2017. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

From about March to November, Diane Liebling’s garage is brimming with caged cats that she captures in the wilds of Côte-St-Luc’s suburban neighbourhoods.

“I have a very understanding husband,” Liebling said with a laugh. “Of course, to do this kind of work, you really need somebody who is on board with you, and he really is.”

Liebling is chair of the Côte-St-Luc Cats Committee which, for the last seven years, has been working to stabilize the city’s feral cat population through a trap, neuter and release/adopt program.  Volunteers take the program a step further by providing feral cats with food and shelter.

“We’re a small group of volunteers, but we need more,” said city councillor Mike Cohen, who commended Liebling’s efforts — she has already trapped about 40 cats and rescued 11 kittens this year alone.

It’s not just volunteers who are needed, Cohen added, but more funding as well because, as the program expands, so do the costs.

“In Côte-St-Luc, we estimate that we have thousands of homeless cats,” he said. “Some say there could be as many as 10,000.”

Cohen, the councillor responsible for animal protection, helped found the group when former resident Shelley Schecter approached the council with concerns over the city’s booming feral cat population — a problem, Cohen said, that’s not limited to Côte-St-Luc.

Cats, often living in colonies, have taken up residence in the rail yards, behind restaurants, in the Meadowbrook golf course and in backyards. Cats are abandoned by owners, lost or simply born feral. Cat populations are quick to rise, as females can have two to four litters a year, producing two to four kittens each time.

Feral cats spread disease to fellow felines, whether they’re domestic or wild, and they can be a nuisance in the community. Beyond that, feral cats live extremely short, difficult lives scrounging for food and struggling to stay warm in the winter. They are often found injured and diseased.

Côte-St-Luc requires outdoor cat owners to neuter and register their pets with the city. However, it’s the unlicensed, unneutered cats that committee members are focused on.

Residents are asked to be on the lookout for and report unlicensed cats to the committee via a city-hosted hotline (514-485-6800 ext. 2287). The cats are then caught in humane traps so they can be dewormed, sterilized and vaccinated at the Côte-St-Luc Hospital for Animals.

The hospital offers the committee its services at a low- to no-cost rate. While being operated on, one of the cat’s ears is notched in a painless procedure so volunteers can keep track of treated cats. Cats awaiting treatment or recovering from sterilization are housed in Liebling’s garage.

Kittens and sociable cats are put up for adoption, but volunteers must first foster and help socialize them until a home is found. As for the rest, even after weeks in Liebling’s care, they have no interest in humans. Those cats are released where they were trapped.

The committee provides volunteers with food that they can leave out for feral cats. The committee also offers residents handmade, insulated huts. Tucked away on people’s properties, the huts, constructed of plastic and foam, keep cats warm in the winter.

Once dewormed, sterilized and vaccinated, kittens and sociable cats are put up for adoption, but volunteers must first foster and help socialize them until a home is found. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Over the last four decades, trap, neuter and release programs have proven more effective than extermination, explained Dr. Marlene Kalin of the Côte-St-Luc Hospital for Animals. Since 2006, she estimates that she has treated over 1,000 trapped cats in her effort to give back to the community.

“Trap and kill has been shown many times over that it is not a successful program,” said Kalin, noting that cats tend to gather around food sources. “You can trap and euthanize all the cats behind a restaurant, for example, but there’s a vacuum effect. Within a very short time, other cats come in and repopulate the area.”

Trapping and neutering a single cat costs about $100, she said, whereas trapping, impounding and eventually euthanizing them costs about $200. Because trap, neuter and release programs have existed for some 40 years in cities around the world, there is plenty of data proving their effectiveness, she said.

“From a cost perspective, trapping and releasing is the way to go as it is the most effective, long-term strategy to stabilize and reduce the size of the feral cat population,” she said. “It also improves their health.”

Yet the reality is, to make a lasting impact, at least 60 per cent of the cat population must be treated. To do that, more funding and volunteers are needed.

Cohen said the committee gets about $5,000 annually from the city and, through fundraising events like benefit concerts and bake sales, that municipal contribution is matched. The money pays for cat food, supplies and veterinary services.

“We’ve been getting many more calls,” Cohen said. “As a result of that, our expenses have gone way up this year.”

There is hope, he said, that the sixth annual Cat’s Meow Concert will help replenish the committee’s diminished bank account. On Aug. 22 at 7:30 pm, the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra will perform in the Syd Wise Auditorium (5785 Parkhaven Ave.). Tickets cost $12.

Meanwhile, Cohen said surrounding municipalities need to do more. There are similar programs found throughout the province, but there’s not enough, he said, especially in the west end.

“More municipalities need to do this,” he concluded. “There should be trap, neuter, release/adopt committees in all municipalities. This problem with homeless cats is not just in Côte-St-Luc. It’s everywhere.”

New CSL cafe opening Wednesday, August 16

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Cote Saint-Luc resident and business owner, Marissa Sidel will be launching the neighbourhood’s first sit-down, storefront coffeehouse, Café de l’avenue, on Wednesday, August 16.

 

“I’ve lived here my whole life and I can’t remember a time in which people weren’t asking for a proper, sit-down, storefront café. We saw the opportunity to partner with the Quartier Cavendish and we jumped at it,” Sidel said.

 

Sidel, who has run her company, National Dispatch Services, out of CSL for nearly five years, enlisted her family and friends to get the café started.

 

“Côte-Saint-Luc is all about family and we’re excited that our own family is able to further cement its place here with this café.”

 

Café de l’avenue is in the Quartier Cavendish, with an outside door and terrace on The Avenue just off Cavendish Blvd. The coffeehouse will feature free WIFI for customers, power stations throughout the seating area, and will have a real neighbourhood feel.

 

“We’ve partnered with great kosher suppliers like Elna Bistro and Mimimelon for all of our food and desserts, and our beans come from Union Coffee – legendary among Montreal coffee drinkers,” Sidel explained.

 

“We’ll be open from 6:30 am to 11 pm Monday to Friday, and 8:30 am to 11 pm on the weekend. We’re open seven days a week so we can always serve the entire Côte-Saint-Luc community. We look forward to seeing everyone there!”

 

Read more: Mike Cohen’s blog

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