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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Leaf blowers are a menace to our quiet, suburban neighbourhoods: Beaconsfield council to vote to restrict the use of leaf blowers

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Leaf blowers are a menace to our quiet, suburban neighbourhoods.

They are polluting our cities, spewing toxins, dust and noise from their wailing motors.

Rather than depositing fallen leaves into our environmental, government-mandated composters, these aggravating agitators blast nature’s fallen foliage into our streets and across our sidewalks only to be blown back by gusts of wind onto the next lawn over. Even worse, our soon-to-be clogged city catch-basins and drains will require even noisier and more-polluting over-sized vacuum vehicles on scene. We’re paying the price.

But we don’t have to pay such a heavy price. City Councils, near and far, should give consideration to this wise decision by our neighbours in Beaconsfield.

Of course, gardeners will spend more time collecting and depositing leaves, grass clippings and the like. However, the cost will not only balance out in less need for municipal crews and equipment but we will reap the immediate benefit of healthier, more tranquil places that we wanted when we moved to the neighbourhood.

 

Source: Beaconsfield council to vote to restrict the use of leaf blowers

Beating cancer one kilometre after another

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Phil and Alissa Anazrut

 

Bikus Urachus is a group dedicated to raising funds for cancer research, and focused on bringing attention to urachal cancer.  They got together in 2013 to ride in The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 235km cycling ride from Montreal to Quebec City.

After my buddy, Phil Anzarut, recovered from chemotherapy to treat his urachal cancer, he and his friends created the Bikus Urachus team.   Friends and colleagues donated generously and the team grew to 12 in its first year growing to over 30 today.  Bikus Urachus has been the #1 community fundraising team for this event several years running.

The Ride for 2018 sets out this weekend. As their 2018 campaign season comes to a close the 2018 Bikus Urachus team has raised more money for cancer research than any other Bikus Urachus team to date, raising $199,000 this year alone, bringing their 6 year total to an incredible $965,000.

Phil Anzarut

Not only do they raise money, they also put it to work. Their recent purchase of a next generation DNA sequencing platform for the Segal Cancer Centre ensures the Jewish General Hospital remains at the forefront of rare cancer research. Also this year, they’ve expanded their focus to all difficult cancers, as this sequencer will be used for continued research on melanoma and lung cancers.

A few weeks ago, a urachal cancer patient in Toronto reached out to Phil. Diagnosed in 2016, his cancer is at stage 4 and has metastasized in his brain. He writes: “I have always found it difficult coping with my diagnosis for several reasons, but one of the hardest parts to accept is the complete lack of knowledge in the medical community regarding urachal cancer. It is so rare there is just not enough cases for researchers to have much they can tell me about treatment, survival and expectations I should have. At times I feel as though I am the only one researching my own case and guiding myself through treatment.”

The survival rate for metastatic patients is 24 months. This is why they are riding.

Tomorrow morning Phil will lead the Bikus Urachus team on a 235km bike ride from Montreal to Quebec City on their 6th Ride to Conquer Cancer. Their sponsors include: Tactio Health Group, Noble Foods, Constructal, Martin Industries, BDC Capital, Optessa, Elopak, McWhinnie’s and Lenovo.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to make a donation, please donate directly to the Urachal Cancer Research Fund at the Jewish General Hospital at www.urachalcancer.com/donate.

As a friend, and also as the Director of Communications and Media Relations for the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal (at the Jewish General Hospital) I could not be more proud of my friend Phil and his entire team. I am hoping that this last push of publicity can help them achieve a few dollars more to reach $200,000 toward this noble cause.

All the best to Phil and the entire Bikus Urachus team. Good luck to all 2000 riders in the 2018 Ride to Conquer Cancer. May the temperature be just right, with the wind at your back. Peddle on folks!

Birnbaum campaign for the new D’Arcy McGee shaping up

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D’Arcy McGee Member of the National Assembly David Birnbaum welcomed a crowd of supporters to the Gelber Conference Centre earlier this week as part of a fundraiser to kick off his re-election campaign. The location of the event east of the Decarie Boulevard signifies the changing electoral boundary in the upcoming provincial elections. The riding of D’Arcy McGee will expand beyond its traditional territory of Cote Saint-Luc, Hampstead and Snowdon West. Newly included in  the riding will be a substantial area stretching to Cote des Neiges Road bordered by Cote Saint-Catherine to the south and the CP Railway to the north of Vezina.

Speaking with his customary eloquence and grace Birnbaum said that, “there is only one party in the National Assembly that truly represents all Quebecers,” giving examples of how the CAQ and PQ have not stood up for minority communities. The CAQ has indicated its position on immigrants which runs contrary to the belief of so many of Birnbaum’s constituents and, “the PQ still has its Article 1 that speaks of Quebec without Canada.”

 

 

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum speaks to a group of supporters at the Gelber Conference Centre

Mitch Garber was the special guest speaker.  Chairman of the Board of the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil, Mitch was recently named as Chairman of  a new organization, Invest in Canada, which is focused on streamlining and encouraging investment in Canada. Mitch is also the co-founder of Ceasar’s Entertainment,  a world-leading game development company. Closer to home, Mitch is an old school-mate of mine at Bialik High School and McGill University.

Mitch has never forgotten his roots and always speaks proudly of his community and his love of Montreal, Quebec and Canada.

“Mitch and his wife Anne-Marie are doing so much to bridge the gaps between our linguistic communities, between our Jewish community and all over Quebec, with frankness of warmth and compassion,” said Birnbaum.

Speaking about his passion for business and baseball, Garber took care not to make any partisan pronouncements, although it was clear that his support for David Birnbaum was genuine and sincere.

Guest speaker Mitch Garber throws his enthusiastic support to Birnbaum

 

My wife, Dr. Judy Hagshi and I were pleased to show our support for David. I worked closely with him in my capacity as a City Councillor. David’s keen interest in matters affecting municipal life and provincial matters are evident. If he, and his very able staff of Chris and Elizabeth, could do anything to assist his constituents, they would do so with pleasure.

What’s more I was always impressed in his interest in the larger Jewish community and its public establishments, following in the footsteps of Lawrence Bergman, his predecessor. David was front and centre in speaking up in the National Assembly on Yom Hashoah, as was Bergman.

He also went out of his way, literally, in showing great interest in the advancement of the Jewish General Hospital, where I work in public relations on behalf of the West-Central Montreal health authority. The JGH is located in Mount Royal riding, which never stopped David (or Lawrence Bergman before him) from doing whatever he could to help out on any file, along with his neighbouring MNA, Pierre Arcand. As happenstance would have it, with the redrawing of the electoral map, the JGH will in fact be in the new D’Arcy McGee boundaries come October 1.

 

Dr. Judy Hagshi and Glenn J. Nashen supporting David Birnbaum for re-election

We may not agree on every single issue but that doesn’t diminish David’s strong support of his riding and constituents. And we may not agree with all of his party’s platform but that doesn’t take away from their strong handling of the economy and their clear position on Quebec’s place in a united Canada. As David said, that’s much more than we can say about his competitors.

I look forward to challenging David on issues of importance to me such as English-language rights, pre-hospital emergency medical care, public safety and the promotion of electric vehicles and other green initiatives. I know he will always give me an ear and bring my concerns to the seat of power in Quebec City.

Best of luck to my friend, David Birnbaum.

Can CSL EMS save more lives, respond faster?

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United Hatzalah ambucycle in Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s United Hatzalah (Rescue Squad) founder Eli Beer spoke to a crowd in Montreal yesterday and was invited to visit Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Medical Services. The United Hatzalah is an incredible program, all volunteer driven, with a singular focus on rapid, first-response to anyone in need. Its mission and purpose is very similar to that of Cote Saint-Luc. Despite difference in size and sophistication, Beer will undoubtedly find many similarities between his group and the outstanding, all-volunteer CSL EMS. Indeed, we have much that we can learn from Beer. Here are 4 key points we should explore.

EMS volunteers (Class of 2013)

#1 Volunteers

Despite CSL’s speed in responding to its 3000 medical emergencies each year, a three-minute average response time is excellent but we should always look for ways to cut seconds when lives are at stake. I have proposed that local, off-duty-EMS volunteers be alerted of life-threatening calls, and equipped, to respond when in close proximity.

What’s more, with an auxiliary force of 80 additional members of the volunteer Citizens on Patrol, some of them (say 20) could be trained at a basic first-responder level. They too are already available, on and off duty, and nearby.

And greater adoption of citizen CPR is crucial.

#2 Transportation

CSL EMS is not an ambulance service. It is a first-responder service. As such, it must rapidly access those calling 911. It should have a fleet of smaller, faster vehicles – not heavy and very expensive ambulances. To complement its lighter, quicker vehicles, a single ambulance would suffice for full protection from the outside elements during severe weather or at large events.

Hatzalah has a fleet of scooters to get around its congested urban centres. CSL already has a fleet of electric scooters for vCOP. Why not integrate these resources, with qualified members, for quicker response when they’re already on the road or when EMS is unavailable?

vCOP patrols the park on electric scooter (Canada Day 2017)

#3 Technology

Hatzalah has uses Israeli technology pushed out via an app for its members. Such technology is now widely accessible to anyone on their mobile devices. CSL should embrace this technology by outfitting all of its EMS and qualified vCOP members so that the closest crews can respond even faster to life-threatening emergencies while EMS and Urgences Santé ambulance are en route. Again, these extra responders are even more critical when EMS first-responders are tied up on other calls and unable to respond to a life-threatening emergency.

#4 Policy

CSL operates under rules and regulations established by higher levels of authority. These rules need to be updated to take into account the local realities of CSL EMS volunteers. Medical responders ought to be granted tax credits toward their training and equipment expenses. Also, the SAAQ has developed regulations in the last few years that allow volunteer firefighters unique privileges in responding to (medical) emergencies in their own vehicles. Despite numerous evidence-based presentations by CSL, the Quebec automobile insurance board refuses to recognize the unique nature of CSL EMS volunteers, who are better trained to deal with medical calls than firefighters. Updating policies and removing bureaucratic obstacles will help save even more lives.

 

There is no doubt that Cote Saint-Luc is a leader in community-based emergency medical services. Its program is one-of-a-kind in Quebec and it is a proven, life-saving organization. Adopting new ways of expanding its resources, exploring new rapid-response vehicles , embracing mobile technology and updating policies will bring this organization to a whole new level.

 

 

Source: MikeCohen.ca: Eli Beer: founder of Israel rescue organization shares his story in Montreal talk

I’m tired of falling back!

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Worth Repeating:

garfield_i_hate_mornings

It’s about time!

Really, it’s about time that we ended this ridiculous 1970s-oil-crisis-game show of turning the clocks back and forth and pretending that this outdated and disruptive ritual is somehow beneficial to the economy or environment or our circadian rhythm. It’s not. I’m sick and tired of falling back!

Studies have shown that traffic accidents spike because we’re thrown off kilter, that heart attacks rates increase and that unless we’re raising chickens in our backyards that there’s not much of a benefit of having the sun come up well before 99% of us are ready to lift our weary heads off of our pillows. In fact, I don’t know anyone that is all that thrilled of having the sun set over Mount Royal at 3:30PM, a good hour before anyone’s even contemplating leaving their office (two hours for the rest of us).

I hate driving home before dinner in pitch black, yawning my way down Fleet Road, ready for my pajamas and fluffy slippers, only to remember that there are kids’ activities to drive to or volunteer work or meetings to attend.

And, I don’t know about you but why do I need the sun to rise at 6:00AM, especially in the middle of winter when the likelihood of going for an early morning jog in -30C on ice covered sidewalks is kinda low on my list of favourite pastimes.

So, this is a message to my favourite Member of Parliament. I know you’re reading this Anthony. You’re the only person I know that will be getting up super early to swim 100 laps before I hear Snap, Crackle or Pop. Please march right over to Justin’s office and deposit a draft bill to repeal the time change, just like those wise Saskatchewanians who were smart enough to realize that it’s better to stay on Daylight Savings Time, all the time!

If you’re like me, you too are sick and tired of falling back!

N

Here’s my previous rant on this annoying subject.

And this is a clipping from the Suburban Newspaper back in 2012:

Suburban Newspaper, Jan. 4, 2012

Suburban Newspaper, Jan. 4, 2012

 

 

Our farmer is closer than you’d think

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Judy Hagshi and Jeremy Nashen at Lufa Farms rooftop nursery near Marché Central

Lufa Farms is an agricultural company located in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville neighborhood of Montreal. It is reputed to have built the world’s first commercial greenhouse on the roof of a building. The company’s first Montreal greenhouse began operations in early 2011.

Covering an area of 31,000 square feet, Lufa Farms produces vegetables year-round without synthetic pesticides, capturing rainwater, and recirculating irrigation water. The company delivers more than 10,000 baskets per week.

Lufa Farms rooftop nursery grows a wide variety of produce capturing and recycling rainwater and irrigating the plants through drip technology

Lufa Farms’ relies on a direct-to consumer business model, which minimizes the transport of food. Unlike traditional greenhouses, Lufa Farms recreates several microclimates to provide the quality and productivity of cultivars. According to the founder of Lufa Farms, Mohamed Hage, “If we were using the roofs of 19 shopping centres in Montreal, we could make the city self-sufficient.”

My family signed up to receive a weekly basket of fruit and vegetables four years ago through the Cote Saint-Luc Public Library. After a pause of a few years, my wife Judy, decided to rejoin a few weeks ago. Lufa Farms’ members are called “Lufavors”.

The happy Lufavors: Phyllis, Glenn, Nicole, Nathalie, Jeremy and Judy

We attended yesterday’s open house in their rooftop nursery near the Marché Central. My family took part in the study tour learning all about their operations and distribution system. Did you know that your average fruit and vegetable travels 2500 kilometres until it gets to you. The produce is cultivated long before you consume it and is transferred via refrigerated trucking, stored in refrigerated warehouses and is redistributed to your grocer before you ever see it on their shelves. By comparison, Lufa Farms picks your personalized order from the vine overnight and it’s generally in your kitchen within 12 hours!

Big, fresh and delicious

 

From vine to your kitchen in 12 hours!

An vibrant micro-economy has sprung out of this venture with small artisan producers partnering with Lufa to bring their products directly to its member’s table through the Lufa distribution network.

My wife and kids select our weekly basket online and we pick up our order at the library, just a short walk from home.

It couldn’t not be easier, fresher, more educational and interesting with new foods to explore all while we support our local producers right here in the Montreal area.

 

 

 

 

 

Traditional transport from the farm still on display

 

Nathalie and her ‘Bubs’ Phyllis getting ready for Halloween cooking

 

 

 

 

 

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