Nick Toner has served on the Nelson CARES board for 25 years. Photo: Submitted

Nick Toner has served on the Nelson CARES board for 25 years. Photo: Submitted

COLUMN: Meet Nick Toner, the heart of Nelson CARES

The first in an ongoing column by Nelson CARES

By Stephanie Myers

Nelson CARES fund co-ordinator

Most Nelsonites will know Nick Toner as “the guy with the million-dollar smile.” He’s familiar and unforgettable to friends and strangers alike. And for a lot of very good reasons.

For years, Nick has been an active part of the community as a volunteer for numerous organizations. I recently sat down with Nick over coffee in the garden at Oso Negro to learn more about his long-standing commitment to supporting them.

Nick came to Nelson in 1992 following in the steps of his twin brother, Jim, who relocated here from Toronto a few years prior. Nick liked Nelson right away and fell in love with the Nelson Leafs, and today, so many years later, he is considered their No. 1 fan. He volunteers in the arena to control the crowds while cheering on his team at the same time.

You may have also seen Nick’s unforgettable smile at the Kootenay Bakery Cafe Co-op, where he helps out stocking shelves every week. Nick also lends a hand at Bigby Place in the garden and with the music programming. He is a busy guy, and he brings cheer wherever he goes.

Nick is also the longest standing Nelson CARES board member and likes “reaching out to others because I care for them.”

It’s been 25 years since he joined the board, and when he talked about the thing that makes him the happiest about the work that Nelson CARES does, his quick and emphatic response was “housing … After all, I don’t want to see people on the streets of Nelson.”

Nelson is lucky to have Nick and vice versa. The affordable and supportive housing that Nelson CARES Society and other local organizations provide allows Nick the opportunity to continue to enrich our little town.

Affordable housing allows hundreds of community members to live in and contribute to the vibrant society that makes Nelson so dynamic. Having housing that meets a variety of needs and income ranges allows Nelson CARES to ensure more folks have access to a place to call home.

Nelson CARES currently operates three large-scale affordable housing developments. These developments offer everything from studio to four-bedroom townhomes with numerous accessible units. Hall Street Place and Lakeside Place are currently under construction and will come online later this year.

Hall Street Place will have 41 affordable rental homes in downtown Nelson for low to moderate-income families and seniors. The new building includes studio, one, two, three-bedroom and accessible units within a four-storey apartment and townhouse complex.

Lakeside Place will have 47 affordable rental apartments for seniors (55 plus) and people with disabilities. This development includes studio, one and two-bedroom, and accessible units.

With real estate costs steadily rising, these new affordable developments ensure that housing and especially affordable housing remains an option that allows longtime Nelsonites to remain within their community, staying close to friends, family and support networks. It will give young families that are new to the area the chance to put down roots. It will expand the availability of workforce housing, and give options to folks who may have limited resources.

My conversation with Nick covered a lot of ground and wrapped up with a question about hockey. When I asked him what position he would play on the ice with the Nelson Leafs, his one-word answer was “defence.”

After getting to know Nick a bit better today, I really feel this says something about his character.

He defends people and ensures that everyone gets a chance to thrive. With his volunteer work around town and on the board of Nelson CARES, he truly helps make this happen every day in a million little ways. Nelson CARES Society is also a defender of equitable access to housing. It believes, as does Nick, that we all thrive and benefit when a community is inclusive in caring for one another.

This is the first of an ongoing quarterly column from Nelson CARES.

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