Words of wisdom from George Farrow of the Rotary Club of Oakville.

That’s what the Rotary Club of Oakville did when it embarked on a journey to build affordable, social housing in Oakville.
In talking to George Farrow, an architect by profession and designer of the homes, it was a team effort.  Several of the Rotarians came together and lent their expertise to make this ambitious dream come true.
Back in 1961 the Rotary was able to access 100 percent financing from CMHC and they were able to keep the cost to the tenant affordable. Three years ago, several of the units were sold to Halton Housing and the proceeds from that sale have been used to set up a charitable foundation, enabling the Club to do more.
George had actually done his thesis on the needs of seniors and so had some innovative ideas of what was needed – like an en suite bathroom - which was unheard of in those days.
Over the years a total of 263 units, including the Normandy Place complex has been developed by the Rotary Club in partnership with other groups in the community.  And it is those partnerships, both within the club and outside it, that have made this social housing complex so successful.
“You’ve got to use your head” advises George. “There are Rotarians who are thinkers, dreamers and schemers – in other words, we get things done.”
George went on to observe that there are lots of talented people within Rotary, and the key is to draw on and use those talents.
And it wasn’t all plain sailing in developing these housing complexes – they had to gain official approval of the Town of Oakville and face the ratepayers’ association who didn’t want low income housing in their area.
Another rewarding element is that the Club has stayed involved in the communities they’ve built.  They host Christmas dinners and arrange special stockings for the residents. During COVID, members made a point of connecting with the seniors who were housebound.  
Local media has highlighted what they have achieved, and for the project this has been good news, as it attracted others - young people - who want to get involved and who become Rotarians.
“You have to have backbone to take on a project like this,” shares George.  “But it is truly exciting when you all come together to brainstorm what could be achieved.”
And that was my main takeaway from my conversation with George.  It’s all about the partnerships, the power of collaboration.  It’s not that Rotary has to do the work alone, it’s looking at what talents you have within the club, and who else in the community could come to the table.  
Rotary then becomes the catalyst in bringing the players together.  As we have observed with the growth of cluster groups within our District, there is true strength in working together.
Your club may not embark on a housing complex, but there may be equally rewarding projects in your community that could be undertaken when you think big and involve others. 
As George said we are Rotarians first, and members of a specific club, second.  
Written by Anne Day,  Rotary Club of Guelph Trillium