Like Father, Like Son – Common Ground
People say, “Like father, like son.” No dad-child duo in Toronto better exemplifies that statement than the incredibly modest and inspirational pairing of Dan Yashinsky and Jacob Zavitz.
“We both love the neighbourhood a lot,” says Dan, of Forest Hill, a community he and his son have lived in for decades. “I’m convinced it’s the best neighbourhood in the world.”
In their nook, near Bathurst and St. Clair, Dan and Jacob have become minor celebrities because of the work they do for their neighbours.
While Dan has been instrumental in bringing storytelling to the area, Jacob protects the community’s children, as a crossing guard. Dan and Jacob have become minor celebrities because of the work they do for their neighbours. “I enjoy our daily walks and visiting friends along the way,” says Dan of his career as an artist. His work has won him several awards, including the first ever Jane Jacobs Prize, in 1999. “I’m a storyteller and for what I do, it’s been an incredible neighbourhood – because of its culture and diversity – to develop ideas.”
One place where he and his words have become locally iconic is Artscape Wychwood Barns. When the space first opened several years ago.
I’m a storyteller and for what I do, it’s been an incredible neighbourhood – because of its culture and diversity – to develop ideas
Dan advocated to have a storytelling tent added to the hub, so people could congregate and tell important tales. It continues to receive a tremendous amount of foot traffic every weekend.
“People are hungry for stories these days – Facebook doesn’t do it. People seem to love to hear the spoken word,” says Dan.
While his dad keeps busy stimulating the hearts and minds of residents on the weekends, Jacob spends his days keeping them safe on city streets. (He’s also an incredibly successful jeweller at Etsy’s ZavitzPearlGallery).
“I’m crossing kids that attend the same schools I did,” notes Jacob, of his daily beat working with the Toronto Police at Benson Ave. and Winona Dr..It’s a role he adores and takes seriously. About a year-and-a-half ago, a distracted mom, who parked near his intersection, failed to notice her two-year-old get out of the car and walk towards oncoming traffic. It was only because of Jacob’s actions that she jumped to grab her child, and averted danger. Though Jacob remembers the moment with emotion, he wouldn’t change his day-to-day for anything. “I love my job,” he says, noting that it’s his way of paying forward the support he’s received from his neighbours.
I grew up knowing a bunch of people in the community and, for many years, there were a number of people who looked after me…it meant a lot
So what advice do Dan and Jacob have for those who want to get involved in the community? “Walk. Get to know the merchants. Get to know the people in the cafés. Get to know those people who maybe you think are strange,” says Dan. “They have a story to tell, too. Spend a moment introducing yourself.”
“And shop local,” adds Jacob, before suggesting that people also volunteer at local charities like The Stop Community Food Centre. “Get out there and get around.”
Sarah Kelsey is a freelance writer who lives in downtown Toronto with her husband and daughter.