Pam first blew my mind in 1980. I had just begun work for the Co-op Housing Federation of Toronto and Pam was Chair of the Board. I was new to Toronto and slowly finding my way within a group of passionate, progressive people who were not just dreaming big dreams, but literally building the co-op housing movement across the country.
I’ll never forget our first encounter, as I was on my way to observe my first board meeting. Pam stopped me in the hallway, grabbed both my arms, looked me in the eye and told me that co-op housing was going to empower tenants across the country and that together we were going to build a better world. And then with a big smile and twinkle in her eye, she spun around and was gone. I stood there in shock, truly electrified by a single moment with this small, but enormously powerful woman.
Pam continued to encourage and inspire me through my tenure at CHFT. What stands out from that period is her genuine interest in how I was doing, not only in the work, but in how Janice and I were adapting to life in Toronto. She cared about us, about our kids, about our well-being.
Although I left the co-op housing sector in 1984, the importance of Pam’s message in that first encounter has resonated in me and so many others through the decades.
We re-connected in 2006 when our company became Toronto Community Housing’s development partner on the Regent Park revitalization. Since then, Pam has inspired and electrified me countless times, and there is no doubt that without Pam McConnell there wouldn’t be a Regent Park revitalization. Pam has been there from minute one, not just dreaming big dreams, but doing the heavy lifting to bring those dreams to life. Pam has been both the glue and the common thread, the unifying and trusted voice, holding steady to the vision despite a myriad of obstacles along the path.
Although the residents of Regent Park have lost their champion, Pam’s voice and vision will live on. Her personal power has inspired and empowered all of us to make our world a better place.