Honoured Dec. 2 with the TABIA Most Connected to Your Community Award             

For more than a decade, the St. Lawrence Market area has seen lights go up around the holidays and plants beautifying the neighbourhood come spring, all courtesy of Bob Kemp and his team.

As the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood BIA’s streetscape coordinator, Kemp does more than just keep the community looking neat and tidy, however. He is determined to make a difference in the lives of those from around the community who are struggling, and loves making sure kids and families all have a good time.

“When it comes time to put up lights or put in flowers, I’ve always hired guys who need a second chance and the BIA pays them,” Kemp said. “I hire guys who come from programs in the area, ex-drug users, ex-alcoholics. I think we’re the only BIA that does that – that gives them that chance.”

The crew puts up holiday lighting, cleans light poles and ensures the area is litter-free following public events.

So entrenched is he in the community, Kemp actually has an annual celebration named in his honour. Bob Kemp Day features a parade and barbecue in David Crombie Park, with live music and other attractions every summer.

“We started doing it years ago with Buskerfest, just having everyone get together the day before for some fun,” Kemp said. “Now we don’t have Buskerfest down here anymore – it’s moved to Yonge Street – but the kids still wanted me to do it, so I kept doing it.”

Kids can dress up as firefighters, get their faces painted and more.

While he is honoured to have a day named after him, the down-to-earth Kemp is anything but a glory-hound. Some have gone so far as to call him “The Mayor of St. Lawrence Market,” a title he humbly tries to deflect.

“I don’t do it to show off,” he said. “I do it because it’s fun for the kids.”

The downtown resident also works closely with 51 Division Police, heading up a toy drive there. From now through the holidays, people can drop off a new, unwrapped toy at the station at 51 Parliament St. to ensure kids from low-income households have something to open come Christmas morning.

He said his work is all a part of making the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood a friendlier, more welcoming place.

“I just want people to like people,” he said. “Our community’s a unique neighbourhood with lots of different types and we all have to get along.”

For his work, Kemp was honoured Tuesday, Dec. 2 by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas with the TABIA Most Connected to Your Community Award. The awards recognize individuals and groups that do the most to help improve life in their communities.

Organized by TABIA and sponsored by the City of Toronto and Metroland Media Toronto, the event honoured BIAs in a variety of categories, including Kemp’s award, which was sponsored by Metroland Media Toronto

City Centre Mirror: December 3, 2014 

By Justin Skinner