Today is the final day of May and it is only fitting to end our Open House Blog series with a look at Mr. Andonis Artemakis, one of the founders of the Oasis Clothing Bank. Mr. Artemakis is and has always been, an active member within the GTA, he donates his free time chairing or sitting on a variety of Boards, including Toronto East General Hospital and the Hellenic Home for the Aged. Mr. Artemakis approaches each of these endeavors with the same philosophy, “Innovate, Renovate or Evaporate”, a peculiar way of saying that unless you can change as a person, business or organization you will become obsolete or “evaporate”. In 1993 he became Chair of the Danforth Village GTA and in 1994 helped launched the first “Taste of the Danforth” , which today is attended by 16 million Torontonians and visitors to our great city. Little did Mr. Artemakis know that this endeavour was the beginning of the Oasis Movement as we know it today.
Andonis and Taki (Co-founder of the Oasis Addiction and Recovery Society) have been friends for many years, Andonis has supported the Oasis Addiction and Recovery Society since its inception, both financially and by employing program participants. In my many conversations with Andonis he loves to tell the story about how one summer many years ago, when he was the Chair of the Danforth BIA (if you are not a native Torontonian this is area is also known as Greektown) he employed a group of gentlemen through the Oasis Addiction and Recovery Society, to tend to the many hanging baskets, potted plants and little trees that adorned their streets and, as there were no external hoses to water with, they were instructed to go into the stores and ask the owners to fill their watering cans. This however did not bode well with the group of men, they tried everything to avoid the stores on the Danforth in search of water. Eventually Andonis noticed that the flowers had begun to wilt and the soil in the pots had gone dry, when Andonis asked the men why they weren’t watering the flowers they simply replied “We have no water.” Astonished he replied “But I told you to go into the stores and ask them to fill your watering cans!” Each one of them looked at the other, and the bravest one spoke out explaining that they were too ashamed to go into the stores because some of them had robbed these same stores and, gave the owners a hard time back when they were in the throes of their addiction. Andonis simply replied “But that was then and this is now.” He took the crew into the stores and introduced them to the owners and staff or more appropriately re-introduced them to the staff and owners, they not only got their watering cans filled but were invited to come back, and some of the stores even treated them to a coffee on their break. This was a pivotal point for these men for many reasons; firstly because Andonis was the first person to show them that he accepted them for the newly transformed individuals they had become and secondly, he forced the store owners to acknowledge and accept this transformation. This reintroduction allowed this group of men to mentally break away from not only their mistakes but their past as a whole. Andonis commanded respect for these men by the store owners, but also demanded that the workers forgive themselves and continue with the business of living. The directors of the Oasis Recovery and Addiction Society are former alcoholics and have been in recovery for years, their dedication and noble work through the Society is a source of pride and a stellar example for all those individuals living with recovery.
Andonis wanted to do more for the Oasis Addiction and Recovery Society, it was no longer enough to donate some money or employ a few graduates of the program- “Innovate, renovate or evaporate”. This drive led to the creation of the Oasis Clothing Bank, where donations and proceeds sustain the programs and the participants. The clothing bank has also become one of the Oasis Addiction and Recovery’s biggest employers.
We hope you enjoyed our Open House series, if you are an employer and would like more information on the Oasis Employment Program please go to www.oasismovement.org and, if you would like to support the Oasis Movement with a donation of gently used clothing and small housewares go to www.clothingbank.ca for a clothing bin nearest you. If you are interested in hosting a clothing drive please contact us at 416 751 0553.