Everyone belongs in North Dundas

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The Pioneer gas station in Winchester, known by many locally as “Ben’s Pioneer”

North Dundas is a welcoming place. Those of us who call North Dundas home would not have it any other way. However, there is without a doubt a certain heavy amount of pride in this Township that makes us offer strong rebuke to anyone who does not embrace the local customs with every bit of our heart and soul. Is there anything wrong with such pride? Of course not, but we also need to remember that everyone belongs, even if they need time to adjust to North Dundas life. 

Last week, the owner of the Winchester Pioneer gas station, Ben Henry, moved on to the next chapter of his life, allowing new owners to take the reigns. Social media users have been somewhat critical of how things are now being run at the station that will likely always be known as “Ben’s Pioneer”. Yvonne Ghabrial, co-owner of the MacEwen’s gas station in Chesterville, knows how it feels to be a newcomer running a gas station in a small town, and chimed in with a social media post of her own to urge North Dundas residents to provide some slack. 

“Helping hands, genuine hearts, caring community; those are some descriptions that come to mind when I hear ‘North Dundas’,” Yvonne told the Times. “Coming from ‘outside’ the community was definitely a challenge to start. But that challenge only came from a niche few.”

Yvonne was eager to share her story, with a message that we all belong. “Chesterville changed my husband’s and my life,” she said. “It showed us the true meaning of a community and what it’s like to have people to always have your back. From the outpouring of love from the team we have, to the customers who pick up a shovel on a snowy day or get under cupboards to help stop leaks, that’s what a small community does. Members of that community who will stand up for you when you are being treated unfairly or the ones that apologize for judging you, will always be the ones who shaped us and made us love this awesome town.”

For Yvonne, it’s important to focus on the good, rather than the bad. “Although you will always have the few who will never accept you, because of your background, race, or simply because of their own insecurities, those ones will never outshine the good ones,” Yvonne added. “It’s only been 4 years since we moved here, but it has become what we now call ‘home’. So thank you for giving us the opportunity to call you home, Chesterville.”

As a humble newspaper Editor, I have a story of my own to share. I was born in Winchester, and raised in North Stormont. I was never a stranger to Winchester as a child and teen, and came to North Dundas frequently, having family here as well. I could never explain it, but even as a young child, I always knew I would end up living in Winchester one day. After finishing an undergrad degree and while starting a Master’s degree, I worked casually as an educator as a favour to my sister-in-law, who supervised an extended school day program in Ingleside. In 2016, I was offered a permanent position at the Winchester Public School site, which turned into a position with the school during the core school day as well. In 2019, I chose to finally make the much-anticipated move to Winchester like I knew I always would. It was 20 minutes down the road, but a move nonetheless. 

It was shortly after I moved that I encountered the “duty to adjust”. I took to the internet to vent frustration after my recycling was not picked up. It was back when both types of recyclables were picked up together, every other week. I had diligently separated my recyclables, but put them to the curb one bin on top of the other. This was considered “mixed recyclables”, and I was left with a note and my recycling was not picked up. What I was met with from social media users was a strong message that those we employ to collect our garbage and recyclables are not expected to be my new mommy, and that I should take responsibility and stop complaining. It only took that one time for me to realize that complaining is a delicate art in North Dundas, and one that is best to avoid altogether.

In 2021, I purchased a house in South Mountain with the love of my life, and then married her in the backyard. Together with our two kids and two dogs, we are proud North Dundas people. Now working as the Editor of the Times, and still working at Winchester Public School (my “second favourite place in the world”) as I said, I couldn’t be happier. It is our duty to make sure that everyone feels the same. Love your neighbours, get involved in your local community, and welcome newcomers and the dedicated business owners that work tirelessly to make sure we have much needed goods and services close to home.

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