Leslieville Lives: Stories from the ‘Ville – Sandra Brunner
Meet Sandra Brunner. I first met Sandra one summer night about five years ago, when a neighbour was passing by my house walking her dog with Sandra. We were introduced, said ‘hi’, they carried on. After that, we would see each other in the ‘hood walking our dogs, bump into each other in the parks (as you do in L’Ville) and have the odd exchange. It wasn’t until last summer that I started to notice, via posts on the IAAL page, or at the Leslieville Farmer’s market or on Queen St., that Sandra was ‘everywhere’; not just physically, but she had a presence in the community. She first came to L’Ville after returning from a stint working in the law admin world in Europe in 2000 to embark on a passion – learning and teaching pilates. She started/co-owned what many of us remember as Chang’e Studios (now Living Waters) back in 2008, one of the first yoga, pilates and massage centres in Leslieville. They changed hands in 2011 and Sandra branched out opening her own studio downtown, although she still teaches in various studios throughout Leslieville. During this time, she had decided to embrace the ‘whole’ holistic lifestyle. Even though she had closed the doors to her Leslieville business, she still lived here and was contemplating starting up a local farmer’s market. Coincidentally, the Leslieville Farmer’s market had started that summer so Sandra joined forces with them, as a volunteer, the first season (2008) doing anything/everything from manning the information desk to helping with vendor selection, eventually joining the board of the market in 2014.
If you’ve ever been to the ‘Souper Bowl’, the annual Leslieville Market fundraiser, you will have seen her there volunteering, if not met her/talked to her. Prior to Le Papillon closing, it was held there, but had its premiere at the Ceili Cottage this year. The main event, the soup/stew was, for the first time, vegetarian. You have to be fairly influential to convince an Irish pub to make a vegetarian stew. As well as being involved in local events, she is a huge advocate of ‘shop local’ and not only shops in the ‘Ville, but has hired many of the community’s talented entrepreneurs for all her business needs. It was through these community based connections that Sandra met Sherry Vanstone, an animal advocate and member of Adopt A Dog, Save A Life. Thus began Sandra’s other passion, as a foster to dogs in need. Since then, Sandra has fostered a total of eight dogs. It’s only recently she switched hats to become a full time ‘Mom’ and adopted the sweet Sorina, a rescue from Romania and her last foster from Safehome.
Rescue animals aren’t the only less fortunate beings that have tugged on Sandra’s heartstrings. After the influx of refugees from Syria to Canada in late 2015, she joined a group to help families settle here, with the support of Lifeline Syria, the HUB (a depot for volunteers and donations for refugee families) and East End Families for Syria, working tirelessly over the last months. She is a crusader. Small in stature and quietly understated, she has a heart the size of the Grinch, after he realized the true meaning of Christmas. I even had a ‘Sandra’ experience of my own. A year or so ago, the hot thing going around on a Facebook thread was the marinara sauce from Costco. After making a comment about it on the thread, the next day I got a PM from her that she had left a jar of it on my porch. Small random acts of kindness make big impressions. Her mantra in life is ‘I have enough. I will always have enough. Why not give to those who don’t and share the bounty with others’. A lesson we can all learn.