“What we live by is ‘Solidarity, not charity’. We’re there in solidarity with our community so we can support their needs.”
The Condo Store, together with Michael “Pinball” Clemons, is proud to feature this week’s hero, David Shellnutt, who was nominated by Chaitons LLP and Alex Raponi. David is a community lawyer here in Toronto and began a campaign to mobilize the city’s cycling community to deliver necessary food and supplies to the most vulnerable among us, Toronto’s Bike Brigade.
David’s story is about giving back to those that are vulnerable or don’t have a voice. Michael “Pinball” Clemons talked with David this week and had this to say:
“It’s beautiful when you can transform what you love into helping others unselfishly. You are a HERO choosing the front lines to make a difference for the most vulnerable in our city.”
We will be featuring everyday heroes from across the G.T.A. every week, so keep the nominations coming by sharing or commenting on these posts using the hashtag #TorontosEverydayHeroes.
Here is the transcript of the interview. Please join us in celebrating David Shellnutt and all of Toronto’s Everyday Heroes.
TCS: Hi David, nice to meet you, can you tell us a bit about the Bike Brigade?
The Bike Brigade was formed in response to the need for vulnerable people, particularly seniors to stay home, stay healthy, and stay out of the hospitals. Toronto is a city of cyclists. The Toronto Bike Brigade is pairing volunteer cyclists with community organizations that serve isolated, vulnerable people, seniors and health care providers to deliver supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bike Brigade offers free delivery service for organizations and individuals in need.
TCS: It seems like the cycling community really came out and supported this initiative, is this something that happens with regularity?
On a good day people on bikes in Toronto really care about the betterment of this city. We show up at council meetings to discuss road safety, give infrastructure input, and generally try and take up less space, be healthy and contribute to a cleaner environment. I knew that in Toronto’s time of need cyclists could be counted on to help their communities.
TCS: Chaitons LLP nominated you as a Toronto hero, how does that make you feel?
It is really humbling to be recognized by other lawyers for work in my community. We know each other as counsel and litigators, Alexandra Raponi of Chaitons LLP reached out to me as a cyclist first, and that was really cool.
TCS: Is Bike Brigade still going strong? What details about those that you are helping would you like to share?
We reached 360 riders last week and are moving to an automated app system to make deliveries easier for our riders. The Brigade is constantly on the move and trying to better serve our communities and support local organizations doing some incredibly heavy lifting.
While it remains unsafe for many folks to go outside and people need help with their groceries or free food boxes because of the economic impact of the pandemic, we will remain busy!
TCS: How do you compare this to your normal job prior to the pandemic?
Most of my legal work involves standing with and assisting vulnerable people and marginalized communities. I style myself as a community lawyer, so it only made sense to stand with my community when things got tough. I have mobilization and organizing experience in my past, from Amnesty International and local Human Rights organizations when I used to work in post-conflict Sierra Leone and Liberia, I was able to use a lot of that here.
TCS: Do you feel any different working these days?
I feel busier! I am juggling a busy legal practice and an organizational role with the Bike Brigade, with help of course. Honestly, my job involves a lot of negotiation with private insurance companies to get people the benefits and support they need, which can be exhausting. So, sending 50 masks to Michael Garron Hospital at the end of the day is a nice counterbalance.
TCS: How do you interact with your colleagues/partners these days? Has there been any feelings of fear or trepidation?
I am most concerned about the health risks we are all under and particularly how those may impact my mom, dad and other older folks. There are also huge financial concerns as a small business owner. But I find solace and support in the fact that literally everyone else is facing those same or similar pandemic-related concerns. That and a sense of community really keeps me grounded. We are in this together and we will make it through together.
TCS: You have a pretty remarkable story about how you started your practice specializing in bike crashes and helping people who have survived violence, if you feel ok doing so, can you detail how your new practice is doing and the decision to start your own firm?
I have been able to keep my staff members working, take on new clients, run a law practice and distribute free food boxes out of my office most Saturdays, I really feel blessed and thankful for all of that.
I started my own firm so that I could help people. Prior to COVID our communities were being decimated by Provincial cuts. I wanted to firmly root my legal practice close to the communities that I support and am a part of. I had no idea such a huge opportunity to directly support those communities would come about only 3 months into launching my firm!
I almost lost my life on January 1, 2019. Since then I try and seize every day and live my lift in the fullest way possible. Support got me through my darkest hour, I intend to offer that same support to others, always.
Check out our other weekly featured heroes: