Involvement, service are key priorities for new Ralph Thornton Community Centre Executive Director Ravi Yee Joshi

Following the retirement of former Ralph Thornton Community Centre Executive Director John Campe, the Board of Directors recently selected Ravi Yee Joshi as his replacement at the Riverdale community hub.

A lifelong resident of the East Toronto community which he now serves, Joshi told Beach Metro Community News that he hopes to utilize the experience he gained as Co-Executive Director of the Council of Canadians in his new role.

“It’s a national advocacy organization,” said Joshi. “Most recently we were involved in the successful campaign to achieve universal pharmacare.”

During his time at the Council of Canadians, Joshi was part of a team that worked the organization into a new role as community organizers, meeting community members about issues that are of importance to them.

“The Ralph Thornton Centre was founded on very similar goals,” said Joshi. “It was founded to be a multi-purpose community hub that also engaged with people and I think that’s something that attracted me to it.”

Throughout his life, Joshi has had a connection to the community centre at 765 Queen St. E. in various capacities.

In his youth, he observed his parents as they volunteered for different initiatives. His mother was particularly involved in community engagements, working as an environmental activist who fought for air quality in a neighbourhood that was once filled with factories and industrialization.

She also fought to remove toxic cleaning chemicals from schools to create a safer environment for the youth.

“They have always emphasized the importance of being involved in the community and serving the community,” said Joshi of his parents.

This, he said, greatly influenced his path towards his new role as the importance of service to community was instilled in him from a young age.

Between 2012 until 2016, Joshi further pursued his vocation by turning his attention to Toronto City Hall, further nurturing his love for community service by taking the role of Special Assistant to Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher.

“Through that work, I had a much greater experience dealing with the Ralph Thornton Centre at the time,” he said. “I also served on the advisory panel, so I had (some) experience working with the centre in that capacity.”

During his time working for Fletcher, Joshi oversaw a variety of community events and helped with advocacy work surrounding transit and affordable housing.

Since joining the Ralph Thornton Community Centre, Joshi said that he has been impressed with the programming which found stability under the leadership of the former Executive Director Campe.

Now in the driver’s seat, Joshi said he hopes to continue in a similar direction while enhancing community engagement.

“The current programming is really top notch,” he said. “If people haven’t had a chance to explore our range of services, they really need to.”

The Ralph Thornton Community Centre offers a variety of programs for people of all ages. These include immigration programs to help newcomers settle in the community; a financial literacy program; after school programs which provides homework help and access to computers for youth; as well as a seniors program with many offerings such as cooking classes, crafts, and health related workshops.

Joshi said that through these services, the centre can build a stronger relationship with local residents by learning about their day-to-day needs – the most prominent need, as of late, being assistance in navigating through Toronto’s affordability crisis.

“We hear this when people come to the community centre,” he said. “What we need to be capable of doing is meeting with them and finding ways to amplify affordable housing, for example, as something the community can achieve with our elected officials.”

Through the Community Matters Town Hall, Ralph Thornton Community Centre frequently creates a space where these issues can be discussed amongst residents.

As new Executive Director, Joshi is encouraging community members to become involved with the centre in order to build upon the legacy of founder Ralph Thornton.

James Ralph Thornton was born in 1905 and was a force in Riverdale as a community organizer for decades, taking on a number of causes including fighting for the rights of residents whose homes were being expropriated by the city in the 1960s. Though Thornton died in 1974, he is remembered as a strong and passionate community leader. When the former post office at 765 Queen St. E. was closed in 1975, residents worked to have it turned into a community centre and when it was opened in 1980 it was named after Ralph Thornton to honour his work and spirit.

“We are a historic building that is tucked away in an important part of Riverside but when you come in there is a lot happening,” said Joshi. “So come past the front door and see what we have in store.”

For more information on the Ralph Thornton Community Centre, please go to

— Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Amarachi Amadike, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Beach Metro Community News