The History of Newark Neighbours
Newark Neighbours was started in 1971 by Margaret Simone (Peggy) Anderson. Peggy came to Canada as a war bride, settled in NOTL and did various jobs including working on the farms. She lived in the slave cottage at the corner of John and Butler Streets. Peggy, along with Nikki Aiken, realized that there were many families who were not well off in NOTL and so started the organization. The name Newark Neighbours references one of several names by which the early settlement of Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) was known. It bore the name of Newark from 1792 to 1796, although it was often referred to as Newark for many years after.
In the first few months there were 20 families on the Newark list. That same year, Peggy and Nikki started the Christmas program when they realized their clients were unable to go to the St. Catharines Association Services office to pick up gifts and supplies. That Christmas Newark Neighbours had 100 families including 175 children who needed help. An appeal went out to the town and the citizens responded, with caring residents allowing their basements to be used as collection and clearing depots, while Peggy and Nikki did the administration.
The following year Phil Viera and Bill Griffiths joined the group and the four realized that the needy families would continue to struggle with hardship, especially in the case of an emergency. To ensure that Newark Neighbours could continue effectively, they applied for and received a Provincial Charter and were incorporated in 1972. As a charitable organization, money was needed for rent, hydro, etc.
The Mime Theater, Shaw Festival and the citizens raised money to help them find a permanent home. Newark Neighbours started off in Chautauqua and relocated to a number of locations including the boiler room of the factory that is now the Pillar and Post Inn.
In 1980, the organization moved into the house at the corner of John and the Niagara Parkway, now the Riverbend Inn, which was then owned by Dr. Afrukteh. Two rooms were available to them but in 1990 they were given notice to move by the summer of 1991, as the house was going to be converted into a museum.
Dr. Afrukteh came to the rescue and offered a parcel of land if NN could raise enough money to erect a building. With a long list of volunteers and the local Kinsmen, Penner Lumber, Cobra, and many others, construction started on October 26, 1992 and the public was later invited to the official opening of “The Barn” as we know it.
In 2021, Newark Neighbours was proud to celebrate fifty years of service in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and to recognize the generosity of residents, businesses and other organizations that have loyally supported its work for half a century.