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May. 20, 2022 | Friday
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Dorothy Walker: The driving force behind Friends of St. Davids
Dorothy Walker, author of A Village in the Shadows and driving force behind Friends of St. Davids. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

With a desire to bring St. Davids into the light, Dorothy Walker, author and publisher of A Village in the Shadows, is the driving force behind a new community group, Friends of St. Davids.

Together with her husband Greg, the pair has helped organize the St. Davids community, garnering support and interest in the social group.

The aim is to breathe life into the village by energizing and unifying the residents.

Walker says, as a result of her book launch in July 2018, she discovered a need for community in the village. After the book was published, she hosted a garden party in her backyard in celebration.

“The reception was beyond my wildest dreams.”

Inviting those who pre-ordered the book and others in the neighbourhood, she says she met many wonderful people, but few of them really knew each other.

She wanted to find a way to bring the community together socially.

“The book is the heart of the group.”

St. Davids played a pivotal role in the War of 1812, but has been left out by most historians, she says.

In conducting extensive research for her book, Walker says she was amazed how much history existed in St. Davids. “There was the Woodruffs and David Secord, he was a major in the militia during the War of 1812. So, those are the names that people remember. But there’s so much more to the history of the village.”

The project started out as a request to retype a previous book outlining the history of St. Davids, but Walker says she conducted research and dove deeper into the village’s inception. By the time she completed the book, she says she wasn’t comfortable publishing, knowing it was essentially a rewrite and could be construed as plagiarism. Though she says she had permission from the family of the original author, she wasn’t happy moving forward.

Instead, she took what she had learned in her research and probed even deeper. She used skills acquired during her career in the medical drugs and devices research field, on a mission to tell the story of the oftentimes forgotten St. Davids community. The resulting book is “completely different” than the one she initially started retyping. Finding her voice and telling the story of St. Davids, it was the cumulation of four years of work.

The area holds historical and cultural significance that shouldn’t be forgotten, she says.

“People use St. Davids to get to Niagara Falls or Queenston, or Old Town, but they don’t stop.”

Walker says she wasn’t bringing the Friends of St. Davids to life for political reasons, but to gather residents together socially. Though, that doesn’t mean the group won’t be a driving force behind the change she hopes to see in the community.

“I am going to be the fire under the feet of council members.”

Bringing community services such as transportation, a pool, a community centre and a library to the people of St. Davids is important, she says. Set 10 kilometres from Old Town, she says many residents in the village can’t make it to community buildings in NOTL, adding that St. Davids is quiet, but that doesn’t mean it should be forgotten during the decision-making.

Friends of St. Davids is still working out operating details. With no funding coming in, she says it’s up to the group to cover any insurance or costs that arise through event planning.

“We have no funds. We are planning, and the local people seem to be acceptable to paying $15 per person. That will give us a bit of working capital.”

She says the money raised through the annual membership fee, which will be effective May 1, will go to paying for amenities and costs associated with running the group properly.

For instance, at the organization’s first family summer event on June 23 at Coyote’s Run Winery, “we have to rent porta-potties because they don’t have bathrooms.”

Events will be organized by different members of the group. She says a wine and cheese night was one of the first events the group put together and it sold out. She says she expects equal reception at other initiatives.

There will be several special interest groups: mahjong, golf, dining in and out, and brunch, to name a few. The groups will touch on a variety of interests for the residents.

“We’ll have anyone, as many people as we can, we’ll get involved in creating the social life of St. Davids. We don’t want to be the entire focus, we’re just the people who have jumped off the cliff with this (initiative).”

Walker says she wants to bring St. Davids out of the shadows. Through her book and the new community group, she is well on her way to accomplishing just that.