Our Neighbours

Brenda Martin at Pretoria Bridge, one of her favourite places. Photo by Bonnie Weppler

The first thing you notice about Brenda Martin is colour:  the colour of her hair and the colour of her clothes.  Brenda stands out.

Talk to Brenda for a few minutes and you will notice some recurring themes:  friends, flowers and community.

Brenda arrived in our neighbourhood about nine years ago although she has lived in Ottawa much longer than that.  It was her work that brought her to Old Ottawa East, when HBK Hair Koncepts relocated from downtown  to the main floor of the Glassworks, on the corner of Main and Greenfield streets.

Brenda and HBK Hair Koncepts founder, Ken Hum, have worked together for more than 21 years.

Brenda had been working at a bank when she decided it was time for a career change.  She started training as a hair stylist in the evenings.

Brenda laughs when she recalls overhearing colleagues at the bank telling one another that “Brenda is attending eyelash school,” at night.

One of the things Brenda loves about Old Ottawa East is the sense of community.

“Old Ottawa East is very residential,” she says. “There are families that have lived here for ages.”

Brenda has added touches of colour to the well-maintained building in which she lives on Hawthorne Street:  bright Adirondack chairs and pots of flourishing flowers.

It was a friend who recommended the Lennoxville, QC girl relocate to Ottawa.

Brenda decided to visit that friend in Ottawa one long weekend.

“It’s been a very long weekend,” Brenda says. “I didn’t go back to Lennoxville!”

While she didn’t go back to her hometown,Brenda continues to have a special place in her heart for North Hatley in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, once home to her family’s cottage.

“We had that cottage my whole life,” she says. “I grew up there.  My mom was a teacher and we spent entire summers up there.  It was the worst day of my life when the cottage was sold.”

Fortunately, the friend who owns the cottage next door issued Brenda an open invitation to stay at her cottage whenever she wants.

“I am so grateful to my friend for providing me with the opportunity to go to the cottage,” she says. “At nights, I lay in bed and gaze at the star-filled sky and our former cottage next door.”

This year Brenda has been involved in the Lees Avenue Community Gardens for the first time.

“Someone else had the plot but couldn’t use it,” she says. “I was pleased to get it but I was a bit late planting this year.”

All the same, she grew swiss chard, carrots, green beans and “lots and lots of tomatoes.”

“It’s been a nice experience,” she added. “The gardens are in an open space and any kind of tool required is provided, which was helpful as I didn’t really have any tools!”

Brenda also felt the sense of community at the garden, not only from those who have plots but from residents in the nearby towers.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people since starting to work on my plot,” she says. “There are always people around and many of them have shown real interest in the gardens.  People walking their dogs stop by to see what is going on, what is growing.”

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