Hamilton·Heroes of the Hammer

Meet Matt Thompson, the spirit of Beasley

Matt Thompson organizes potlucks, outdoor coffee events, community jam nights and more. Perpetually on the go, his big question is always "what can I do to help?"

'My question to myself is always 'what can I do to help''

Matt Thompson organizes potlucks, coffee outside events, community jam nights and more. Without him, his friends say, the neighbourhood wouldn't be the same. (Christine Rankin)

Matt Thompson opens up the doors and yard of his Beasley house to help Hamiltonians connect and feel at home. 

Whether it be potlucks, coffee drop-ins or jam nights, Thompson regularly hosts community events where everyone is welcome. 

But when it comes to talking about how he manages to do all that, he's quick to point to the people around him. 

"I meet people and I look at them and I say, 'You know what — you guys are the leaders of the future,'" he said. 

Chris Redmond, the co-owner of Durand Coffee, said Thompson's genuine love for helping people is clear to see. 

On a recent Friday it was coffee outside, where people passing by can stop for a free hot drink and morning chats. Wearing a Hamilton Ticats hat, Thompson dashed in and out of his house to ensure the people sipping coffee on his front lawn have what they need.

"He's just really giving of his time," Redmond said. "He always has something going on and never says no to anything ... I think you don't usually find a lot of people like that." 

We're looking for other Heroes of the Hammer. Help us find those special people in Hamilton who bring communities together and make life in their corner of the city richer and more connected. We're looking for the local organizers, planners and champions who put in the time and energy to bring people together. Nominate your hero by emailing hamilton@cbc.ca or tweeting with #CBCHeroInTheHammer.

Once you meet Thompson, there's a strong chance you'll be swept up in a world of planning, either as a host or attendee. After meeting him a few years ago, Redmond's helped him run several outdoor events, book clubs, and a Christmas carol party.

Thompson works with for a non-profit in Hamilton, all of these events are his personal ventures. The 37-year-old says he's passionate about making things happen because of his belief in people and in Hamilton.

"I believe in our city and I believe people want to feel a sense of belonging. Still, it can be tough to be a new person in a big city," he said. "To me, we must be always trying out new, different and better ways to bring people together."

Redmond said that Thompson doesn't just help tighten the Beasley neighbourhood, but "everyone in the downtown area." 

"I've met all these different people from here and I think a lot of us wouldn't be as connected on different community issues," he said. "I think it definitely wouldn't be as great of a city without [Matt's efforts]."  

Matt Thompson organizes potlucks, coffee events, and community jam nights to help people feel welcomed in the city. 1:04

Allison Chewter has known Thompson since she was 15 years old. The first time she met him, Thompson was leading a house full of people outdoors and over to Victoria Park to watch a concert.

She says he hasn't changed since. 

"Matt is one of those people I feel that has dedicated his whole life to building community and creating connections between people," she said. "He's always putting on events for the community just to get people out." 

Thompson organizes 'coffee outside' events where anyone passing by can stop for a cup of coffee and a few laughs to start the day. (Christine Rankin)

In simple terms, she said, Thompson is "the personal embodiment of the Beasley neighbourhood."

This past summer, Thompson bought a canoe and brought it down to Princess Point to start a canoe share. Anyone was able to sign up to use it for an hour — and for free. 

He also organized a bus trip to Port Dover, uniting people who remembered taking the public bus to the beach and people who had never been there before. 

"I think Matt very consciously tries to organize events that will bring people together who otherwise wouldn't mix with one another, which I think helps people to understand one another and feel connected to their community," said John Neary, a friend of Thompson.

 

Neary added that this includes holding events early enough that community members of any age — babies, children teens, and adults — can get together. And besides, Neary said, this means that Thompson can get some well deserved sleep. 

"The only tension for Matt in his evening events is between wanting to host people and wanting to get to bed on time," he laughed. 

Thompson said that while people might have strong connections online, he's happy to make it easier for people to make friends in person. He also likes to open his home for potlucks during the holidays so that people always have company.

Events on his front yard like coffee outside, he said, are an accessible way for him to make a difference. 

"You're not coming into someone's house, you're not going into someone's backyard, it's just a driveway beside a park downtown," he said. "You show up, you chat with people ... and you get to know some more people. And I think in a city like this, which can be really transitory, it's really good that people feel rooted and grounded to groups of people in the city."  

And for Thompson, that's what everything comes back to — helping others. 

"My question to myself is always 'what can I do to help,'" Thompson said. "I'm always here to help, I'm here to assist, so just let me know."

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