So, there I was, tucked in the back of Second Cup, meeting with Dale Biddell about potential board members for a wonderful new charitable foundation that’s being developed. Of course, we went longer than planned and when I reached Dunlop St and looked across to my car, a figure in the familiar blue coat, ticket in hand, was standing near the parking meter.

“Hey!” I called out. “Am I too late?”

“You are too late,” said Kim, “but this isn’t a ticket; it’s a gift. I’ve just fed your meter for you.”

Sure enough, she’d added 15 minutes to my meter and saved me from a parking ticket.

A parking angel, that’s for sure.

The “ticket” Kim put on my windshield is one of 250 that have been handed out since November. It tells me that my meter had run out and has been extended by a parking angel, sponsored by the Business Improvement Area of Downtown Barrie. Sponsoring businesses for the first 2000 angel tickets are Wise Advantage, TD Canada Trust, Michael Smiley Fine Jewellery and Queen’s Hotel.

And since November four volunteers have been strolling the downtown streets, from High St to Poyntz St, from Ross St and Collier St to the lake, inserting dimes and extending meter life in an effort to make doing business in downtown Barrie a more pleasurable affair. Since one of the volunteers found full time employment, Kim, Ron and Charne have been making people smile as they carry out the angel program. This is almost as good as being the lucky person who delivers flowers! I mean, think about it, who’s going to be grumpy when they open their door to flowers, or when they pull a gift card off their windshield.

Lee Anne Tideman, Administrator for Downtown Barrie’s Business Improvement Area said she discovered the angel program when networking with other BIA’s about their parking programs. She was keen to see it implemented in Barrie and is delighted with its success.

The program has really been running for about six weeks because during December, parking meters are free in an effort to support retail sales in the downtown core and allow those retailers to compete with the perceived benefits of shopping in a parking-free mall.

“We’re doing other research while we’re out there,” Lee Anne explained when I called to thank her for this ‘gift’. “We’re monitoring and encouraging owners and staff to park away from shopping locations and we’re targetting store owners who don’t comply.”

While Lee Anne hasn’t had any calls other than mine, she said that the sponsoring businesses have received calls of thanks and support from grateful drivers. She said that downtown businesses have also been positive about the angel program, grateful that their customers are getting this treatment.

Will it make us all sloppy, avoiding meter-feeding at all?

“I hope not,” commented Lee Anne, “because we only feed them once.”

Well, once was enough. I’m grateful.

Thanks, Kim. What a great volunteer job!

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