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Jamie Boyle, the town of Newmarket's chief positivity officer, is shown in a handout photo.

/The Canadian Press

The Town of Newmarket is preaching positivity as part of a campaign to raise community spirit in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A group of 10 ambassadors has been tasked with using social media to spread “positivity, happiness and humour” by sharing stories of the community’s bright side and perseverance. The town has also appointed a “chief positivity officer” for staffers as they help deliver essential services.

“It’s like crowd-sourcing ideas and crowd-sourcing positivity,” said Newmarket Mayor John Taylor.

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Taylor said with anxiety levels rising through the town, located about 50 kilometres north of Toronto, he wanted to try to anticipate how residents may be feeling as the pandemic continues.

“I really have come to the belief that everybody is standing strong and supporting each other right now and I’m confident that we will continue to do so,” Taylor said. “But I am concerned about people’s nerves fraying a little bit a few weeks from now. As the isolation starts to impact people more and the financial impact hits people more.

“I think the way I’d phrase it is, I’ve started getting concerned for the collective mental health of the community.”

To help on that front, positivity ambassadors and residents are being encouraged to communicate with family members, neighbours, friends, favourite local businesses, and people in need.

Sara Rodrigues, a senior policy and research analyst with the Canadian Mental Health Association, said this kind of effort can help build hope in the pursuit of positive outcomes.

“Things like care-mongering or appointing a positivity officer to bring people together to ensure that everybody is doing OK and feeling as best they can under the circumstances are going to be really critical,” she said from Toronto. “(They can) help us respond not only to the physical health implications of this crisis but also the mental-health problems that might also come out of this.”

With negative COVID-19 news pouring in from around the globe, ambassadors will aim to bolster spirits by sharing good-news local stories, help provide a laugh or two, and make people feel stronger.

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As part of the campaign, called #StandApartTogether, the town appointed customer service centre supervisor Jamie Boyle to serve as chief positivity officer.

A 20-year town employee, he’ll work in conjunction with human resources and other departments to connect with and support a work force that includes more than 400 full-time staffers.

Many employees are working remotely doing check-in phone calls to seniors, backfilling for essential workers and delivering food to those in need, said corporate communications director Wanda Bennett.

Boyle, 46, who created a popular long-running weekly staff newsletter with inspirational quotes, facts and feel-good pictures and videos, was a great internal candidate, Taylor said.

“Calling it a chief positivity officer, not unlike a CFO or a COO, is trying to also say that’s how important it is,” Taylor said. “It’s at that level of importance right now.”

Boyle said he has a great passion for trying to encourage the best out of others. He aims to maintain and uplift spirits to keep people motivated, informed and positive.

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“This is exactly what I do and how I live,” Boyle said. “So this inspires me more in knowing that the mayor, the CAO and our executive leadership team has the trust and the faith in me to take this and run with it.

“That’s exactly what I’m going to do with it.”

The town plans to name additional community positivity ambassadors over the coming weeks.

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