Wildlife Friendly Winter Decorating

To brighten up Winter 2020 the Young Ideas group teamed up with Park People to create some outdoor holiday decorating resources for the community. Due to the COVID-19 public health guidelines the group had to be creative in how they brought people together outdoors.

This resulted in a series of blog posts and a free virtual crafting event to provide space for sharing knowledge and tips around decorating public parks and parklets in a wildlife friendly way.

This project aimed to encourage people to get outdoors into our shared spaces to celebrate the season while also raising awareness of some simple ways that we can incorporate environmental stewardship into our decorating.

The free virtual crafting event took place on December 14th with twenty people in attendance. Participants were provided with free craft bags so that they could join in crafting along at home. All the crafts were bio-degradable and some supplies could be safely used by birds as food or nesting materials. Crafts were demonstrated by members of the Young Ideas group and they included snowflake paper cutting, needle felting, willow star weaving, and pomander balls. The event was open to everyone and suitable for all ages and crafting abilities. Participants were able to converse with each other while they completed their crafts and many stayed to chat and craft for two hours.

One participant had the following feedback – “Thanks so much for the crafty zoom meeting! It was my first zoom meeting – the crafts were great and well explained. I really appreciate the time the women put into organizing all of it.”

After the workshop the participants were invited to bring their creations to a designated tree in the neighbourhood which was located in the parklet in front of Gordon House. Due to the public health guidelines the participants were not able to gather to decorate all at once, but by coming to decorate the tree at separate times the group was still able have the experience of decorating all together but in a safe and social distanced way.

Over the month of December the group also publicly posted some other easy and affordable crafts ideas to the Gordon House blog and social media accounts. These posts highlighted different ways of using natural and low cost materials and all community members were invited to join us in decorating the trees around the parklet.

Links to crafting blog posts:

Everything Will Be Pine

Birdseed Ornaments

Honorable Harvest Teachings

Ode To An Orange

Woven Willow Star

New Mural Celebrates West End Neighbours

‘The People in Your Neighbourhood’ mural coordinated by local artist Deanna Flinn.

Deanna Flinn is a multidisciplinary artist who has called Vancouver home for 15 years, and currently lives in the West End.

Several years ago she began experimenting with ‘continuous line’ drawings, which is when a pen or pencil stays in uninterrupted contact with the surface of the paper during the entire illustration process. In the spring of 2020 she received a $500 Neighbourhood Small Grant to create a continuous line mural with her neighbours.

Deanna started the project by approaching dozens of West End neighbours and encouraging them to draw a self-portrait using just one continuous line, and while their eyes were completely closed!

“This was the first time I wrote a grant and I got it! I started to collect the drawings in September, one by one I gathered them, there are 46 in total, 47 if you include mine,” said Flinn “It took a lot of planning to abide by the protocols for COVID.”

Originally she imaged the mural could be completed at a large public gathering, however COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions forced her to change her plans and meet with participants individually.

“I had a vision we could do it in the courtyard in front of Gordon House,” explained Flinn, “…with the restrictions COVID presented I was still able to get the same reaction from the participants, just on more of a one on one basis.” “…I think now more than ever we need to find ways to connect, and people are getting very creative in connecting at safe social distances and electronically. I wanted to show them how they could connect using art too.”

Most participants were apprehensive at first, however any nervousness was usually quickly replaced with laughter.

“Everyone resisted at first, insisting they couldn’t draw, then they would try and giggle the whole time,” explained the artist.

Once she collected enough drawings, Deanna used a projector to enlarge and paint the portraits onto five large wooden panels.

“I had to sort which faces went on which panels and how I would also include the name of the project ‘The People in Your Neighbourhood’. It was a bit like putting together a puzzle.”

The whole painting process took place over many days in Deanna’s small, West End studio apartment.

“I don’t have a lot of furniture so at each stage I was working with the panels I had to plan and schedule how the day would go so I would have room to move around. I listened to a lot of music while I was making this mural, it was a very cathartic experience for me.”

Photo of the mural panels in the artist’s West End apartment.

While painting the mural panels inside was very different than what she originally imagined, the project had some unintended positive results.

“I learned so much and I had such a good time, it helped me connect with my art in a way I didn’t think I could and it helped me connect with more people in my neighbourhood. I think it’s really important to express ourselves, especially in times of isolation and upheaval and I really hope the people who participated found that this helped them have a bit of fun and showed them how they are a part of a community.”

The finished mural is composed of five panels that are just under 8 feet tall, and when combined are over 12 feet long. It is a beautiful piece, and charmingly depicts our community, which was Deanna’s goal for the project.

“People need to feel connected, we are social animals by nature and I really wanted this project to provide that piece for people. Now they can go and search out their face and see it swimming around with a bunch of others. I also think it’s important to celebrate every member of our community, all shapes and sizes from all corners of the earth. We are social beings and we need authentic connection in our lives and I hope this mural gives the viewers and participants that feeling of inclusivity.”

Deanna’s mural is currently on display at Gordon Neighbourhood House in the heart of the West End at 1019 Broughton Street, and will be up for the month of January 2020. More of Deanna’s work can be found on her website www.freeadmission.ca and Instagram account @freeadmission.

This project was funded by the Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grants program, which provides grants up to $500 to support resident-led community projects. Gordon Neighbourhood House administers the program for all residents on the downtown peninsula, and funding is generously provided by Vancouver Foundation.

For more information about the Neighbourhood Small Grants program, visit neighbourhoodsmallgrants.ca or email jim@gordonhouse.org.

5,000 Meals Delivered During COVID-19

Community Chef Amanda Bacaleinick in the Gordon Neighbourhood House kitchen.

We are proud to announce that Gordon Neighbourhood House in collaboration with The West End Seniors Network has now prepared and delivered 5,000 nutritious meals during COVID-19!

This milestone has been made possible with financial support from the United Way’s Safe Seniors, Strong Communities (SSSC) program & Local Love Food Hub initiative.

Although the tree-lined streets and sandy beaches of the West End can leave the impression of an affluent neighbourhood, the West End has long struggled with food insecurity. The downtown neighbourhood has among the lowest median household incomes in the City, including a large population of seniors on fixed incomes, and single parent households.

“We all know how hard it is to get through an average day on an empty stomach,” said Siobhan Powlowski, Gordon Neighbourhood House Executive Director. “Imagine trying to get through a pandemic and economic crisis under the shadow of food insecurity. We have a responsibility to ensure every person in this neighbourhood has access to good food during this trying time, and I am deeply proud of our team’s hard work to put 5,000 nutritious, home-cooked meals on the table this year.”

Nutritious meals delivered to seniors with heightened risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SSSC initiative is a joint effort between Gordon Neighbourhood House and the West End Seniors Network. While WESN coordinates the registration and enrollment process, GNH coordinates the meal preparation and delivery.

At the heart of the GNH kitchen is Community Chef Amanda Bacaleinick. Due to COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions, Amanda has often worked alone preparing the hundreds of meals. Her menu is extremely diverse, and examples of past meals have included: Blue Cheese Pasta, Coq au Vin, Peanut Stew, Chicken Jambalaya, and Creamy Salmon & Dill Gratin to name a few. All of the meals take into account the unique dietary restrictions and requirements of the elderly recipients, and the menu has even included special meals to celebrate Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas holidays.

After carefully ensuring the meals are cooked, cooled, and plated following strict food preparation guidelines in GNH’s kitchen, the frozen meals are then delivered in directly to community members via courier bike.

“It’s a labour of love,” said Chef Amanda, when asked about what the 5,000 meal milestone means to her. “This is my way of ensuring our community is cared for—through nutrition, color, and choice of good loving food.”

Delicious meals delivered to seniors at heightened risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the meals are being distributed to seniors at heightened risk during the COVID-19 pandemic—and for many, the food brings a welcome relief.

“My health is not so good, and so everything was a little scary in April,” said one anonymous participant. “Especially with the long queues and empty shelves in the stores. Now I have stocked up with new perishables and meals, I feel comforted that I can get through another tough time like that.”

“I am 88 and almost blind,” said another recipient. “Usually I would cook one large casserole a week, divide into portions and then eat the same meal for several days. With your meals I get variation and new eating experiences–it gives me something to look forward to.”

The delivery of 5,000 meals would not be possible without staff support from: Kari Kesslar (Response Hub Manager at WESN), Jenn Mason, Stephanie Woo, Jessy Scaria, Linda Minamimaye, and Joey Liu. If you would like to support Gordon Neighbourhood House or are interested in getting involved, please visit gordonhouse.org, or email welcome@gordonhouse.org.

PROGRAM UPDATE: As of January 16th, 2021 we have now prepared and delivered 6,489 meals.

West End Neighbours Celebrate Hanukkah Virtually

West End Neighbours convene virtually to celebrate and learn about Hanukkah in 2020.

Faced with restrictions on in-person gatherings, West End neighbours celebrated Hanukkah in a new way this year, by connecting online to share songs, stories, and blessings.

Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is an annual eight-day holiday known as the Festival of Lights. During Hanukkah, people of Jewish faith celebrate a great miracle that occurred, and the religious freedom it now represents.

The virtual event was coordinated by Gordon Neighbourhood House and the Jewish Seniors Alliance, and was co-hosted by local residents Alycia Fridken and Charles Leibovitch. Gordon Neighbourhood installed a large outdoor Chanukiah (a nine-branched menorah for Hanukkah) for the occasion, and participants received a gift bag with candles, chocolate gelt coins, and a toy dreidel. Fridken is a member of the neighbourhood house’s Community Advisory Board, and providing visibility to the Jewish community was important to her.

Large Chanukiah (a Nine-Branched Menorah) Installed at Gordon Neighbourhood House to Celebrate Hanukkah.

For many participants, the virtual gathering was also important to keep traditions alive. Jacob Kojfman attended the event with his partner and daughter Emily who is in grade two at nearby Lord Roberts Elementary School.

“Coming from a bigger Jewish city like Toronto, it can feel lonely in Vancouver, especially when it is hard to find a sense of community,” said Kojfman. “There are more Jewish people in the West End than I expected, and kudos to Gordon Neighbourhood House for providing an opportunity to let families pass on and continue traditions.”

In addition to a candle lighting and live singing by Charles Leibovitch, the online gathering also provided a much appreciated opportunity to bond. Elaine Fridkin has lived in the West End for more than 15 years, and while she has attended many Hanukkah events in the past, this was the first one she has participated in online.  

“Being a senior is very isolating. Being a Jewish person in a non-Jewish neighbourhood is even more isolating,” shared Fridkin at the event, “This is a wonderful way to connect with people during these difficult times.”

For other attendees, the event provided a welcoming space to learn more about Hanukkah and Jewish traditions for the first time. Mary Brooks attended because she wanted to find out more about her neighbour’s traditions and beliefs.

“I attended because I want to learn about other people’s cultures and traditions. It has been so long since I have connected with my neighbours,” remarked Brooks, “Because of COVID masks, I have only seen eyes for the last few months, it is fantastic to see full faces and joyful expressions.”

The event also highlighted a shared narrative between Jewish people and other minority groups, specifically the importance of sustaining the customs and culture of ancestors. In addition to an acknowledgement of the unceeded Indigenous land that the event took place on, co-host Fridkin, drew attention to the Government of Canada’s reprehensible laws which historically criminalized important Indigenous events such as potlatches with mandatory jail sentences. It was not until 1951 that the ban on potlatches was repealed allowing communities to legally restore their ancestors’ ways. Fridken also highlighted the comparable plight of the Queer and Trans communities, as the West End is an important hub for Western Canada’s 2SLGBTQ2+ community.

The event brought together many Jewish neighbours who hadn’t met each other before, and by the end of the evening many participants hoped that they would all be able to meet in person in 2021.

Meet our New Board Members

Every year Gordon Neighbourhood House convenes members for our Annual General Meeting to discuss our outcomes from the previous fiscal year, and provide updates on our plans for the next 12 months.

The Annual General Meeting is also when we elect our new Community Advisory Board (CAB) Members. The CAB is an important decision-making body and steward of our organization. All Community Advisory Board members are volunteers, and they bring a wealth of experience and skills to their roles. Please welcome our new Community Advisory Board!

Dan Watson moved to Vancouver early in 2015 and started volunteering with Gordon Neighbourhood House shortly after. Dan was attracted to GNH because of its role in building community in the West End and emphasis on food-related programming. Dan currently acts as co-chair of the GNH board, as representative to the ANHBC Board, and chairs the ANHBC Board’s Capital Assets Committee. Dan has a master’s degree in urban planning and works for a planning firm based in downtown Vancouver on projects in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Dan’s urban planning experience has instilled in him an appreciation for the convergences between physical and social elements of city building and he is always excited to contribute this perspective to the work of Gordon Neighbourhood House. 

Rashmi GC is a West End resident trying to lead a sustainable way of life and take the do-it-yourself/do-it-together approach to everything. She is actively involved in many community building activities and is very passionate about her work. She loves having healthy interactions with the people in the community. She hosts workshops related to various topics to share her knowledge. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Engineering, and worked for 10 years as a Software Programmer while living in Bangalore, India. She is a certified Master Recycler, is part of the Resident Advisory Committee of the Neighbourhood Small Grants Program and sits on the boards of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation and the Vancouver Trees Project.

Mash Salehomoum has been volunteering with Gordon Neighbourhood House’s Young Ideas team for the last two years. During this time, she has helped organize and support several events in Jim Deva Plaza and the Pumpkin Parade in Nelson Park. Mash’s two main areas of focus are community development and environmental sustainability. She has an environmental background with a BSc in Ecological Restoration and a Diploma of Technology in Fish, Wildlife, and Recreation from BCIT. Currently, she works as a Program Coordinator for Park People, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting communities in improving their local neighbourhood parks.  She has a passion for bringing nature and people together in a way that is equitable and sustainable for future generations. In her spare time, Mash enjoys hiking, playing board games, eating cheese, and travelling.  

Dale Lutes is a 74 year old retiree who has lived in the West End for 25 years. He is a member of the West End Seniors’ Network, QMunity, Gordon Neighbourhood House, the Vancouver Seniors’ Advisory Committee, the West End Community Response Committee and the West End Seniors’ Planning Table. He has worked in adult and youth mental health, corrections and community living in various positions in government and non-profits. His interests include outdoor spaces and places that are safe and accessible for all, older adult needs and issues, affordable housing, food security and child day care.

Rain Daniels is Anishinaabekwe, is a member of the Saugeen Nation in Ontario, and was born in QayQayt territory. She lives on unceded xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) territory. Rain’s work includes 15 years in service provision, followed by 20 years of contract work in community development and social justice for Indigenous People, with various organizations. Her most recent highlights include working for the Provincial Health Services Authority’s Indigenous Cultural Safety Program for 7 years as a Lead Facilitator, Trainer, and Mentor and facilitating in SFU’s Certificate in Dialogue and Civic Engagement since 2012. With a Master’s degree in Adult Education, and decades of facilitation experience, Rain brings multiple skills, experience and analysis, to this crucial work.

Sonella Ramanaden is a Registered Dietitian and recent graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Food, Health and Nutrition from the University of British Columbia. She is currently working as a Clinical Dietitian at Surrey Memorial Hospital and was previously a long-time volunteer at St. Paul’s Hospital. She recently worked on a project with Gordon Neighborhood House unpacking the complex impact that COVID-19 has had on food security in the West-End whilst advocating for change. Sonella is passionate about public health, nutrition and social justice and looks forward to joining the Board!

Susan Moore, MA, is a West End renter/resident and has extensive experience working in the senior-serving not for profit sector. Prior to moving into the not for profit sector, Susan worked in post secondary education where she held senior management and director level positions specializing in international recruitment and admissions. Currently, Susan is the Director of Community Development and Resident Support with Brightside Community Homes Foundation, one of Vancouver largest not-for-profit housing providers.

Yasemin Yumurtaki is pleased to put forward her name for consideration.  Working in health services as a counsellor, Yasemin is passionate about accessible and inclusive mental services in particularly geared towards children and youth. She previously completed a practicum at Gordon Neighbourhood House.  On her free time, you can see Yasemin going on walks in the West end, spending time with any dog she sees and playing tennis. Yasemin is excited to be a part of the West end community and be a voice in developing programs. 

Join us at our next Annual General Meeting on June 16th, 2021 at 5:30pm. For more information, please email welcome@gordonhouse.org.

If you are interested in joining our Community Advisory Board, please email our Executive Director Siobhan Powlowski at siobhan@gordonhouse.org.

Thank You Outgoing Community Advisory Board Members!

GNH Board Members and Staff Participate at a Strategic Planning Session in 2019.

Every fall Gordon Neighbourhood House convenes members for our Annual General Meeting (AGM). The meeting is a great opportunity to reflect on all of the amazing outcomes we have achieved together, discuss plans for the months ahead, and elect a new Community Advisory Board (CAB). The AGM is also the final meeting for outgoing CAB members who have finished their terms with us.

This year five amazing Community Advisory Board Members are finishing their terms: Co-Chair Kathryn Fitzgerald, Micah Goldberg, Graham Ramsay, and Willie Ng.

Board service is one of the most complex volunteer roles at our organization, and these dedicated volunteers tirelessly gave their time and energy to fulfill the important role of prudent stewards of our organization.

In addition to monthly Board meetings and sub-committee meetings, Board members participated at strategic retreats, helped coordinate community initiatives, and attended many special events. The 2019-2020 fiscal year was full of challenges, and our board distinguished themselves by representing community interests, carefully deliberating complex issues, and making difficult decisions.

“The Community Board is responsible for values-based leadership of the House. This Board was responsible for stewarding our organization through numerous extenuating circumstances, most notably the onset of COVID-19. We are grateful for their principled, strategic and creative guidance and wish each departing member the best in their new endeavors,” stated Executive Director Siobhan Powlowski.

Kathryn Fitzgerald has served on the Community Advisory Board for several years, and most recently fulfilled the role of Co-Chair with Dan Watson after previous Board Chair James Kim stepped down in 2019 after many years of service. Kathryn is an active community builder, and supported tremendous growth and change by all measures during her time on the Board.

Micah Goldberg served on the CAB for several years, and has supported many neighbourhood programs and initiatives. During his time with us Micah hosted a community consultation for a proposed parklet on Davie Street, and was instrumental along with other stakeholders in planning a mayoral forum for the 2018 Vancouver municipal election. The event attracted over 400 attendees at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, and was simulcast live on local TV networks.

Graham Ramsay served one term as Secretary on the CAB, and brought a keen strategic eye to developing our sustainability plan. We wish him well in his retirement in his tiny home on Gabriola Island.

Willie Ng and Daniela Guerrero Rodriguez both served one term on the CAB. In addition to his Board role, Willie is a member of the Young Ideas group at GNH, and was instrumental in piloting and planning many innovative art and outdoor community events. Willie was tremendously creative and brought his artist’s eye to all issues big and small presented to the board.

We wish to express our profound gratitude to all of the outgoing Board Members for their service, and look forward to advancing our shared goals in the years to come. If you are interested in joining the Community Advisory Board, please email siobhan@gordonhouse.org.

Linda Celebrates 40 Years at Gordon Neighbourhood House!

Congratulations Linda Minamimaye!

1980 was a remarkable year in which many milestones occurred that continue to have a profound impact on our daily lives. The release of the Pac-Man arcade game revolutionized video gaming; the Sony Walkman debuted in North America and transformed personal music players; and Post-it Notes made their passive aggressive debut.

However perhaps even more transformational, Linda Minamimaye started working at Gordon Neighbourhood House.

This year we celebrated Linda’s 40th anniversary at Gordon Neighbourhood House and the Association of Neighbourhood House of BC! With this achievement, Linda has become one of the longest serving contributors to the Neighbourhood House movement in BC’s history.

When Linda first started, Gordon Neighbourhood House was located in a small heritage house on Davie Street (near the current location of the Beetbox vegetarian restaurant). Since then our organization has grown, and Linda has held a range of positions along the way, including Acting Executive Director.

Linda is currently the Director of Operations and ensures our organization runs smoothly. She is among the most steadfast stewards of neighbourhood house values and history (often reminding her colleagues about how things used to be done ‘back in the old days’), while routinely inspiring big dreams for all that is yet to come. In her time with us she has made countless impacts on all of our programs, specifically: seniors, food, employment, family, our thrift store, and countless community development initiatives.

To celebrate Linda’s amazing contributions to our community, in December GNH staff planned a virtual surprise party on Zoom. As Linda was distracted over dinner with her colleague Jessy, unbeknownst to her over 50 attendees joined a virtual event room to surprise her. When she returned to Gordon Neighbourhood House, she was surprised to find a hockey-themed room with a projector displaying the smiling faces of dozens of attendees on a big screen.

Over 65 people joined Linda virtually to celebrate her amazing dedication and contribution to the neighbourhood house movement.

Over two hours, colleagues, past co-workers, friends, family, and neighbourhood house members shared funny stories and fond memories of working with Linda in the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 2010s. Linda was blown away by the surprise, and later remarked that the whole evening was a blur.

Thank you Linda for the immeasurable impact you have made on our community! If you would like to send a congratulatory message, Linda can be reached at linda@gordonhouse.org.

Diwali in the West End

On November 14th, Gordon Neighbourhood House celebrated Diwali with West End neighbours. Diwali takes place over five days and is known as the festival of lights. It is the biggest holiday of the year in India, and many homes and businesses are decorated with lanterns, diyas, and lights.

Gordon Neighbourhood House exterior on Broughton Street decorated for Diwali.

Gordon Neighbourhood House staff decorated the exterior of our building with a brightly coloured, fifty foot-long ‘Toran’ banner inspired by designs found in Southern India with traditional colours inspired by marigolds and mangos.

Local artist Geetanjal Joshi also created a rangoli-inspired emblem for our balcony with artwork featuring Lord Ganesh, one of the best-known and most-worshipped Hindu deities. 

Children in our Out of School Care program also learned about the celebration, and made paper lanterns which were displayed in our front windows, and a blog post encouraged families to make lanterns at home. 

Diwali lanterns made by kids aged 5-10 years old in GNH’s Out of School Care program.

Our Community Chef Amanda Bacaleinick, Food Programmer Stephanie Woo, and Front Desk Manager Jessy Scaria also prepared fifty Diwali-inspired meals with aloo gobi, palak paneer, and vegetable pulao which were delivered by bicycle to seniors with heightened risk during the pandemic.

We look forward to hopefully celebrating Diwali in-person next year.