MAZON Canada Supports COVID-19 Emergency Food Relief Program

Gordon Neighbourhood House staff prepare dozens of emergency grocery hampers every week in the basement of St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

Thanks to generous funding from MAZON Canada (The Jewish response to hunger), Gordon Neighbourhood House has been able to provide much-needed emergency food relief during the pandemic.

When COVID-19 first emerged, it quickly became apparent that food security would become a top priority for the West End neighbourhood of Vancouver.

Rent in the district is higher than average, and household incomes and size are much lower than other areas. When combined (eg. a single senior on a fixed income with rising housing costs), it can become difficult for many residents to afford healthy and sufficient food.

GNH received a $5,000 grant from MAZON Canada to support a contact-free grocery delivery program. Every week, dozens of West End households safely receive a hamper packed with fresh produce, fruit, and pantry staples.

This program in one of several initiatives GNH has launched to improve food access in the community. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the organization has: distributed $65,000 in grocery store gift cards; prepared and shipped 8,000 frozen meals; hosted virtual food workshops; and delivered over 500 grocery hampers.

“[The food hampers] are such a delight to open,” stated one recipient, “the produce is so fresh and wonderful, and I just wanted you and your team to know that each week I’m incredibly grateful.”

These programs wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of dedicated partners, and commitment from generous donors.

When the idea for the program first germinated, GNH had experienced food programmers, but lacked the space needed to safely operate a physically-distanced hamper program. At the same time, nearby St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Jervis Street had an underutilized hall, but didn’t have the staff capacity to stock and deliver hundreds of hampers.

“On our own we don’t have the resources to do the things we want to, but when we pool our resources, we find that wonderful things are achieved” states Revd Philip Cochrane, the Rector at St. Paul’s Anglican Church. “We also build connection and collaboration for the future.”

The grocery hamper initiative was made possible thanks to: St. Paul’s Anglican Church, The Food Stash Foundation, Food Runners, volunteers, and our transportation provider Shift Delivery. In addition to MAZON Canada, the grocery hamper initiative also received financial support from the United Way Local Love Food Hub initiative.

GNH would like to thank the Jewish community of Canada, through MAZON Canada, help fund valuable food security initiatives in our community.

The impacts of food insecurity go beyond simply just a lack of food, it makes people sick, makes it harder to get stable work, and makes it difficult to fully participate in society. Research has repeatedly recognized a link between poverty, food insecurity, and reduced health outcomes. A lack of access to nutritious food negatively affects physical and mental health, can take a toll on relationships, and affects our entire community.

Gordon Neighbourhood House has adopted a food philosophy to guide emergency food programs and seek permanent solutions to the persistent and systemic causes of food security in our neighbourhood.

“Food is an absolute human right,” Remarked GNH Food Programmer Stephanie Woo, “but it becomes difficult to stabilize and prioritize the quality and quantity when there’s rent, bills, restricted time, and now COVID impacting their lives every day.”

Greater Vancouver has the third largest Jewish community in Canada, and about 6.7% of the country’s overall Jewish population. In the 2011 census, the West End had the highest density of Jewish elders in the entire city. Almost a quarter (24.3%) of Jewish people living in the West End are seniors, comprising 575 individuals. Last December, GNH convened Jewish neighbours for a Hanukkah celebration that was held virtually due to public gathering restrictions as a result of the pandemic.

For more information about Gordon Neighbourhood House’s emergency food relief programs during COVID-19, please call (604) 683-2554 or email welcome@gordonhouse.org.


Black History in the West End – The Joe Fortes Story


Pictured: Joe Fortes at English Bay

In honour of Black History Month, we wanted to share the story of Joe Fortes, a well-loved Black Canadian who was an integral part of the West End community and was even named,”Vancouver Citizen of the Century” by Vancouver Historical Society in 1986.

“West End Best End” mural by CARSON TING & ANNIE CHEN celebrating both Joe Fortes and the local ecosystem. Located at 990 Nicola Street – in partnership with Vancouver Pride Society & Van Mural Fest.

Joe Fortes was born on February 9, 1863, in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He left the familiarity of his island nation for an opportunity in Liverpool, “The New York of Europe,” to work at sea. His labor on the water eventually led him to Vancouver, or as it was called at the time, “Granville.” After being thrashed by unrelenting storms and beaten by violent waves, Robert Kerr, the vessel Joe worked aboard, succumbed to its fate in Vancouver’s Harbour; this is where Joe would put down his roots. 

Joe started working as a shoeblack at the Sunnyvale Hotel, which is where his legacy of heroics would begin. During the Great Vancouver Fire, Joe braved the flames, saving a member of parliament’s wife and eight-year-old child from the raging inferno and rowing them to safety. This act of valiancy would be the first of many. 

Joe was a man of many trades and worked several odd jobs, one of which was transporting equipment from Gastown to Jericho Beach. He finished his tasks early on a particular journey and had ample time to explore the surrounding coastline. His curious nature led him to the beautiful white sand beach named “Euyelshun” by the Squamish Peoples, which translates to “Good Footing,” today we know this popular spot by the name of English Bay. Swimming beaches were few and far between along Vancouver’s rocky shoreline, so he brought the good news to friends, and the spot gained popularity among locals. 

Every summer throughout the 1890’s Joe would take it upon himself to mind the beach, ensure the beachgoers’ safety, and even gave swimming lessons to both children and adults alike. Joe wasn’t in it for the recognition; although he was becoming quite the household name, he was doing it free of cost out of the goodness of his heart and for his love of children. His good deeds didn’t go unnoticed, and by 1900 a petition containing thousands of signatures was presented to the city council demanding that Joe be given an official title and salary. The motion was approved. Joe was given a salary and officially designated as the Swimming Instructor, Lifeguard, and Special Constable of English Bay. 


Pictured: The memorial fountain located in Alexandra Park honouring Joe Fortes, “Little children loved him” is inscribed in the stone to remember all the children he saved and taught to swim. The fountain was sculpted by artist Charles Marega.

During his time at English Bay, he is credited for saving 29 lives and teaching three generations of Vancouverites how to swim. He was a loveable character with a warm heart that touched everyone lucky to know him. When Joe Fortes passed away from pneumonia on February 4, 1922, all of Vancouver mourned his loss. The city arranged a record-breaking funeral service that brought in tens of thousands of attendees. The massive outpour of support to commemorate Joe’s life spoke volumes about the positive impact that he left on the community. 

To this day, Joe’s legacy is not forgotten. From a mural and fountain tributing his warm-heartedness to having a steakhouse and library named in his honour, we will always remember his virtuous contributions to our community.  

Sources:

https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/courier-archive/news/archives-joe-fortes-dies-at-vancouver-general-hospital-2993159

https://onthisspot.ca/cities/vancouver/joefortes 

https://bcblackhistory.ca/seraphim-joseph-fortes/



Purim – Jewish Celebration

“Chag Purim Sameach!” (Happy Purim!)

Purim aka “Feast of Lots” is the Jewish celebration commemorating how the Jewish people were saved from persecution in the 5th Century BCE under rule of the Persian Empire. The story goes that the evil Prime Minister, Haman, convinced King Ahasuerus to execute all the Jewish people of Shushan. The hero of the story is Queen Esther, who saves the Jewish people by persuading the King to withdraw the decree and execute Haman instead. 

Purim is one of the most festive of all the Jewish holidays and is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar which happens to fall on February 25th this year. Purim traditions include: 

  • Carnivals with exciting events such as crafts, dancing and parades
  • “Misloach manot” the tradition of giving gifts of food and drink to family, friends, and those less fortunate
  • “Mattanot la-evyonim” the tradition of donating charity to the poor 
  • Dressing up and masquerading in costumes
  • “Purim spiel” comic dramatizations of the story of Purim
  • The “Megillah” or the scroll of Esther is read aloud, every time Haman’s name is mentioned the crowd stomps their feet, yells and heckles 

Sources:

https://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/5-purim-fun-jewish-holiday-article-1.2994705

https://toriavey.com/what-is-purim/

https://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/645995/jewish/The-Basic-Purim-Story.htm

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Purim


Food Hamper Program

The gap of food security and accessibility for the community has always existed, but is more apparent than ever now due to COVID-19. We started our food hamper at the end of November 2020, where our goal is to provide weekly emergency dignified food relief to those who are facing barriers to food security. As grocery stores are less accessible to vulnerable communities, the hampers are delivered directly to people’s homes through Shift Delivery, a local bike courier using trikes and electric cargo vehicles.

As per our Food Philosophy, we want to be able to share fresh, healthy food and increase food literacy with our community. The hampers consist of fresh fruits and vegetables, shelf stable items, such as dried beans, rice, oats, proteins such as eggs and canned salmon or tuna, and toiletries.

Recipes are shared in the hampers as the fresh produce varies weekly, with great intention we want our participants to increase food literacy by cooking in new ways or trying a new vegetable that they haven’t had before, while being culturally aware. We accommodate to dietary needs of the community including diabetic, low sodium, vegetarian/vegan diets.

So far, we have made and delivered almost 500 hampers! We would like to give a huge thanks to Saint Paul’s Anglican Church for providing us the space to safely sort out our hampers. We would also like to thank our funders, the United Way of the Lower Mainland and Mazon Canada for making this program possible to implement and carry forward.


Black History Month – Poster Art Campaign

Poster created by Sade Alexis

In 2019 Vancouver city council voted to name eight West End laneways after local historical figures. One of the people who had a laneway named after them was Rosemary Brown – a prominent Black female community champion who filled many important roles throughout her life including politician, activist, writer, feminist, educator, and mother. The Young Ideas group decided to take time during this year’s Black History Month to honour Rosemary’s legacy by partnering with a local artist on a neighbourhood postering campaign. 

The artist that the group worked with is Sade Alexis, a talented local Black artist and Emily Carr graduate who the Young Ideas group came to know through her beautiful portrait series – “Speaking To My Ancestors”. 

Sade has a wonderful back catalogue of portraiture work that you can view on her Instagram @sade.b.alexis, as well as a solo exhibition “Safe Home Sarah” currently on view at the Cheeky Proletariat (located at 320 Carrall Street) with Black Arts Vancouver. 

There can be a huge impact and power in using visual art to share and honour Black history. Sade expresses that her art is her activism, and the best way that she knows how to understand a person’s life and work. Black people living in Vancouver don’t always get to see a lot of Black faces around them, and through portraiture work Sade aims to make this experience less lonely. Some of the power of Sade’s portraiture work comes from its accessibility, as almost anyone can interact with her work and garner something from it.

Sade explains that while growing up she had believed the commonly heard myth of ‘there are no Black people in Vancouver’. Discovering the work of Rosemary Brown had been a comforting experience because it evidenced the existence of Vancouver’s Black community being heard, a community that has been here for many years and continues to be here today.

Sade considers Rosemary as somebody who paved the way for her to do what she does today, someone who made things possible for Vancouver’s Black community. Sade also shared a personal connection to Rosemary through her father, who years ago used to run in the same circles as her.

Of course Rosemary Brown is not the only Black person in Vancouver who did important work, and learning about Rosemary can be a good starting point for learning more of the Black history of Vancouver. 

One last reflection from the artist of this piece was to remind viewers not to simply limit your engagement to Black History Month – support Black artists, support Black businesses, and learn Black history year round.

Sade will have some more cool projects coming up in the future, so be sure and follow her on Instagram to stay in the loop!

If you would like to get involved with this community postering campaign and display one of these posters in a public place in your apartment building then please contact aileen@gordonhouse.org

If you see these posters up around the neighbourhood you can help to spread the word by snapping a picture and tagging us and the artist on social media.

We also distributed the artwork straight to program participants homes; through our seniors meal delivery program and our food hamper delivery program.

Read more about Black history in the West End on our other blog post – the Joe Fortes story.

Last summer we posted some Anti-Racism Resources that included information on where you can learn, spend, and donate. Earlier this month we also posted some information on the origins of Black History Month in Canada.

Check out the website of Black Lives Matter Vancouver.


One Million Masks for our Community

Gordon Neighbourhood House staff have distributed over 20,000 masks to local partner agencies and neighbours in need.

In the ongoing fight against COVID-19, masks and face coverings continue to be a vital tool to limit the spread of the infectious disease, and flatten the projected curve of people who might contract the coronavirus.

Province-wide health regulations now require face coverings on all city buses, public indoor spaces, and most businesses. An unfortunate outcome of this policy however, is that vulnerable groups who cannot afford masks have experienced reduced access to essential goods and services.

To address this dilemma, several agencies have collaborated in an effort to ensure that no one is faced with an accessibility issue when it comes to travel and community services.

Gordon Neighbourhood House is proud to join this initiative, and help distribute one million masks across the region.

The One Million Mask project was created when Translink and Deloitte partnered to address the need for masks for public transportation users. That conversation expanded to other organizations when province-wide mask policies were implemented inside all public spaces. The One Million Masks partnership now consists of: United Way, TransLink, Deloitte, OEC, YVR, BC Ferries, BCAA, SCI and BC Transit.

 “We are so grateful for all of the support we’ve received from United Way during the pandemic,” said Gordon Neighbourhood House Executive Director Siobhan Powlowski, “This mask initiative will be key to supporting the Neighborhood House continuing to safely support communities during this time.”

Gordon Neighbourhood House has already shared thousands of masks with partner agencies, members, and our neighbours.

For more information about the One Million Masks initiative, or if you require masks, please email welcome@gordonhouse.org or call our reception desk at (604) 683-2554.


Income Tax Clinic

Do you Have Questions About Your 2020 Tax Return?  

Tax season is quickly approaching, and Gordon Neighbourhood House is here to help! For over 20 years we have been able to provide free tax clinics through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP)

Our Tax Clinic runs from March to April 2021 and is available for low-income seniors and families in the community. In order to be eligible, individuals must have a modest income and a simple tax situation. Click HERE for more information.

All volunteers in our tax program are trained and registered with the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP).  Every volunteer is required to brush up on their skills annually, so you can rest assured that your tax returns are in reliable hands.  

To ensure the safety of our volunteers and all participants, we will not be offering in-person tax clinics this year. Taxes will be done virtually

2021 Tax Clinic Process:

1.    Book a Tax Clinic appointment by calling or emailing the Gordon Neighbourhood House reception desk at (604) 683-2554 or welcome@gordonhouse.org

2.    Participants will receive an appointment when they can drop off the necessary documents to Gordon Neighbourhood House, you will have to show one piece of government-issued ID and complete an intake form.

3.    A Tax Clinic volunteer will review your financial documents and file your return electronically.

4.     Gordon Neighbourhood House staff will call and arrange for pick up.  You will be required to show one piece of government-issued ID.

If you are interested in participating in our tax clinic program, please contact us by phone at (604) 683-2554 or email us at welcome@gordonhouse.org. 


Nourish in the Kitchen with Stephanie!

As we pivoted our seniors programming to online, we welcomed a few new programs, including a cooking class with our TAPS program assistant, Stephanie.

Our classes take place every Monday at 2pm over Zoom. Following our Food Philosophy, we want to increase community capacity building by cooking culturally-diverse meals and increasing food literacy. Stephanie cooks plant-based meals as they reduce our greenhouse gases impact on the environment but encourages the seniors to customize and add in any extra proteins or other foods that they would like and have the ability to do so. The seniors are able to learn new skills and cook alongside while asking questions or simply just watch as a cooking show!

Here’s our menu of recipes we’ve cooked so far:

  • Sweet potato, carrot and ginger soup
  • Salad rolls with peanut sauce
  • Thai red curry
  • Aloo gobi
  • Falafel with fresh pita
  • Daal with spinach and roti
  • Moroccan-styled stew with sweet potato & cauliflower
  • Gado Gado (Indonesian salad with peanut sauce)
  • Tom Kha Gai soup (Thai coconut soup)
  • Chinese Dumplings
  • Pad Thai

Enjoy (and try not to get too hungry!) meal pictures from our participants:


Black History Month in Canada

The month of February marks Black History Month here in Canada. Black History Month seeks to appreciate the significant impact Black Canadians have had on contributing to this nation’s prosperity. Black History Month is also an opportunity to recognize Black Canadians’ achievements and experiences, whose stories, unfortunately, were often absent from the mainstream history curriculum. 

This month is especially critical in 2021 as the world continues to witness the unjust treatment of members of the black community, not only in the U.S. but here on Canadian soil. We’ve observed how racism is rooted deeply in our justice systems and how it continues to perpetuate the discrimination of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour). At Gordon Neighbourhood House, we honour the positive contributions that Black Canadians continue to make in Canada and our community. We believe in the fair and respectful treatment of all community members regardless of race, gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, ability, religion, ancestry, political affiliation, language, financial status, age, record of offenses, immigration, or family status. 

A Timeline of Black History Month in Canada 

The celebration of Black History Month in Canada was inspired by the legacy of Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, a well-respected Black author, historian, journalist, and the founder of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. Dr. Woodson dedicated his life to spreading awareness of the Black American story, which played a critical role in American history but was often disregarded to pave the way for a colonial narrative. Dr. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” founded Negro History Week, the forerunner of what would eventually become Black History Month, which was declared a national observance in the United States in 1976. 

Stanley G. Grizzle, president of the Toronto division of the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, was credited with hosting the first-ever Negro History Week in Canada on February 13, 1950. This event was inspired by similar celebrations held by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in the United States. One of the key speakers at the event was a prominent female figure in Canadian history whose efforts were credited with being the first in uniting the African-Canadian community; her name was Kay Livingstone. Kay Livingstone was a dedicated social activist & organizer, broadcaster, and actor who established the Canadian Negro Women’s Association (CNWA), now known as the Congress of Black Women of Canada (CBWC). The CNWA would continue to organize Negro History Week events for years to come after the first official celebration in 1950.

After the success that the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) had in filing a petition in Ontario proclaiming February as Black History Month in 1993, Rosemary Sadlier, president of OBHS, proposed Black History Month be recognized across Canada. This idea was met with immense support from Parliament Secretary and Member of Parliament, Jean Augustine. Augustine was the first black woman elected to the House of Commons in 1993 and the first black woman to be appointed to cabinet. As an educator, Augustine noticed that curriculums rarely mentioned black contributions to Canadian history, which needed to change. Through their hard work, passion, and dedication, their proposal was approved by the House of Commons on December 14, 1995. The first declaration of Black History Month went into effect the following February. Although this was a significant success, it wasn’t until 2008 that Canada completed its parliamentary position on Black History Month on March 14, 2008, when the Senate officially recognized Black History Month. Senator Donald Oliver put forth this motion in February of 2008, the first black man in Canada to be elected to Senate. 


Sources:


February Seniors’ Programs

Gordon Neighbourhood House offers a wide variety of accessible programs and activities to help seniors get involved, remain connected, and stay active.

Our friendly staff work with seniors, providing opportunities to participate in programs, social events, health and wellness programs, and cultural activities.

Examples of Programs Include:
– Virtual Cooking Workshops
– Gentle Yoga and Meditation
– Online Seniors’ Lounge
– Chair Yoga
– Technology Tips and Tricks
– Online Qi Gong Classes
– Online Photo Club
– Virtual Tax Clinics
– Weekly Presentations With Guest Speakers

For more information about Seniors’ programs, please call Jessy at our reception desk at (604) 683-2554, or email welcome@gordonhouse.org.