Breaking Bread and Barriers

This January Gordon Neighborhood House (GNH) is set to launch a pilot program for young adults entitled “Consuming Conversations.”  It’s a unique free youth community kitchen with a big helping of political food activism, around the issue of enough food as every Canadian’s right.

Why a separate program for young people?

“Our studies showed that young adults were less likely to access charitable food that was available to them,” says Paul Michael Taylor, Executive Director of GNH.  “We want to provide a mechanism for fostering leadership and building relationships, while addressing the root causes of food insecurity.”

Andrew Christie, community food advocate at GNH, defines food security as “generally, the stage where every individual has the ability to consume a healthy, nutritious, sustaining meal that is culturally appropriate for them at all times.”  Food insecurity is the absence of any of those conditions.  He adds, “The young adult population is at the highest risk of developing food insecurity.”

In the West End, nearly 50 percent of people are between the ages of 20 and 39.  Yet research done by GNH in partnership with students from the University of British Columbia Immigrant Vancouver Ethnographic Field School found that this demographic was not represented in virtually any of the programs in operation over the summer in the West End.

“One of the things that contributes to food insecurity in Canada is that a lot of people just don’t have the knowledge or the skills that they need to prepare healthy food,” says Christie.

In the weekly program, participants will be learning basic cooking skills, led by students from local culinary schools, including how to keep a kitchen sanitary.  In addition to preparing and consuming nutritious meals from scratch, a key component of the program will be focused  mealtime conversation.  “We’ll be talking about ideas of food justice and food access, and identifying some major barriers that participants are facing towards accessing healthy food on a regular basis,” says Christie.  “Then we’ll be looking at what steps we can take to change that.”

GNH recognizes that, in addition to the high cost of rent, which in the West End averages $100 more per month than in the rest of the city,  many young adults are also challenged by student debt, low-wage jobs, and raising young children.  “We need to create safe spaces for people to talk about poverty with their peer group,” says Taylor, “in a respectful and dignified way.”

Meal plans will be decided by the participants, based on their food and recipe preferences, with an awareness of the budgets and time constraints of young adults who may be working, going to school, and raising a family at the same time.  Each week the group will make large enough batches of food so each participant can take some home.

As participants identify their barriers to food security, GNH staff and volunteers will work with them to find tools to surmount those barriers.

“Food is a wonderful means to bring young adults in the West End together to build community” says Taylor. “By creating a mechanism for them to be learning and working together, we’ll be breaking bread and breaking barriers,” he sums up neatly.

The free “Consuming Conversations” program, funded by the Vancouver Foundation, will be launched in January, 2014, with room for up to 12 participants in Gordon House’s kitchen.

Written by Linda Lawson


Activist outside CBC station.

Trashtalk Project Turning to Trash Busting

January 2014

Trashtalk is a project that seeks to engage resident local recycling champions in Multi-unit Residential Buildings (MURBs) to lead food scraps recycling programs in specific condos, apartments and co-ops.

In 2015, Metro Vancouver will ban all organic material from the garbage stream and landfill. That means everyone across all sectors (residential, commercial, institutional) will be required to recycle their organic material rather than throw it in the garbage. The City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan tags Zero Waste as one of its ten primary goals with food scraps recycling a key strategy to meet this goal.

Approximately 40-50% of household waste (by weight) is made up of food scraps.

According to Murray Mollard and Cheryn Wong, Co-Directors of Trashtalk, the biggest challenge in food scraps recycling is persuading individuals to shift their behaviour to separating their organic food scraps out of the garbage stream and into a recycling bin.

“There’s a yuck, smell, fruit fly factor that will make some people reluctant to recycle their food scraps. But our approach at Trashtalk is to identify local resident leaders to teach and mentor their neighbours about why and how to do food scraps recycling through deeper engagement. We know that putting a green tote in the garbage room and handing out a flyer alone isn’t going to move the critical mass needed to make a difference.”

“We are working with highly motivated teams of residents who will help their neighbours learn about food scraps recycling and engage with them in a personal way. Impersonal, marketing campaigns from Metro Vancouver and the City of Vancouver will not be enough to shift residents’ behaviour. Just look at the level of blue tote recycling in MURBs.”

Currently, approximately only 15% of glass, paper, metal and plastics are being recycled in condos, apartments and co-ops.

Trashtalk is a partnership between Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, Gordon Neighbourhood House and the Recycling Council of British Columbia with funding from the Greenest City Fund, Vancity and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

For more information on the Trashtalk project, visit:  or email:



The Neighbourhood Brunch: A Delicious Fundraiser!

The idea for a neighbourhood-style brunch as a fundraising event for Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) first took hold last summer. In conversations between Paul Taylor, Executive Director at GNH, and Michel Nadeau, co-owner, along with Tod Berezowski, of MN events, Paul asked Michel if he would be interested in helping with a fundraising event. Specifically, there was a need to raise funds to replace the aging GNH school bus.

While Michel’s company had extensive experience organizing late-night men’s events, fundraising for a neighbourhood house was a new concept. However, Michel quickly embraced the idea and suggested organizing a neighbourhood-style brunch. GNH seemed like an ideal venue to test the idea, thanks to its convivial meeting space, kitchen facilities, and dedicated volunteers. As plans were set in motion, there was just one lingering question on everyone’s mind: Would people come?

The answer was clear on Sunday, November 24, when GNH enjoyed a fantastic sold out Neighbourhood Brunch. Hosted by the sparkling Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Alma B. Itches and Tora, this fundraising event had over 60 attendees and was generously supported by over 25 community sponsors and several community volunteers.

Before noon, as diners sipped on refreshing Mimosa cocktails, the talented musicians Javier Rodriguez (vocals) and Mark Petrunia (keyboard) captivated everyone with live performances of “opera through Broadway and beyond.”

Then, at noon, the volunteer chefs and crew, who had been busy cooking a gourmet brunch in the GNH kitchen, were ready. Diners lined up and were served with a mouth-watering medley of frittata, bacon, sausages, hash browns, fresh fruit, and French toast. There was even real maple syrup brought in from Michel’s hometown of St.-Pierre-Baptiste, Quebec.

After enjoying the raffle and door prizes, which were donated by an amazing group of community sponsors, the crowd cheered as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence presented Paul Taylor with a cheque for GNH.

“This event speaks to what a community can do,” Paul said, thanking the Sisters and noting the funds raised would help replace the old GNH school bus. Michel Nadeau was also clearly pleased at the Sunday morning turnout of support for GNH. As he smiled amongst the attendees, he talked about how great it was to gather people together to help out.

As the meal wound down, the brunch goers enjoyed hot beverages with chocolate treats, and then sat back to hear the catchy Broadway tunes sung live by Colin Marcus Jackson. The music was buoyant, as if to celebrate the great success of this new community event.

The Neighbourhood Brunch fundraiser raised a total of $2100 for GNH. Thanks to everyone who provided sponsorship and contributions, volunteered, and attended!


Written by Anita Miettunen

Paul & Sisters


Photos courtesy of Sean Gregor.

Together: An Urban Farm and Mural Creating Change at Gordon Neighbourhood House

Take a peek behind Gordon Neighbourhood House. Tucked along the alleyway, a once empty space now bursts with colour and life with the new Urban Farm and Art Mural project. This initiative is the result of a partnership between Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) and the West End Neighbourhood Food Network and a collaboration with local artist and GrafikaVision design studio founder, Masha Tikhanova.

Living nearby, Masha was familiar with the many programs offered at GNH. In fact, her  son once attended summer programs there. So it was a natural fit for her when she discovered GNH needed an artist to create a mural about urban farming. Trained in her native St. Petersburg and at Emily Carr in Vancouver, Masha brought together her fine art background and graphic design skills to create a compelling, original design.

“Mixing the paint–– an exterior latex able to withstand Vancouver’s rain––was sometimes a challenge”  Masha says, “but I was delighted to achieve the dynamic look I envisioned.”

As the project progressed––from preliminary sketching phases to early morning painting sessions in the garage underneath GNH––community members could follow social media updates, until almost a month later, the artwork was finished. The final mural is painted on 5 huge wooden panels and installed on a wall at the back of GNH. Full of rich hues of oranges, reds and greens; and lush, organic shapes, the result is a stunning visual display.

And just as this beautiful art so aptly reflects the healthy nature of organic produce, a real garden, the Urban Farm, now grows alongside it. As GNH Executive Director Paul Taylor says, this new garden represents a fresh focus on food-raising in the West End community and in particular, raises awareness for children.

“For children living in the West End, the opportunity to nurture and grow their own food is limited,” Paul says. “Their default is what is available at grocery stores.”

With the Urban Farm, GNH is working to create a new default for children. The garden is maintained by staff and volunteers and is yet another excellent bridge for bringing young and old community members together. Through GNH, children are now learning how easy it is to plant an indoor or outdoor garden. From the garden, a diverse bounty of salad greens and herbs, carrots and brassicas is regularly harvested. Community members are welcome to pick the flavourful, nutritious produce which is also used directly in the GNH low-cost Community Lunch program and the Seeds to Supper and Creative Playtime programs.

Finding ways to better support community food programs is also one of the priorities outlined in the draft West End Community Plan. The City of Vancouver recognizes the need for food infrastructure and capacity-building food programs and the draft plan mentions increased accessibility to grow healthy foods “close-to-home” as a key element of community wellness.

The vibrant images in Masha Tikhanova’s art mural have transformed a dark alleyway into an attractive, positive urban space.  Alongside it the Urban Farm is flourishing. Together, these are creating positive change and encouraging conversations about what might be possible for growing foods locally in the West End.

Written by Anita Miettunen




Food for Thought: Highlights from the West End Food Festival

The West End Food Festival recently marked an important milestone on Vancouver’s community calendar. Over four days in early October, this inaugural event celebrated and explored sustainable food culture in the West End. And at its heart was the partnership developed between Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) and the West End Neighbourhood Food Network.

The Festival kicked off on Friday, October 4th at dinnertime, as an enthusiastic crowd gathered in the park in front of Gordon Neighbourhood House. The area quickly buzzed with activity. Amidst the display tables and Judy Kenzie’s colourful Strathcona 1890 Truck Farm (a pick-up truck with a mini vegetable garden flourishing in its back!), friends and neighbours mingled while passersby stopped to chat. Everyone eagerly lined up to try the mouth-watering treats generously contributed by local food vendors.

Food samples included savoury pulled-pork pretzels from Shamrock Alley; creamy squash curry from Whole Foods; and tasty appetizers from Seventeen89. Visitors could also check out displays from Strathcona 1890 Urban Seed Collection and Costco. And in the background, Drew Sexsmith’s blend of folksy mandolin warmed the crowd.

With the goal of building awareness about local food issues, a rich variety of activities continued throughout the weekend. Head chef and food security coordinator at GNH, Andrew Christie, spoke passionately about the success of Saturday’s Community Kitchen event:

“We had a fantastic turn-out of diverse participants from our community, ranging in age from their 20s to 70s. About half didn’t speak English. At times the kitchen was a tight squeeze but it was all a huge success.”

It was truly a highlight when these community cooks sat down together to share the delicious meal they had learned to cook from scratch: nutritious vegetarian and meat-based chili and home-made corn bread. And as planned, they had also made enough to serve the public later that day at the Tin Pan Chef Competition.

On Saturday night, the community room at GNH steamed and sizzled in friendly competition. Over 40 attendees dropped by to watch the Tin Pan Chef cook-off between two community teams, made up of chefs Dixie Pidgeon and Monica Ghosh, and their assistants Devon Gregoire and Ewa Gersin. Their challenge was to create an appealing and tasty meal in just one hour from the unknown contents of a sealed box donated by the Vancouver Food Bank.

It was humbling to watch what came out of the Food Bank box; and what these talented teams created. As the minutes ticked off, excitement mounted while the chefs sweated and coped with the unexpected (including a brief power outage for one team!). Finally, community volunteers on the judging panel had their own challenge of declaring a winner. It was almost too close to call as both teams cooked up amazing creations that included tuna burgers, vegetable soup, coleslaw, veggie cakes, latkes and fritters.

Events continued through Sunday, October 6th and included a Community Potluck. On Monday evening, the Festival wrapped up with an insightful Community Panel Discussion on Food Insecurity. Speakers on the diverse panel included Dr. Graham Riches, Professor Emeritus of UBC School of Social Work; Jean Swanson, author and social justice activist; Pardeep Khrod, Marketing Manager of Quest food exchange; Fraser Stuart, welfare recipient; and Jennifer Allan, founder of Jen’s Kitchen.

With the importance of community and food issues high on his list of priorities, Gordon Neighbourhood House’s Executive Director, Paul Taylor, neatly summarized the Festival’s concluding event:

“Gordon Neighbourhood House is pleased to bring our friends and neighbours in the community together to participate in discussions around barriers to accessing food and nutritional vulnerability. The evening’s discussion also focused on the roles individuals, groups/organizations and the government can play in challenging food insecurity.”

Reflecting on the success of the first annual West End Food Festival, community members can celebrate knowing how much was achieved in just a short time. The Festival was a great opportunity for fostering broader neighbourhood participation and dialogue on important food security and sustainability issues.  It’s inspiring to know that here in the West End, by working together, those community discussions are already starting to happen.

Written by Anita Miettunen 

Tin Pan Chef participants Monica Ghosh and Dixie Pidgeon are all smiles after an hour of hard work.

Photos courtesy of Florence Hwang 

West End Food Festival – Building Community Through Food

With colder weather approaching, access to fresh and healthy food will be an increasing concern for many of our neighbours. In order to raise awareness around the importance of food on the social fabric of our community, Gordon Neighbourhood House and the West End Neighbourhood Food Network have teamed up to present Vancouver’s inaugural West End Food Festival.

This four-day event runs from October 4th to 7th and will feature food samples from local vendors and restaurants, a potluck dinner, a competition to create nutritious meals from Food Bank offerings, as well as other events and activities. The events will take place either at Gordon Neighbourhood House or local venues.

While many Canadians consider food a necessity and a right, the ability to afford and obtain nutritious and sufficient food is not equally available to everyone. Many of society’s most vulnerable—including our children and elders—don’t get enough to eat and suffer from poor nutrition. Although many are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving on October 14th, for others it is just another day of scrounging for a way to fill their stomachs.

Monday’s concluding discussion, “Is Food a Right? A Panel on Issues Around Access to Food,” will feature a cross-section of varying perspectives on food security. The panel will include Dr. Graham Riches, Professor Emeritus of UBC School of Social Work; Jean Swanson, author and social justice activist; Pardeep Khrod, Marketing Manager of Quest food exchange; Fraser Stuart, welfare recipient; and Jennifer Allan, founder of Jen’s Kitchen.

Gordon Neighbourhood house is committed to sharing foods that reflect the diversity of our community, city, country, and world and believes that food brings us together and can act as a vehicle for community-building. Read more about our food philosophy at

For more information please visit the festival Facebook event page at and follow Gordon Neighbourhood House on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates.


Contact: Paul Taylor, Executive Director,
Gordon Neighbourhood House
604-683-2554, ext. 202
1019 Broughton Street (at Nelson)

Hungry for a Welfare Raise

Raise the Rates is inviting the people of British Columbia to spend a week living only on the food they can buy for $26. This is the amount of money a single, able-bodied person on welfare has for food.

Victoria Bull acknowledged that we were on Coast Salish Territory. She explained how, as grandmother on disability raising her granddaughter, “it is always hard to manage; there is no extra money so that the slightest emergency becomes a disaster. Schools are forced to run meal programs so that the kids have enough food to be able to learn. This is a cost of poverty that our children and our schools pay.”

“Last year I took the Welfare Food Challenge and ran out of food”, said Paul Taylor, the ED of Gordon Neighbourhood House, as he welcomed everyone to the announcement of this year’s Challenge. “Charity is needed now as people are hungry, but what we really need is systematic change so that people have enough healthy food. It is fitting that the Challenge starts on October 16th, which is World Food Day.”

“I have researched poverty and the inadequacies of welfare; I have advocated for better welfare rates but I have never lived on welfare. So this one week of eating on $26 will shine a light on the reality,” stated Seth Klein, Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives BC. He pointed out that “there hasn’t been a raise since 2007, so people on welfare have suffered a 10% cut in their living standards. The increases in Hydro charges will add to fuel poverty.”

“I live on $610 a month and it is impossible. The money runs out in less than 2 weeks. Even prices in the Dollar Store are now $1.25, so they have gone up,” stated Fraser Stuart a community activist. “There are 4 months a year that have 5 weeks between payments which are even worse. The system is insanity. We are forced to spend hours looking for free food and standing in line-ups, just to survive.”

Sarah Carten, a dietitian, stated, “I know many people grow up facing hunger; I was fortune not to. I know one week is not the same as for many months or years, but already I am worrying about how will I survive. I am thinking of everything that I will go with out. I hope it will help me and other people to better understand the shame that in BC so many people live with food scarcity.”

“Both my daughter and I have special dietary needs and being on welfare we are not always able to get what we need which makes us ill,” said Colleen Boudreau, a single mother on disability. “In Alberta a person on disability gets $1,588, which is nearly twice the $910 we get in BC. Even my daughter knows no one can eat on $26 a week. I’m appalled that the government doesn’t know that.”

“I love food and I’m aware how hard this will be. I know I will lack energy and focus to do what I need to do,” stated Sam Mickelson, who works at Gordon Neighbourhood House. “This is only for one week; many people have to live week after week with a lack of food and no choice about what they eat. There is a huge social injustice in forcing people to live like this.”

Laura Hill, on the board of Gordon House explained that “When I told people about this they were shocked that welfare rates are so low. Most people do not know that welfare is only $610 a month. When they find out, they are disgusted that this exists in such a rich province. Welfare rates are totally out of touch with the reality of what it cost to live.”

“We know that most people in BC want an end to poverty and real increase in welfare. In an opinion poll 75% said that welfare should be raised to cover the real cost of food and shelter,” said Bill Hopwood of Raise the Rates. “BC can afford to end poverty. We can give $3 billion a year to the rich in tax cuts or to build a new bridge; about what it would cost to end poverty. But there is not the political will to tackle poverty which harms many people’s lives and actually costs the people of BC at least $4 billion a year not to fix it.”

At least 11% of the population, and over 15% of children, in BC are food insecure. (Household Food Insecurity in Canada, 2011)

Contact Raise the Rates:
• Bill Hopwood: 604 738-1653, 778 686-5293 (cell)
• Websites:;;
• Facebook:

Where Welfare Money Goes
The BC government provides $610 a month in welfare to an able bodied single person who has to prove they are looking for work.
Total Welfare 610
Rent (Realistic cost of an SRO) – 425 = 185
Damage deposit – 20 = 165
Book of 10 bus tickets (Need to look for work) – 21 = 144
Cheap Cell phone (Need to look for work) – 25 = 119
Personal hygiene, laundry, etc – 10 = 109
Left for food 109
$109/m * 12 months = $1308 a year
$1308/a year / 365 days = $3.58 a day
$3.58 a day * 7 days = $25.09, rounded up to $26
No money for clothes, a coffee, haircuts, or any social life or treats.

Back to School: The King George Gay-Straight Alliance

It may come as a surprise that King George high school, just a stone’s throw from the vibrant Davie Gay Village, was without a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at the beginning of the 2012/2013 school year.

“I was shocked,” says student support worker Deona Zammit describing the atmosphere of homophobia when she first started at the school. She recounts how some kids yelled out “Yes it is!” while she was tacking up a series of school board sanctioned “Sexuality is a Not a Choice” posters.

“There used to be a lot of name calling in every classroom,” GSA Student leader Sienna St. Laurent says. “Someone asks a question and another turns around and say’s that’s so gay. They don’t think about how they use these words as part of their vocabulary.”

When Deona and Sienna teamed up to start the GSA in November 2012 they rectified the noticeable absence of King George on the school board’s list of GSA’s. Now every high school within the City of Vancouver has one.

Deona felt the casual use of homophobic language at King George also prompted her to be more vocal about her sexuality. To tackle stereotypes, “its important for kids to see a regular adult living their sexuality in an healthy way,” she says.

While the West End is home to many open members of the LBQTQ community, a high proportion of students at King George come from backgrounds that are less tolerant of alternate lifestyles. According to the Department of Education, all publicly-funded schools are required to provide a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer and questioning people.

Their statistics affirm that schools with GSA’s have less incidents of bullying and students feel more comfortable talking about issues of sexuality in the classroom. At King George, respecting the cultural and religious values of the student body while trying to change attitudes about homosexuality has required a balancing act.

“I don’t feel like I need to parade it around,” says Sienna with regards to her sexual orientation. “But if someone asks me I won’t lie. Mostly I wish it didn’t matter.”

It appears that the GSA’s efforts to improve the general atmosphere at the school- painting garbage cans and postering postitive messages in the hallway-is proving contagious. The morning of our interview almost every locker was tagged with a post-it note scrawled with the words, “You are beautiful.”

“I really hate that it wasn’t my idea,” Deona laughs. “But it’s great to see this kind of school spirit emerging.”

In just half a year since the first GSA meeting, King George has experienced a seismic shift. “The entire vibe of the school has changed,” say Deona. “Even as a staff member I feel more comfortable coming to work.”

Among their successes they count: attracting the younger grades to meetings, a recent thousand dollar grant to partner with the Gordon Neighbourhood House and their most ‘liked’ event, ‘The KG Shake’ in which fifty students danced off to the viral You Tube ‘Harlem Shake’ video gyrating their hips bedecked in pink.

Pink has had a special status in the anti-bullying campaign ever since two Nova Scotia high school students took it upon themselves to distribute pink t-shirts to the school populace after they witnessed a boy being bullied for wearing that color.

When asked if Pink Shirt’s day focus on bullying obscures the link between violence and homophobia, the response is mixed.

Sienna notes that gender-based fashion stereotypes are waning. “V-necks are in and I mean, a lot of the guys wear pink everyday.”

Deona says. “Kids are very aware that gender is a social construction these days. At the same time whenever I go into the gym and see the guys lifting weights and the girls bouncing on balls, I think the gender stereotypes seem very much intact.”

The GSA has helped affirm a zero-tolerance policy when the insults “gay” or “fag” are used to pick-on kids stepping out of gender or other adolescent norms. Events such as Pink Shirt Day provide a platform from which to bring in speakers and discuss the various ways bullying takes form.

With ever-changing social media radicalizing the way teens communicate, tackling the way language can be used as a weapon is high on most educators agendas.

In response to the GSA’s initiatives, the teachers at King George have been hugely supportive and taken on more open discussion about sexuality in the classroom.
Sienna says the impact is palpable: “homophobic comments are way down.”

Sienna hopes to tackle engrained stereotypes by targeting elementary aged kids through GSA outreach. She says the six members who regulary meet at King George have a lot of work to do. “My old high school in Maple Ridge had things like Gender Swap Day and a Mini Pride Parade. They signed the wheel chair accessible bathroom as gender neutral.”

“I don’t see why we can’t do that here,” Deona intersects, “I’ll send the email today.” In a school of only 500 students, “where everyone knows each other’s business,” this DIY spirit has already made a world of difference.

“I used to come to this school and think ‘man I hate this school everything here sucks.’ says Sienna. “Now I come here and think, ‘wow I belong to a community.’”

-Written by Matea Kulic

Gordon Neighbourhood House provides the King George Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) with a safe and inclusive environment in which to meet on a weekly basis. The King George GSA welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, their straight allies and anyone else looking to be themselves. Find the King George Gay Straight Alliance on Facebook or contact Deona Zammit to get involved:


Introducing Our New Executive Director, Paul Michael Taylor

Gordon Neighbourhood House, located in the heart of Vancouver’s West End, is currently going through a period of renewal. From technological infrastructure to physical space, this process will assist in helping Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) continue to thrive in the West End community. The organization’s new Executive Director, Paul Michael Taylor, is currently laying the foundation for this change. Sitting down with Paul, it immediately becomes apparent that Paul’s ideas, energy and enthusiasm are a great fit for GNH.

Having recently come to Gordon Neighbourhood House after having been at the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, where he held the same position of Executive Director, Paul sees great opportunity for Gordon Neighbourhood to grow alongside the community. “Many great relationships are built here. One of our volunteers in the thrift store is sitting in on the English Language course offered upstairs. I think that’s the real magic of a neighbourhood house, when you see someone who sees this space, this community, as their home and a place in which they belong. I want our neighbours to feel the very same way, and enjoy all that their Neighbourhood House has to offer”.

Paul has been active in right to food and social justice organizations for most of his life. Born and raised in Toronto, he moved to Vancouver in 2011, Paul’s passions can be traced back to his early childhood. “I grew up as a poor, hungry kid in Downtown Toronto. I was raised by a single-mother, and for portions of my childhood we had no electricity, heat or hot water. I felt the shame that is ubiquitous for those with fewer materials, until I realized that our poverty was based on systemic issues that I could work to help challenge. I’ve done so for most of my life since then.”

Paul’s childhood would be the driving force behind his involvement in youth shelters, neighbourhood houses and as a champion of the Right to Food. In Toronto, Paul served as the executive director of Second Base Youth Shelter, a homeless youth shelter, where over 700 homeless youth would visit yearly. During his time there, Paul was influential in the Right to Milk program and its proliferation throughout Toronto at other youth shelters. He also worked to establish Second Helping Youth Catering social enterprise, an on-site health clinic and the creation of an art studio at the shelter.

While working at the DTES neighbourhood house, Paul walked by GNH one evening and immediately became interested in the area. Upon learning more about the West End, Paul was fascinated by the range of socioeconomic experiences in the neighbourhood. Inspired by the makeup of the neighbourhood, and lack of community space, Paul wanted to help amplify a community feeling in the West End. “Gordon Neighbourhood House presents a unique opportunity to help foster a centre where neighbours can come together. A space where any resident can drop in to socialize and familiarize themselves with their neighbours.”

Although Paul’s enthusiasm for his ideas isn’t easily contained, he is the first to acknowledge the great work done by his predecessor John Lucas. “ A wonderful fellow, John Lucas, who was the Executive Director for seventeen years. He is a wonderful and special human being who unfortunately couldn’t continue. It is a real honour, and challenge, to try and fill his shoes and move the organization forward.”

A loud voice in any neighbourhood and organization he has worked within, Paul works tirelessly to ameliorate his communities, his diligence only matched by his kindness and warm-hearted nature.

When asked what his ultimate goal is with Gordon Neighbourhood House, Paul replies with his broad smile, “Bring people together.”

-Written by Ashkon Nowtash


What’s in a Brand? Community Journalist Gavin Reid Explores the Gordon Neighbourhood House Rebranding Process

As a community provider with a rich history of giving, Gordon Neighborhood House understands its responsibility within the community. The services and programs provided are a reflection of the vision shared by each person that walks through the doors of Gordon House. One of the main challenges for the organization is to let patrons of the West End and citizens of the Lower Mainland know that the Neighbourhood House is committed to providing a centre for growth and sharing. A vital step in delivering this message is the creation of a strong brand identity, one that signifies to Gordon House staff, volunteers, donors, and members that it is an organization dedicated to a cause.

In an effort to better understand the work of creating a brand identity and the benefit it gives to the organization I spoke with James Kim, Communications Consultant; Cassie Clay Smith, Graphic Designer; and Paul Michael Taylor, Executive Director of Gordon Neighbourhood House.

James Kim has been a part of the creation of a brand identity for Gordon Neighborhood House since November 2012. I asked James why a brand is essential to any organization: “It is important to create a good first impression. A brand reflects personality and helps make it recognizable in different environments.” Establishing a vibrant first impression to Gordon House’s neighbours assists in building trust and creating friendships.

Cassie Clay Smith is a designer with a broad portfolio who has been a leader in the rebranding of Gordon Neighbourhood House. Educated in Fine Arts and Graphic Design at Langara College and Kwantlen Polytechnic University, I wanted to hear her hopes for capturing tangible meaning with the formation of a brand identity: “As an organization with a huge heart, I wanted the branding to encompass feelings of community, belonging, professionalism and a bit of sophistication. The literal imagery of the branding is the feeling of being in a treehouse in which you explore.” Gordon Neighborhood House is a place where all in the community are invited and welcomed into an explorative environment in which a variety of programs and services are offered. This offering fosters an atmosphere of togetherness within the walls of the Neighbourhood House.

Paul Michael Taylor serves as Executive Director of Gordon House. The opportunity to speak with him about the rebranding process was a key point in learning about the transition that takes place from the brand into the day-to-day operations within the Neighbourhood House. “The brand is a visual cue that introduces people and lets them know who we are and the work we are committed to doing,” says Paul. “With confidence and belief comes consistency in our work,” he adds.

Gordon Neighborhood House has a historic relationship with the West End. A unique and uplifting brand identity aims to speak to the community as a whole, from the volunteers working within the Neighbourhood House, to potential donors who enlist trust in its work, to those in the community who walk through its doors for the first time. A symbol of warmth, dynamism, and fellowship, James, Paul, and Cassie hope that the new brand identity helps connect community members to the Neighbourhood House. Gordon Neighbourhood House is open to all and forever in flux–together we grow.

-Written by Gavin Reid
Gordon Neighbourhood House's New Brand.

Two Summer Camp participants sport the new brand identity with their GNH t-shirts.