Community Voices: Responses to the West End Plan

Three months ago, Vancouver City Council approved the West End Community Plan. So has the dust settled? As the City gears up to implement the Plan, it looks like things will be as busy as ever.

The West End Community Plan sets direction on a number of fronts. From arts and culture to community well-being, heritage and housing to transportation––these are just a few examples of the Plan’s focus for helping shape the West End’s future. According to the City’s website, the Plan can’t encompass everything. But it aligns with other key planning initiatives that are also meant to address the community’s challenges and needs in the coming years.

Recently, Gordon Neighbourhood House decided to contact some West End community members to hear their responses to the Plan.

Randy Helten, a Director of the West End Neighbours group, thinks that many people will be surprised when they start to feel the effects of dramatic changes that have been set in motion in parts of the community and will wonder when and how they were decided.

“The community plan process did make considerable progress,” he said, “but it was rushed and approved by City Council prematurely, without having truly engaged enough people in the community in a discussion about the issues and options.” He added that a lot of taxpayers’ money was spent to create a sophisticated 3D model of the West End, but it was only barely used.

“West End Neighbours will continue to monitor changes as they arise,” he said. “We will do our best to involve as many residents as possible in community discussions. Our aim is to enhance and celebrate the quality of life; the distinct, diverse character; and the heritage of the West End.”

According to Stephen Regan, Executive Director of the West End Business Improvement Association, his group supported the Plan as a tool to help revitalize the commercial streets.

“Not everything we wanted landed in the Plan,” he said,  “but some key items included a clear focus on enhancing the commercial streets and championing the concept of a ‘West End Loop’.”

He added, “Linking the West End’s great commercial streets to Granville Street through strategies like decorative lighting could create the right kind of animation to support business success.”

Brent Granby, a West End community organizer, is pleased with many of the positive elements coming out of the Plan. For example, sustainable transportation measures, including traffic calming, will mean better cycling routes between English Bay and Burrard Street.

Brent sees the Plan’s proposed laneway housing as another plus. To date, it’s been challenging in the West End to secure more spacious housing that is affordable for families who need more than a 1-bedroom-sized apartment.

“Now, there is a lot of potential here with laneway housing,” he said. “This can be transformative and revitalize housing in the West End, especially for families.  I’d like to see continued support from the City.”

Another key point Brent stressed is that the Plan makes clear that rezoning is only approved in 4 areas (other areas are protected), so people will know what to expect. And with such rezoning, investments will come through community amenity contributions (CACs). As described in the Plan, CACs will be able to funnel resources back to improve and renew existing recreational, cultural and social facilities.

“The areas where rezoning will occur are around key transportation hubs, which makes sense,” Brent said. ” And with investments through CACs, this can help institutions such as the Aquatic Centre and Gordon Neighbourhood House.”

The West End Community Plan also outlines a new purpose-built facility for QMUNITY, BC’s Queer Resource Centre, within Davie Village, to better support LGBTQ community members. Dara Parker, the Centre’s Executive Director, is delighted that QMUNITY was highlighted as a priority.

“We have been actively advocating for a new facility that is accessible and large enough to meet the needs of our community programming for twenty years, ” she said. “The new facility will be an inclusive hub for everyone in the queer community, including our allies and neighbourhood supporters.”

What about you? What impact do you think the West End Community Plan will have for your neighbourhood? We’d love to hear your comments!

Written by Community Journalist/GNH Blogger Anita Miettunen 

The Clean Team’s Collaborative Community Maintenance and Beautification Efforts

Over the past few months, a variety of community stakeholders have come together to develop a coordinated neighbourhood clean-up and maintenance schedule. In May 2013, the West End Business Improvement Association (WEBIA) partnered with Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) to form The Clean Team. The Clean Team is composed of two crew-members who spend four hours every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday cleaning Davie, Denman, and Robson streets. The Clean Team also conducts routine litter and cigarette butt audits in the WEBIA area.

WEBIA and GNH are also working in partnership with other organizations such as the West End Cleanup (volunteer-based cleanup group), the West End-Coal Harbour Community Policing Centre, and the Downtown Community Court to ensure cleanup coverage of every area in the West End. These partner organizations help with the maintenance of alleyways, 311 reporting of illegal dumping, and graffiti removal. In addition to their regular cleanup efforts, the West End Cleanup and the West End-Coal Harbour Community Policing Centre participated in this year’s United Way and YWCA Days of Caring at Gordon Neighbourhood House along with visiting organizations such as Stantec and The University of British Columbia.

Here are some highlights of the work that these groups have been doing since May 2013:

  • Volunteer contributions. 165 volunteer hours on May 26, 2013 for the annual Keep Vancouver Spectacular Cleanup (West End edition) hosted at Gordon Neighbourhood House; three corporate Days of Caring with The Clean Team in September and October 2013 harnessing a total of 96 volunteer hours; 182 volunteer hours through the West End Cleanup from July to November 2013. A grand total of 433 volunteer hours since May 2013.
  • 3-1-1 reporting of illegal dumping. The Clean Team and its partners are working with the City of Vancouver to report illegal dumping in alleyways.
  • Routine graffiti removal. Coordinated by the West End-Coal Harbour Community Policing Centre with paint and supplies provided through the Community Paint Out program at the City of Vancouver. Over 200 tags removed, 4 large paint-out events, and 138 volunteer hours from January to September 2013.
  • Cigarette butt audit. In collaboration with a cigarette butt recycling pilot spearheaded by the City of Vancouver and Terracycle, The Clean Team conducted a weekly count of cigarette butts on the 1100 block of Davie St. from October 17 to December 12, 2013. Public support for this kind of pilot program (the first in North America) was granted significant momentum after a highly successful cigarette butt buyback initiative coordinated by the West End Cleanup at Car Free Day on June 16, 2013. The cigarette butt receptacles will remain on downtown city streets until May 2014, at which time the City of Vancouver will consider the long-term viability of this model. The Clean Team plans to conduct another 6-week audit spanning from early-March to mid-April 2014.
  • Power washing and leaf removal. During the months of November and December 2013, WEBIA coordinated leaf removal and power washing on West End commercial streets.

How you can help:

  • Support our regular volunteer base and volunteer cleanup events with vouchers for products or services offered at your business or organization.
  • Join a cleanup event or host one yourself that we can support with supplies.
  • Make your neighbours aware of the new cigarette butt receptacles on Davie Street.
  • Report illegal dumping and graffiti to the City of Vancouver’s call centre 3-1-1.

If you would like to learn more about The Clean Team and related neighbourhood cleanup activities please email

This is a special to the GNH Blog by Community Initiatives Supervisor, Samuel Mickelson, with input from our partners at the West End Business Improvement Association, the West End Cleanup, the West End Coal Harbour Community Policing Centre, and the Downtown Community Court.

bill farmer_3


Hotel Vancouver

Food Scraps Drop Spots: Making Good Use of Good Waste

Maris Pavelson feels good at the end of his shift at Gordon Neighborhood House (GNH), staffing the Food Scraps Drop Spot on Tuesday evenings.  Not only is he helping to reduce the greenhouse gas methane that is created by food rotting in the landfill, the food scraps he collects are trucked out by local recycling company Recycling Alternative to be made into nutrient-rich compost for local gardens.

“But most of all it’s fun,” he says.  “I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun.”

GNH launched their 10 am-12 noon Saturday Drop Spot in November, 2011, in partnership with Recycling Alternative, the West End Neighbourhood Food Network (WENFN), and the Vancouver Farmers Markets.  While the City of Vancouver offers curbside food scraps pick-up and composting service to single-family resident homes, until the Drop Spots were launched the majority of West Enders and others who live in condos, apartment buildings, and co-ops were left out–half of the city.  Randy Helten of WENFN estimates that the 45,000 people living in the West End alone produce around 27 million kilograms of food waste a year.

The first pilot project Drop Spot–begun in August, 2011 at the West End Farmers Market, initiated by Recycling Alternative and the Farmers Market, and funded by a $10,000 Greenest City Fund grant from the City of Vancouver– was instantly popular, as nearly 200 people dropped off their organics on a busy Saturday.

“When we were wrapping up the first pilot, people were asking us, “What are we going to do when you close the market? ” says Louise Schwarz, co-founder of Recycling Alternative.  The perfect partner to pick up the slack was Gordon Neighborhood House, a mere two blocks from the West End Market site at Nelson Park.  “GNH is a natural place for people to come to bring their food scraps,” says Samuel Mickelson, Community Initiatives Supervisor.

Even with the introduction of a $2 donation that pays for transportation, delivery of the food scraps to Enviro-smart Organics composting facility in Delta, and the disposal fee, the Saturday drop spot at GNH was a success.  So much so that a second day was proposed, and Tuesday evenings from 6-7:30 began in 2013. Together they receive up to 150 drops per week.

For Maris, life in the trash trenches includes checking for banned substances such as cat litter or Styrofoam, noting each droppers’ postal code to see how far they have travelled, offering hand sanitizer and paper towels to those soiled by their exertions, and engaging in conversations related to recycling and our local food cycle.

Currently there are six Drop Spots: the West End, Kitsilano, and Trout Lake Farmers Markets run in the summer; GNH and the Winter Farmers Market at Nat Bailey stadium take over in the winter; while the West End Community Centre operates year-round.  This schedule will continue past the Metro Vancouver ban on all organic material going to the landfill in January, 2015, as Schwarz thinks it unlikely the City and independent contractors will have organized curbside collection of food scraps for all Multi-Unit Residential Buildings by that time.

With nearly 30,000 drops to date, the Drop Spots have diverted 200,000 pounds of food scraps otherwise destined for the landfill, helping make Vancouver a greener city.

No wonder Maris Pavelson enjoys his work as a GNH Drop Spot volunteer.


Written by Linda Lawson
GNH Community Journalist/Blogger


Maris Pavelson and Chie Watanabe, two core volunteers for the Tuesday night Drop Spot.


Louise Schwarz of Recycling Alternative.

Powerful Ideas From GNH’S First ‘Community Conversation’ on Food

Getting people together to share ideas can be exhilarating and productive, especially when the topic is so central to our lives as food.  That was the topic of a Community Conversation held at Gordon Neighbourhood House on January 14, 2014, which I had the pleasure of co-facilitating along with GNH Community Food Advocate Andrew Christie.  We thank the roughly 40+ neighbours who attended and shared their experiences in trying to access good food and eat in ways that are healthy both for individuals and for community.  Thank you as well to UBC Bachelor of Social Work practicum students Emily Melzer, Fibby Pan, and Markayla Benstead, who helped record participants’ ideas.

And there were a lot of ideas on the table.  Reflecting on the experience later, Andrew Christie summarized what he saw as the main themes – and he did this so clearly and articulately that I’m going to quote him directly.


“The first key theme I saw was the idea of affordability of healthy food. A couple of folks mentioned that the concepts of “Healthy” and “Organic” have become conflated, leading to a perception that a healthy diet necessitates paying higher prices for food.  The reverse also seems to hold — that a perception exists that eating products branded “organic” is necessarily a healthy choice.  We spoke briefly about the idea that “conventional” produce has the same nutritional value as its organic counterparts, and the importance of understanding, when shopping for food, that nutritional balance and diversity are more important than the word “Organic” on a label.


“The second key concept I identified was the idea of a “Local” food system.  Local, in the sense that the food participants wanted to consume is grown somewhere near here, but also local in the sense that they don’t want to have to travel a great distance to obtain it, and local in the sense that they want to purchase it from businesses based here in our community, rather than larger companies based in Arkansas or California.


“The third theme was the idea of “Time”–and this is a strong one for me, because I’ve heard this in a number of discussions I’ve been part of, and I think it needs more consideration when we frame policy and projects.

Planning meals, shopping for ingredients, preparing food, and eating food all take time, which is at a great premium for many people.  Coupled with the need for all of these activities to take place in a social context, it creates an impossible task.  Yes, we all can see the health and environmental benefits of preparing meals from scratch ourselves and sharing them with our friends and families, but when exactly can we do that? I know I’m lucky if I get the chance to prepare a meal for a friend once over the course of a week–and that’s not because people are unwilling to let me cook for them. And I don’t have kids, or work long hours, like many people.


“Finally, I want to touch on the idea of skills and education.  The participants in the discussion identified a knowledge and skils gap which prevented folks from accessing healthy food, and though I can see the validity of the argument, I think we need to be very careful not to paint with too broad a brush here.  It’s a common misconception that people who experience poverty do so because they are undereducated, or somehow lack knowledge or skills, and if only we could train people, their problems would be solved.  This runs contrary to the realities many people experience.  Though a skills gap exists with respect to cooking and nutrition, I have trouble correlating that gap with poverty, and believe that this gap affects people regardless of their economic status.”

Thank you, Andrew, for those powerful ideas.   We plan to hold more Community Conversations in the near future, and welcome your comments

A special to the Gordon Neighbourhood House Blog by writer and educator Eleanor Boyle,






Seniors Community Planning Table: Spotlight on Housing

Once a month, the Seniors Community Planning Table-West End gathers at Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) to exchange information and discuss issues critical to West End seniors. The 2013 sessions wrapped up at a meeting on December 6, which had over 35 attendees representing a cross-section of local residents, and seniors’ services and advocacy groups.

After an overview of fall activities, an open discussion followed on seniors’ priorities for 2014. Sharon Isaak, Seniors Planning Table and Housing Outreach Coordinator, reported on preliminary results from a seniors’ needs assessment survey, which had over 200 responses. Many concerns were highlighted regarding seniors’ housing security in the face of potential economic evictions and displacement of seniors who rent.

The high cost of rent is affecting many West End seniors. Over 68% of seniors rent their homes in this neighbourhood, compared with a citywide average of about 34%. There are increasing worries about seniors being driven out of the West End because of unaffordability. It isn’t hard to image the huge distress such displacement would have on a senior’s health and wellbeing.

Lorraine Copas, Executive Director at BC’s Social Planning and Research Council (SPARC), also spoke about SPARC’s new initiative, the Digital Stories project. In partnership between SPARC BC, GNH, and the West End Seniors Network, with funding support from the United Way, this project’s aim is to gather seniors’ voices on pressing housing matters. According to Lorraine, “Policy makers need to hear these stories.” Statistics are indicating many concerns about seniors housing insecurity. By also hearing seniors’ stories, it’s hoped this data will come alive and raise awareness about the impact on seniors if decision-makers don’t pay attention to what is really important.

When I contacted Lorraine in January for an update, she was eager to remind everyone about the Digital Stories project and its goals: “to create a digital story that helps to draw attention to some of the specific challenges that seniors face in finding and keeping housing that they can afford.”

As Lorraine explained, if you are a senior or know of seniors experiencing housing stress, worrying about paying your rent, or facing the challenges of moving from the West End due to unaffordable rent increases, you are invited to get involved in the Digital Stories project. You can help to raise awareness about the types of housing stress West End seniors are facing. If you want to be part of the Digital Stories project and have a story to share, please let us know.  You can call Lorraine Copas at (604) 718-7736 or send an email  You can also let Sharon Isaak or Ana Maria Bustamente at GNH know that you are interested in participating. You can help us work together to make change happen!

The next Seniors Community Planning Table-West End meeting will be at Gordon Neighbourhood House on Friday, January 31, from 10:00am – 12noon. Please join us!

For more information please contact:

Sharon Isaak, Seniors Planning Table and Housing Outreach Coordinator

Ana Maria Bustamente, GNH Community Developer

Written by Anita Miettunen, GNH Community Journalist/Blogger, with input from Lorraine Copas.




The slogan of our schools is “bring your money”: How about teaching our children to care for others through the power of democracy

My twins started kindergarten last September. By the end of the year, they had taken part in two food bank drives and multiple bake sales to raise money for all sorts of good causes. I am glad that the school is fostering a sense of social responsibility and that my children are thinking about others. However, I am concerned that the only solution they are learning to address issues of poverty and hunger is to donate. The slogan of our schools has become “bring your money.”

Where are the lessons about the structural causes of these societal problems and what our political institutions can do about them?

Almost 1 in 5 children live in poverty in BC, according to the 2013 Child Poverty Report Card released in November by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. That’s 153,000 children, an increase from last year that puts us back in the number one position with the worst child poverty rate in Canada. Not a great title to hold!

The rate is worse for children under 6, which is especially worrying because of the damaging impact of poverty on children’s early physical, social and cognitive development.

The statistics are dismal but the overwhelming response provides hope. Clearly, people are concerned about child poverty in our province and want to take action to address it. However, just like in our schools, our response is often to donate. In fact, BC is one of the most generous provinces in Canada in terms of giving to charity. And yet, BC’s child poverty rate has been the worst in Canada for nine of the last ten years.

Don’t get me wrong; giving to charity is necessary in this time of great need in order to address the immediate needs of people living in poverty. However, charities can only provide short-term relief that addresses the “downstream” symptoms and we need long-term solutions that go “upstream” to fix the root causes.

Food banks themselves are saying the same thing. In the 2013 HungerCount report, Food Banks Canada highlights that “the root of the need is low income.” Their recommendations look “upstream” and include government commitments to provide affordable housing, education and training, support for low-wage workers and increased “social assistance so that people can build self-sufficiency instead of being trapped in poverty.”

Food banks were, in fact, initially meant to be a temporary measure but they have now been around for over 30 years. They have become such a normal part of society that we never question their role and the extent to which they can address these big issues. We give year after year without wondering why children are still going hungry in BC.

Now the holiday season’s over, perhaps we should start asking that question and look to our government for answers.

When I talk to my children about these issues, I tell them that the government is a group of people that has the power and responsibility to make the “big rules” or “policies” that could really help children in poverty. I tell them that we vote for them to represent our concerns and they are (or should be) always interested in listening and making change for the good of all.

So let’s match our donations with an action. Here’s an idea to take to our provincial government. Most other places in Canada have a poverty reduction plan and they are already saving lives and money. BC needs a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with legislated targets and timelines to really make a difference for families, communities and our province.

The government’s response to poverty continues to be a reliance on the BC Jobs Plan. However, most people in poverty already have a job, and almost 1 in 3 poor children live in families with at least one adult working full-time full-year.

Poverty is a heavy issue and we need everyone to share the weight. Giving to charity is the community stepping up and now we need to ask government to share the weight with us.

We are teaching our children to be charitable givers, and fostering social service from a very young age. Let’s also teach them to be democratic citizens and think about social justice by engaging with their government. At the same time, let’s learn that ourselves.


This is a special to the GNH blog by Trish Garner (Organizer, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition). Gordon Neighbourhood House has endorsed the work of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and supports the call for a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy for British Columbia.  BC remains one of only two Canadian provinces that lack a poverty reduction strategy.



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