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

PMT

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.