Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Family Support and Advocacy at DDA? What’s that all about?


Terry Schenkel


Many families are aware of the Family Support and Advocacy program offered by the Developmental Disabilities Association (DDA) but there are some who have no idea we exist or what the program offers.

However, once the family gets connected with a family support worker and realize there are available resources for their child, their usual reaction is, “If I had connected with you even earlier, our journey would be much easier. Thank you so much!”

So, how and when would a family member benefit from the Family Support and Advocacy program?

  • At times of transition in their child’s life like preschool to kindergarten, elementary to high school, high school to college. Sandy was thankful for family support during the transition of her young son with severe autism from private school to public school. We helped her to connect with professionals at the Vancouver School Board (VSB), accompanied her to meetings at the school, and made sure that her concerns were heard.
  • When they need to advocate for services or financial assistance. Janet asked for help advocating for more support for her son with autism at school. She was referred to the right people at the VSB and we helped her to write a request to them. We supported her to be a strong advocate for her son. She feels proud of herself for what she is doing for her child.
  • When they need to understand the school system, Community Living British Columbia, Ministry of Children and Family Development and Vancouver Coastal Health. Sam was relieved when we informed him that he is going to be involved in his daughter’s Individual Educational Plan team. We gave support by accompanying him to IEP meetings.
  • Connecting them to other community support services for day-to-day needs. Linda was concerned about her six-year-old daughter’s development and wondered about a possible diagnosis of autism. The family support worker referred her to Sunny Hill team for diagnostic assessment.
  • When they want to connect with another family who understands what they are experiencing. Jill was thankful that we connected her with another mom who has a child with an intellectual disability and comes from the same region in the Middle East. Being an immigrant with the same language and culture and having a child with special needs was a few things the two of them have in common.
  • When they want to suggest a workshop or speaker or learn about upcoming workshops. Parents at the Bollywood Maza parent support group were concerned with the transition of their children to high school, so we invited a special needs transition consultant and a resource teacher from the VSB to the parents’ group. The parents had an opportunity to ask questions and get first-hand information.
  • When they feel alone or unheard in their efforts to advocate for their child. Jane has been a strong advocate for her young son with an intellectual disability. But dealing with mental health issues herself, there are times when she feels overwhelmed. During these times she would sort out the conflicting priorities with us because she feels that we hear and support her without judgement.
  • Parent-to-Parent Support and Information groups in Vancouver and Richmond. “This is the only place that I don’t need to worry if my son (who has autism) is loud or is running in a circle … This is my break”, says one of our Vietnamese Family Support Group moms.
  • Respitality Program. Parents who are members of DDA and whose children receive our services may enjoy a complimentary overnight stay at a local hotel. All they need to do is to organize care for their children for the night.

DDA’s Family Support and Advocacy service is free and no referral is needed. Just pick up the phone and dial 604-301-2831 for Michael, who supports families with children, or 604-233-5433 for Terry, who supports families with youth and adults.

The Developmental Disabilities Association is a nonprofit organization that began in 1952. Today, DDA offers more than 50 programs that support infants, children and adults diagnosed with a developmental disability and their families. DDA has a team located at at Kaslo Street and East 18th Avenue in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood. Their Infant Development Program, children’s and adult respite program, Youth in Transition, Family Support and Advocacy and host family program are located here.

Terry Schenkel is the assistant director of family support services at the Developmental Disabilities Association.

Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Renfrew-Collingwood Heritage: Earles Road Substation



Once again, we dive into Renfrew-Collingwood’s rich history to find these then-and-now photos of Earles Road Substation.

Built in 1912 and designed by architect Robert Lyon, the Earles Road Substation provided electrical service to the Central Park Line of the BC Electric Railway. This line linked downtown Vancouver to New Westminster and continued in operation until 1953.

For 35 or so years, the substation was boarded up until 1989 when the building was turned into a condominium by architect Linda Baker. Seeing potential in the old station, Linda and her team would turn the substation into 12 housing units of between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet. A three-story wood frame structure was built within the substation’s concrete shell to avoid any contaminates and the exterior received new balconies, windows and entrances.

The result transformed the then ugly, abandoned building into the beautiful neighbourhood landmark that it still is today.

If you have some old photographs, stories or memorobilia that you would like to share with our community, please contact the Renfrew-Collingwood Heritage Committee at 604-435-0323 or email

Working with advice from the Vancouver Archives and the Museum of Vancouver, the committee enables the residents and former residents of Renfrew-Collingwood to submit
items for inclusion in a Renfrew-Collingwood historical collection.

Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Collingwood Neighbourhood House says goodbye to devoted volunteer A.J. Wadden


Photo by Sandra Wadden


Adrian Joseph (A.J.) Wadden was one of the longest-serving volunteers of Collingwood Neighbourhood House’s Morning Star breakfast program (for people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness).

A.J. volunteered with us for more than 10 years. He would arrive in the wee hours of the morning to help set up tables and chairs and whatever else needed doing. His assistance was important to us and we appreciated his sense of humour and efforts.

A.J. had a 25-year career as a longshoreman, 10 years as a member of the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) Local 500, retiring last year. He had a life-long love of sports and was an avid cyclist and ice skater.

“Everyone on the Morning Star team looked up to A.J.,” said Bill McMichael, another of our original Morning Star volunteers. “For over 10 years, he would arrive with the early shift to set up the multipurpose room for a group of 70, doing the work three volunteers took to take down three hours later. No one has ever worked harder or better or smarter than A.J. And still, he remained a gentle and generous man, whose smile brightened the kitchen on even our darkest and rainiest of mornings. He was the best of us.”

Terry Taylor, another of our originals, said: “I would sit with A.J. and chat after the set up was ready for the breakfast program. We talked about life and other things. He was always very respectful and courteous to others. He was a soft-spoken man with a delightful sense of humour. I will always remember those chats with great fondness.”

A celebration of life service was held for A.J. at the Sunrise Community Centre on Sunday, September 11. The room was filled with Morning Star volunteers, longshore workmates, friends and family and members of his church. Pastor Elsie Quick, Pastor Ernie Culley and A.J.’s wife Sandra spoke about A.J.’s life.

A.J. is survived by his wife Sandra and siblings Marguerite, James, Carl and Vera. The family has asked in lieu of flowers that donations be made to the B.C. Cancer Agency or the Vancouver Hospital Palliative Care Unit in A.J.’smemory.

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Dedicated chef of Morning Star breakfast program honoured with national award


The early morning crew is ready to spring into action. Photo by Richard Berwick

The early morning crew is ready to spring into action. Photos by Richard Berwick

It’s tough to find cooks with engaging personalities and Canada-wide reputations, working hard hours at community venues like Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH). We have one at the Collingwood Saturday Breakfast Program and her name is Nafisa.

Nafisa Sultana arrived in Canada from Bangladesh in February 2009. She found her way to our kitchen five years ago, three years after I started scrambling eggs and washing dishes with other volunteers for the Saturday Breakfast Program in 2008.

Not your typical chef

In our work with a largely homeless or home-challenged group of regulars – of all ages and many ethnic backgrounds – we found in Nafisa a professional chef capable of organizing all the details of a successful program: food purchasing and storage, thoughtful preparation of balanced meals, guidance for the volunteers who range from high schoolers to the people of the diverse communities that comprise the staff and public of CNH.

From left, Maria (Philippines), Nafisa (Bangladesh), Taeko (Japan) ready to serve the cobbler.

From left, Maria (from the Philippines), Nafisa (Bangladesh) and Taeko (Japan) are ready to serve the cobbler.

On any given Saturday, you’ll find the jam-packed kitchen filled with volunteer galley hands with ethnic origins, and past lives, in Bangladesh (that’s Nafisa!), the Philippines, Japan, China, Vietnam, India, Kazakhstan, Korea, Canada and the U.S.

I’ve watched Nafisa move in her career seamlessly from refugee to resident, from hard labour at Pizza Hut, to cook and then chef at New Hope Community Services Society in Surrey and at Langara College – all the while earning her culinary arts degree at Vancouver Community College.

These have been difficult simultaneous commitments, but the extraordinary challenge that Nafisa counts as the work she treasures, above all else, is walking into our kitchen at 5:30 in the morning every Saturday and getting meals – breakfast and lunches – out to anywhere between 50 and 80 hungry people.

Not your typical Saturday

Here’s what it looked like in the kitchen on this particular early fall Saturday morning:

I arrive at the kitchen about 6:30 am, about an hour after Nafisa and Chris have lit the boilers and cranked up the ancient oven with a pilot light that works when you don’t look at it (I exaggerate, slightly). Nafisa, Chris and Viktoriya (last resident in Kazakhstan), are hard at work on the bag lunches, washing veggies, digging out the big fry pans that work well when the grill goes to sleep, as it did today.

Nafisa sees me step into her kitchen, gives me the usual bear hug through all of my guilty lateness and sharpens a couple of knives for me to chop the onions, peppers and tomatoes, and then to make a marinade for the omelets.

Advice from Nafisa: “If you use that cleaver, you’ll get the liquid over everything.” She’s right, of course. I can only bristle in my amateur-cookness. The sausages are burning in the oven, but only a little.

Volunteers file in and do the basics of breakfast: slicing loaves for toast, putting out the milk and juice, the peanut butter and margarine and jam, getting coffee out to the folks waiting for the call to come and pick up their breakfast plates – omelets, sausage, pilaf, fruit, apple cobbler for dessert, breakfast cereals on the side.

When it’s all over, we hear the occasional review from departing clients: “Thanks for everything. Eggs were a little hard.” “God bless.” And so it goes. Nafisa stands back to watch her kitchen run like a clock going backwards, dishes collected and washed, tables cleared, some of the men lingering quietly at their tables wanting to chat a bit about their week.

Nafisa is coming into her own professionally as first-rate Canadian chef, and will be honoured on November 2 in Toronto with the 2016 Be-a-Star (all-Canada outstanding chef) award from Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services for her work at Langara College. But she is at home with us at Collingwood for the long run, always with an astonishing well of energy on Saturday morning.

Dr. Richard Berwick is a volunteer with the Saturday Breakfast Program at Collingwood Neighbourhood House.

Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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October 2016 issue of RCC News is here

Renfrew-Collingwood Community News October 2016This issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Local Morning Star chef honoured with national award
  • JARA: Joyce-Collingwood Skytrain station rezoning update
  • Remembering volunteer A.J. Wadden
  • Developmental Disabilities Association family support and advocacy
  • Seniors Connection: A day with Ann
  • Heritage photo: Earles Road Substation
  • Collingwood Legion Branch #48 Update

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email

The deadline for the November 2016 issue is October 10. We welcome story submissions from 300 to 400 words long. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.