Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

Leave a comment

July 2017 issue of RCC News is here

Renfrew-Collingwood Community News July 2017

This 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:

  • New Il Museo exhibit illuminates the cultural legacy of Italian and Cantonese opera in Vancouver
  • Big Sisters seeks Study Buddy mentors
  • Make it a learning summer in Renfrew-Collingwood
  • MOSAIC moves to Collingwood
  • Reorganized Organ youth art project
  • Windermere students visit Ottawa with Don Davies, MP
  • Art for your heart: New book by local artist Ricardo Arturo Cerna Rivas
  • Have a Still Moon summer!

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 August 2017 issue is July 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.

Leave a comment

Happy 100th birthday to John Harlow



Three generations of transit operators (from left to right) David, Michelle and John Harlow in front of the family home on Chambers Street. Photos courtesy of the Harlow family

To commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News, we’re revisiting past stories that have particularly inspired us. This article was first published in June 2017.
Reading the RCC News gives a wonderful glimpse into the lives of local residents. This story celebrated the milestone 100th birthday of John Harlow with a look back at his rich, rewarding life. Staff writer Paul Reid chronicles how John’s love and passion for his work in the transit industry was passed through his family to create a multi-generational connection.
− Lisa Symons, sales and distribution coordinator

Herbert Harlow and Rose Campbell met while working at Vancouver General Hospital. They married and had their first born, John, in 1917. In 1925, John’s wife-to-be, Georgette, was attending Norquay School. John and Georgette met when they attended South Vancouver high school (now John Oliver), married in 1939 and moved onto Chambers Street. Three of their four children would also attend Norquay School.

John would later build a new house on Chambers Street in 1950. He bought the double lot for $600. This is the house he still lives in today with his son David and David’s wife Sylvia. So, we have had a Harlow living on Chambers Street for more than 78 years.

We have also had a Harlow driving city buses in Vancouver since 1945. This is the year that John started driving city buses for Neville Transit. Even before that, John was a driver, driving trucks for the Boeing company on Sea Island during the Second World War. He remembers driving up to the gate one day and the guard told him to park the truck and go home. The war was over, the plant was closed and everyone was laid off! That same day, on his way back home, John would not only find a new job, he was taught his route and started driving that day!


John Harlow became a motorman, driving streetcars like this one for Neville Transit.

This was the job with Neville Transit that would start the continuing legacy of the Harlow family. John worked with Neville until they became BC Electric and later BC Hydro. During this time, John became a motorman, driving streetcars.

In 1978, John’s son David would join the transit team. It was around this time that the company would became Metro and then Coast Mountain. In 2004, David’s daughter, Michelle started driving, becoming the third generation of Harlows to do so. (John retired in 1979; David in 2009.)


Congratulations to Michelle and the Harlow family on this latest addition this year. Could this be the fourth generation of the Harlow-transit legacy?

For John’s 100th birthday, his family wanted to give him a ride down memory lane. So they rented a vintage 1964 GMC bus, provided by TRAMS, and along with family and friends, the day was spent touring with John down memory lane.

This tour included John’s old routes in East Vancouver; Sea Island where John worked with Boeing; past the school where he met his wife; and the church where they got married.

Needless to say, John had a fantastic 100th birthday.

Copyright 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

Leave a comment

Food Security Institute: Join summer gatherings at local gardens



Vanessa Richards (centre) of Woodword’s Community Choir leads a singing practice at the Norquay Orchard event last year. Photo by Dustin Ahjz

The Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute (RCFSI) gathers neighbours around food. Together, we grow, we cook, we share and we build resilient communities. On the rooftop garden, at the Norquay Orchard and at our community gardens we aim to create a hub for our neighbours, both human and non, to share and increase knowledge around organic and regenerative food growing practices, soil systems, and wild and native plants.

This is an exciting time for us! This summer we will be joined by two new members of our team, Bo and Emma, who will be dedicating their time and expertise towards growing thriving communities both in the garden and out.

Bo is a creature of the cities and forests: a community organizer, activist and earth skills educator born to the traditional unceded lands of the Coast Salish – otherwise known as Vancouver, B.C. Bo identifies as genderqueer and uses They/Them/Theirs pronouns.

Bo is rooted deeply into their home and community, but never forgets that they are a visitor on this land. Their work operates in the intersections between earth, food, art and justice. They have spent countless hours learning from the natural world in academic settings, from elders and mentors, and from the living ecosystems themselves. They have worked on a number of projects concerning ecosystem repair, bioremediation, food forests design, biological pest management, rainwater harvesting and climate change resiliency and are so excited to be working with the RCFSI this summer!

Emma is a sociology student at Simon Fraser University and returning to RCFSI for a second year as a summer student. She loves growing, cooking, eating and talking about food. She is excited to spend time at the orchard and in the garden this summer, and to plant seeds for community growth and tasty veggies.

Summer events

This summer RCFSI will be working to foster a deeper connection with the land and each other, and are excited to invite everyone to our upcoming events:

Pruning Workshop at the Norquay Orchard (2732 Horley St.) – Saturday, June 17, 12 to 2 pm

Rooftop Garden Drop-ins at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House – Every Wednesday, 5 to 7 pm

Norquay Orchard Work Parties (2732 Horley St.) – Last Saturday of the month, 1 to 3 pm

There will be many more exciting opportunities to get involved. Keep an eye on the RCFSI Facebook page – Renfrew Collingwood Food Security Institute, or the website

If you are interested in volunteering contact

Copyright 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

Leave a comment

Students find their passion at Windermere high school


It’s hard to believe that my husband and I will soon become empty nesters. It’s been a long haul. We’d settled in the neighbourhood over 20 years ago, raising two kids here.

Words. Source: Vancouver School Board

Windermere’s motto “Facta Non Verba” means Actions, Not Words. Images source: Vancouver School Board

Now my youngest, Kate, will graduate this June from Windermere Secondary and leave home in September for university – and a life on her own. She follows her sister, Claire, who graduated from the same school three years ago and is also studying away from home.

We didn’t think twice about sending our kids to Windermere; after all, it was just a five-minute walk from our house. We also believe in public education. Still, we didn’t know what to expect from this small east Vancouver school.

We needn’t have worried.

Windermere Secondary is a neighbourhood gem.

Windermere High School

Sure, as Claire noted in her graduation speech, the bell doesn’t always ring on time and some windows are boarded up. But she received a tremendous learning experience as part of Windermere and its Leadership program, and by extension, she became part of a group of students who were active in the community. Claire learned a different point of view from the mainstream, learned to think on her own and take action, learned to be a leader – all qualities that have been invaluable in her adult life.

Claire describes a friend who volunteered with the school’s lifeskills class and discovered the rewards of helping students with disabilities. Her friend has gone on to study and work in the field, following her passion that she first found at Windermere.

More recently, another student was one of the lucky few to take part in the High School Science Week at St Paul’s Hospital’s Centre for Heart Lung Innovation as part of her career exploration experience. “I was happy to learn most of the students were from schools in the area and I was proud to represent Windermere,” she recalls in a report. She got to “play” with damaged organs, including hearts and lungs. “I felt like a kid in a candy store for the whole day!”

Which takes us back to Kate. Windermere gave her the opportunity to excel in sports and to volunteer as a score keeper and as an arts and crafts instructor to elementary school students. Most surprising to us, though, she found her passion the day she walked into her Grade 8 science class.

Today physics is Kate’s favourite subject, and she does well in chemistry, biology and math. She may study engineering. As someone who couldn’t understand physics and could only learn chemistry and calculus from good teachers, I can see that Windermere has excellent science and math programs.

As parents we put a lot of trust in the teachers who lay the foundation for our kids to succeed in life. Windermere has taught so many of our kids to be good citizens, to aim high and to dream that they can improve lives and, perhaps, even save the world.

Thank you.

Julie Cheng has been the editor of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News for almost 10 years.

Windermere stories

Over the years the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News has published many stories about Windermere high school. A quick search on leads you to stories that reveal:

Windermere staff are amazing:

Indigenous art project at Windermere: Reconciliation from the ground up – May 2017 issue
Judy Payne one of Windermere’s secrets to success – May 2015

Windermere students speak up about social justice:

Multinational corporation pays $15 a day for Hope water – Jan. 2017
Homelessness Action Week, October 12-18, 2014 – Nov. 2014

The students take action for the environment:

Windermere students celebrate Earth Day – Apr. 2017
Windermere students race to save the planet at the Great Climate Race – Dec. 2016

The students are everywhere in the community:

Windermere Organic Garden Team grows fruit, veggies and community – Nov. 2016
Celebrate Canada’s 149th birthday at Youth Celebrate Canada Day – July 1! – Jun. 2016

They learn to be strong and have a creative voice:

Film by Windermere Girls Group: Girls Are Just As Strong – Dec. 2016
Renfrew-Collingwood high school students create original play about addiction – Apr. 2017

Create Your Canada winners off to Ottawa

Create Your Canada Windermere winners

Windermere students June Lam and Gaelan Emo are off to Ottawa to see their bill introduced in the House of Commons by MP Don Davies. Photo courtesy of Don Davies, MP

Congratulations to Windermere students Gaelan Emo and June Lam for winning the Create Your Canada contest sponsored by Don Davies, the member of Parliament for Vancouver-Kingsway. Gaelan and June will travel to Ottawa to hear Don Davies introduce their bill in the House of Commons.

“This is a great way for youth to share their vision for our country,” says Don Davies. “I think it’s also a fun and engaging introduction to Parliament and the legislative process.”

Gaelan and June were chosen for their idea to create a tax incentive that will encourage food producers, suppliers and retailers to donate perishable food to charities. Way to go, Gaelan and June! To learn more about this competition, visit

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

Leave a comment

Community rallies around local carpenter Rob Allen after house fire

Rob Allen – our neighbour, volunteer and contractor at Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH) –lost everything in a house fire early May. “I’m OK and so is the guy from downstairs!” he writes in an email.

Actually, he heroically saved his downstairs neighbour’s life by crawling through a smoky, burning basement and dragging him out of the blaze.

Rob lost everything in the fire. But as one friend said, quoting her parent’s wisdom, “Everything is replaceable except for you!” We’re grateful Rob is safe.

A talented carpenter by trade, Rob has worked on many projects around the neighbourhood and privately for folks who need woodworking help. Rob is a dedicated community volunteer who has spent many hours working on cultural infrastructure planning, making bird and bee houses in community workshops, teaching woodworking to homeschooling families and working with the city on dialogue around community representation. He also initiated the local Conversation Cafés.

His hearty chuckle and dedication to making the neighbourhood a better place – alongside his ability to see the positive in everything, including his own situation – is inspiring.

People at CNH and around the community have expressed a desire to help Rob. His partner has set up a GoFundMe page where you can donate online ( – thanks to all of you who have already donated.

If anyone has woodworking tools they don’t need anymore, he is happy to accept them as donations, as he plans to do more woodworking workshops for beginner DIYers.

You are welcome to drop off monetary donations to Collingwood Neighbourhood House, 5288 Joyce Street, by Friday, June 2, attention Sally. You can also drop off tool donations at the reception.

Rob is overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the people around him and the community support has been important in helping him though this disaster with grace.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

Leave a comment

June 2017 issue of RCC News is here

June 2017 RCC News

This 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:

  • Happy 100th to John Harlow
  • Community rallies around Rob Allen after house fire
  • Windermere students shine
  • June is Italian Heritage Month
  • Food Security Institute: Join summer gatherings at local gardens
  • Thank you CNH volunteers
  • Family movie night at Gaston Park

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 July 2017 issue is June 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.