Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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Let’s celebrate literacy in September

BY JANICE BEXSON

From the time we wake up and until we go to sleep, literacy plays an integral part in everything that we do.

Literacy Is Life logo

Image source: decoda.ca

Whether we are checking the weather forecast, reading the instructions on how to make a breakfast shake, knowing the number of the bus that will take us to our destination, reading and answering emails and texts, ordering lunch and paying the bill, driving to a new destination, buying groceries, helping a stranger or tourist read a map to find a specific Air BNB, checking a bank statement, reading a story book to a child before bedtime or setting the alarm for tomorrow, we need and use basic literacy skills in order to achieve these activities in our work and in our daily lives.

However, these literacy skills are not just about learning how to read and write. They also involve knowing how well we use our literacy skills so that we can participate more fully in our community. Using existing and gaining new literacy skills increases our self-confidence, encourages connection to others, and expands our health, social and economic opportunities.

In British Columbia (B.C.), Decoda Literacy Solutions (Decoda) has declared September “Literacy Month.” Decoda supports community organizations in B.C. (including Collingwood Neighbourhood House) with funding, training and resources for a variety of literacy initiatives. Decoda’s “Literacy Is Life” campaign raises awareness about literacy and hosts a variety of activities throughout September.

As the lazy days of summer gently ease into fall, children return to school and adults generally shift from leisure to work mode, so September is the perfect month to think about how we can continue to foster literacy.

How can I foster literacy?

Well, there are many ways to involve literacy learning in your busy lives during September. A few examples include:

  • Play board games that inspire spelling, mathematical and logical thinking, such as Scrabble, UpWords, Qwirkle and Rush Hour.
  • Read a book out aloud, instead of silently.
  • Instead of using your GPS (global positioning system) to help you find a new destination, try using a good old paper map (the most updated copy you can find).
  • Challenge yourself and discover what 20 abbreviations or acronyms mean (e.g. GPS, ASAP, etc.)

Fostering our literacy skills involves constantly challenging ourselves, so that we continue to maintain and strengthen those skills. “Practice makes perfect”’ as the saying goes or “practice makes better,” as I prefer to say.

So, go ahead – this month, find out what literacy initiatives exist in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood, and take some time to visit Decoda’s website (www.decoda.ca) and view the Literacy Is Life campaign. Have a good Literacy Month!

Janice Bexson is the literacy outreach coordinator at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Collingwood’s Family Place celebrates 30 years

Family Place CNH

Julie Cheng, the editor of the RCC News, fondly recalls the times she spent at Family Place with her kids, about 20 years ago now. “Family Place was a lifesaver for me. It was priceless to meet other new parents, talk to adults and see my kids have fun with lots of new stimulating activities. I looked forward to Family Place every week.” Photos courtesy of Collingwood Neighbourhood House

BY PAUL REID

Congratulations to this wonderful program that has been providing a warm and nurturing place for local families for the past 30 years. Open to parents and caregivers of children (newborn to six years old) Family Place at Collingwood Neighbourhood House has been the place to meet others while enjoying a cup of coffee and conversation. There are arts and crafts for the children plus story time, circle time, and many fun toys to play with.

Satinder Singh

Satinder Singh has been with CNH’s Family Place since its very beginning in 1990.

One cannot talk about Family Place and not first learn more about Satinder Singh, CNH’s family services coordinator. She has been with the program since its very beginning in 1990. Satinder loves to work with both children and their parents at Family Place. “I still have the same passion as when I first started just from seeing the excitement each day in the children’s faces.”

“Collingwood Neighbourhood House is a very special place. It is very holistic. You get to see the amazing cycle of life.” She has seen the young kids grow up and become active members of the community. “Children who I remember at five years old now volunteer as adults! And after all these years, she keep in touch with a great number of these families.”

Satinder came to Canada in 1990, from Manama City, Bahrain (close to Saudi Arabia), where she had lived for 10 years. She is from India, growing up in the city of Lucknow in the north. Satinder still returns to Lucknow frequently to visit her family there.

The city is known for its fine schools and universities. “They have famous and successful alumni all over the world.” Satinder grew up here in a school that was straight out of Harry Potter. “I remember my uniform with the knee-length socks. We were learning British English. If we spoke in anything other than English, we would get fined.”

After meeting her husband, who was an engineer working for the merchant navy, a job that enabled him to move around, Satinder and he moved to the beautiful city of Manama in Bahrain. Satinder had it very well there. She was a “woman of leisure” with nannies and housemaids.

After 10 years in Bahrain, her husband thought that it would be a good idea to move to Vancouver. This proved to be a very lucky move since the Gulf War of the 1990s was about to explode all around Bahrain.

Satinder wasn’t exactly thrilled in the beginning. Life was suddenly a bit of a struggle as her husband’s job, though eventually hugely successful, in the beginning had him earning less.

This was a massive change for Satinder; in addition to what must have been a huge culture shock, just from the highly different environment on its own, this woman of leisure now also found herself needing to find a job!

It was then, during the summer of 1990, that Satinder walked into Collingwood Neighbourhood House. At this time, it was just the little storefront on Kingsway. A woman named Laurie Winters asked Satinder if she would care to volunteer. Sure, she said.

By fall 1990, Satinder was sent to a training program and began working with the Nobody’s Perfect program and Family Place.

In the early years, these programs ran once or twice per week out of the basement of the old two room schoolhouse at Carleton Elementary (the one that would later catch fire and be taken over by Green Thumb Theatre). It was during this time that Satinder worked at CNH in the day and her early childhood education certificate at night.

It would be five years down in the basement before Family Place would move into its current cozy room at CNH, complete with couches and fireplace in CNH’s new home on Joyce street.

All this time, she has been growing with CNH and the Family Place program. She recognizes and is thankful for the help of dedicated volunteers, staff and the families that take part. “It’s a communal effort.” In 30 years, Satinder has had only three assistants – something she attributes to their outstanding dedication.

In the beginning, Satinder was mentored by CNH director Oscar Allueva. “Together we developed the program and he taught me many things,” says Satinder. “I have also been working all these years with Sharon Gregson, CNH director of the early years. She has always inspired me. Paula Carr was another huge inspiration, taking us from the small storefront to our current location.”

This is Satinder’s second home in which, through her own experiences as an immigrant, she was able to create a loving, welcoming environment for people looking for help.

“When I came to Canada, I remember feeling lonely for quite awhile, not knowing anyone. It took years to find friends that I could relate to. So I know those feelings of loneliness and isolation for those who are new here.” A large percentage of the Family Place participants have come to Canada as new immigrants.

Satinder is thankful that she can be one of the few who truly loves their work. “I don’t think I ever want to retire. I want to work here up to the time I die.”

And although things started out rough for her in Vancouver, Satinder has long since felt that she is fulfilling her destiny here in Collingwood and Family Place. “I went full circle – from a life of exclusion, to one of inclusion.”

The program runs four days per week, from 10 am to 12 noon, Monday to Friday (excluding Thursday). It is open to everyone. There is no wait list.

“Everyone is welcome to join. It’s a great place to start and make new friends in a warm and nurturing environment. The children learn social skills in addition to music and dance. The parents learn too and everyone has fun participating. People bring their relatives, people get to know each other. It’s real community development.”

Let us end by congratulating Satinder and Family Place for recently winning an award of excellence. Well done and happy 30th anniversary!

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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3 easy tips to get your lawn and garden going this spring

Topdress-lawn

The new soil from topdressing will integrate itself into the existing material in a matter of weeks, and your lawn will thank you for it. Photos by Julie Cheng

BY SOREN ELSAY

The long-awaited end to winter is finally upon us and with it comes a fresh start for your lawn and garden. Whether you loved your garden and lawn last year or would rather forget that aspect of 2017, spring is the ideal time to set yourself up for a successful green season.

While the warming weather might seem like enough to get your lawn and garden going, there are a handful of things you can do to set yourself up for a satisfying year in your own personal green space.

Topdress your lawn and garden

Topdressing is the act of adding fresh (preferably richly composted) soil to both your lawn and garden. The best part of topdressing is how easy it is to do.

For your lawn, simply apply a thin, roughly half-inch layer evenly on top of your grass. Once applied, simply let it slowly consolidate into the existing soil layer. It may be visually jarring when you first see your nice green lawn coated in composted soil, but fear not, the new soil will integrate itself into the existing material in a matter of weeks, and your lawn will thank you for it.

In your garden, apply the fresh soil by digging down  four to six inches into your existing garden bed and blend your old soil with the new, composted material.

For both the lawn and garden, the topsoil will give a much-needed nutrient boost after the long winter.

Aerate your lawn

Manual aerating tools

Manual aerating tools. The holes from aerating allow nutrients from both the air and from moisture to penetrate your lawn with more ease.

Filed into the landscaping category of “short-term hit in exchange for long-term gain,” aerating your lawn will do wonders for your grass later in the season.

While there are a number of techniques for aerating a lawn, the basic premise is the same: puncturing holes in the ground in order to improve circulation amongst the roots. By breaking up the ground, these holes allow nutrients from both the air and from moisture to penetrate your lawn with more ease.

The most common machine used for this procedure is an aerator, which resembles a snowblower but instead of spitting snow, pulls out four-to-six-inch plugs of lawn and leaves them behind. If you don’t want to rent an aerator, or are looking for a new workout fad, pitchforks have been known to work as well, though at a much less efficient pace.

If you are planning on topdressing your lawn as well, make sure to aerate first before laying on the topsoil layer. The aeration will allow for quicker and easier absorption of the new soil.

Plant new or transplant

Although Vancouver has the reputation as a wet city, the rainfall that we receive in the non-winter months is actually significantly less than your garden needs. That is why the spring is ideal for both planting new items as well as transplanting existing ones to another spot in your garden. Once the summer rolls around, keeping the ground moist enough for a freshly installed plant to thrive is very tough, so take advantage of still-wet conditions before it’s too late.

When it comes to transplanting, always make sure to fill the new hole fully with water and then let it drain before putting the plant in the ground. This will ensure that the roots will remain hydrated while they are disturbed and at their most vulnerable. Continued watering after a transplant is also key to ensure a smooth transition.

Soren Elsay is a Vancouver-based professional landscaper. He is an aspiring writer with a bachelor of arts from the University of British Columbia.

Copyright (c) 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Seniors and income tax filing in B.C.

Income-tax-time

Collingwood Neighbourhood House is once again offering its income tax service for low-income households.

BY KAREN LOK YI WONG

Filing income tax is important for everyone in B.C. However, it can be challenging for some groups, including seniors.

Why is it important for seniors to file income tax?
Seniors generally have low income. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, “a large share of single seniors has incomes very close to the poverty line: 44 per cent report an after-tax income between $15,000 and $25,000.”

By filing income tax, seniors are more likely to get the tax credits and benefits they are entitled to, such as Goods and Services Tax (GST) credits and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. If they do not file income tax, these tax credits and benefits will be cut.

To many seniors, these tax credits and benefits are survival income. Seniors rely on their limited income to pay for daily necessities, such as rent and food, to survive. These basic necessities are important for seniors to maintain their physical, mental and socio-emotional health.

What are the challenges for seniors to file income tax?
According to my own experience working with seniors, many do not know how to file income tax. The Canada Revenue Agency encourages income tax filing by computer. However, many seniors have limited or no knowledge of the computer.

While income tax can also be filed by paper, many find the form booklet complicated or cannot fill it in because of different reasons. For example, they have poor vision and can’t read the form, or their hands shake when writing so they can’t fill in the form. They may turn to family and friends for help, but many do not have this option for support. They may consider paying for an income tax filing service, but many find the service is too expensive.

What is the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program
Seniors and other people who have a modest income and a simple tax situation can consider filing their income tax with the help of the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP), which is supported by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Through this program, community organizations across Canada help you fill out and file income tax for free. Some organizations provide the service year-round, but most only during the income tax filing seasons in March and April. The service is provided by volunteers who are either trained or have related education already, like accountants.

What are the challenges for seniors to access the CVITP?
It can still be challenging for some seniors to access the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. First, in many community organizations, there are more clients than volunteers can serve. The resulting long waits can challenge some seniors, who may feel fatigued. It’s a good idea to provide tea, coffee, water and cookies to seniors while waiting.

Second, because many seniors can’t travel to the income tax clinics, community organizations often provide outreach services. However, not many organizations have the volunteer resources to provide such outreach.

Third, many immigrant seniors do not speak Canada’s official languages, English and French. Community organizations may have volunteers who can provide interpretation services but not many have the language resources. Community organizations and the Canada Revenue Agency should continue to consider ways to improve the program.

To find a Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, visit the CRA website http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/vlntr/clncs/vancouver-bc-eng.html.

Karen Lok Yi Wong is a social worker in B.C. working with seniors. She was the program coordinator at 411 Seniors Centre Society http://411seniors.bc.ca and lead the centre’s Community Volunteer Income Tax Program in 2017. That year, the program served more than 1,700 clients.

Copyright (c) 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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City plans housing for homeless residents at 4410 Kaslo

TMH-4410-Kaslo

The paths around the current garden at 4410 Kaslo are heavily used by commuters as a thoroughfare to the 29th Avenue SkyTrain station and bus loop. Photos by Julie Cheng

Community garden near the 29th Avenue SkyTrain station slated to become Vancouver’s latest site for temporary modular housing

BY JULIE CHENG

Dec. 13, 2017, local residents packed the First Hungarian Presbyterian Church in the first of two information sessions to find out more about the temporary modular housing that the City of Vancouver has planned for 4410 Kaslo Street.

Currently a community garden, 4410 Kaslo is located across from the 29th Avenue SkyTrain station and Slocan Park. One three-storey building with 50 units is being considered there as housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Kaslo is the city’s fourth site planned for such housing, following sites in the Marpole neighbourhood and on Franklin and Powell streets in the Downtown Eastside.

Together the four sites make up roughly 200 out of the 600 new units of temporary modular housing that the city aims to place across Vancouver. The city is working on six to seven more sites, according to Abi Bond, director of affordable housing community services.

TMH-community-info-session-2017-12-13

Jennifer Gray-Grant of the Collingwood Neighbourhood House and Chris Taulu of Collingwood Community Policing Centre were among the many community members who attended the 4410 Kaslo information sessions.

Vancouver’s first temporary modular housing at 220 Terminal Avenue opened in February 2017 and has been a “big success,” says Luke Harrison, CEO of the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency. “It’s operating beautifully. There’s been no increase in crime. The residents have been good neighbours.”

Staff from Atira Women’s Resources Society will manage the Kaslo site and will connect its residents to support services such as health services.

Development permit timeline

December 13 and 14, 2017: Community information session to present project and gather feedback.

December 22, 2017: Public can provide input until December 22 via email (housing@vancouver.ca) or at the community information sessions.

January 2018: Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency applies for a development permit to build temporary modular housing at 4410 Kaslo Street.

January to February 2018: City and community partners hold another community information session to present the project and listen to feedback. Public has the opportunity to provide input for one week after the community information session via email (housing@vancouver.ca) or at the community information session.

February 2018: The city’s director of planning determines whether a development permit will be issued.

Spring 2018: Once approved, it takes about three months for construction to be completed.

For more information visit Vancouver.ca/temporarymodularhousing.

Current City of Vancouver temporary modular housing projects

Franklin Street – 39 units on a 18,913 square-foot lot

Powell Street – 39 units on a 21,203 square-foot lot

Marpole – 2 buildings of 39 units; total 78 units on a 65,198 square-foot lot

Kaslo Street – 50 units on a 20,139 square-foot lot

The building sizes for Franklin, Powell and Marpole are about 15,000 square feet for each 39-unit structure, according to Luke Harrison of the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency. The building planned for Kaslo would be closer to 25,000 square feet.

Did you know?
The 2017 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver reports more than 2,100 people living in homeless shelters or on the street within Vancouver.


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9th annual Climate Change Conference by Windermere Leadership students

Calling all students: What will be your legacy?

 BY LYNN NGUYEN

Calling out youth in the Lower Mainland! It’s that time of the year again, Windermere Leadership’s ninth annual Climate Change Conference (C3) is happening on Friday, December 1, 2017! This year’s theme is What Will Be Your Legacy?  

We decided on this theme because we wanted to deliver the message that our time here on this beautiful Earth is fleeting. Decades from now when climate change has done its damage on this planet, will you be able to be satisfied with the actions you have took? What have you contributed towards our planet? It implies to take action and do something that will leave a positive impact for future generations. 

What is C3?

The idea came about not too long ago, from just a group of Leadership students who wanted to educate and spread awareness about climate change to primarily youth.  

Climate change is upon us more than ever in this day and age. Temperatures are rising, glaciers are melting and, in turn, sea levels are rising more than we’ve ever seen before.  

Yet youth are still turning a blind eye to this pressing crisis. This is why the Windermere Leaderships students present C3. In the past, we’ve had workshops revolving around fracking, LNG, food security, water and more.  

Now, each year the Grade 11 Leadership class is involved in continuing this vision. Our goals are for everyone to leave the conference with a heightened knowledge of climate change, and be able to walk out feeling inspired to take action and apply that knowledge in the real world. 

The entire day is student-led and organized by the Windermere Leadership 11 class. The day starts off with inspiring keynote speakers, then attendees break off into different morning workshops, followed by a lunch break, then an afternoon workshop.  

Workshops are determined by the attendees’ choice when they register. They range from more information-heavy sessions to hands-on activities to team bonding. This provides opportunities to network with other youth passionate about sustainability, like yourself! There is an option to buy lunch upon registering, and as always this is a zero-waste event so everyone must bring their own cutlery! 

Now that you have a better understanding about this phenomenal event, we encourage you to come join us! You can register online on our website, and get notified on any additional information such as our workshops and speakers for this year by following us on social media! Hope to see you there! 

Website: http://www.c3vancity.com

Facebook: @c3vancity

Twitter: @c3vancity

Instagram: @c3vancity

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Windermere Law 12 students take action on homelessness

Homeless-Clothing-Drive-Windermere-web

All proceeds from the Windermere Law 12 clothing drive go to the local Morning Star Program, which helps the homeless. Photo submitted

Clothing drive to support the Morning Star program

BY KATIE FRAIN

The homeless, housing and affordability crisis at an all-time high:

  • The most recent homeless count found that there are 828 more people who identify as homeless in Vancouver. This is an astounding 30% increase since 2014, which is the highest increase to date in Vancouver.
  • The number of homeless seniors (55 and over) went up by 185, which makes up 23% of the homeless population.
  • The crisis has particularly affected the Indigenous population. Metro Vancouver found that 34% of the homeless population identify as Indigenous, despite making up a mere 2.5% of the overall population.

The Morning Star Program, located at Collingwood Neighbourhood House, is dedicated to helping low-income families and individuals that have been affected by the housing and homelessness crisis in Vancouver. Staff provide recreational, educational, social and cultural programs for members of the community. They offer everything from day camps for children, support for Indigenous people, services for seniors, and food security programs such as shower and breakfast programs and rooftop gardening.

Morning Star gives so much to our community, and it’s time we give back, to aid them in supporting people affected by the housing and homeless crisis that has struck citizens all across Metro Vancouver.

Clothing drive

Law 12 students from Windermere Secondary School are hosting a clothing drive from October 10 to 20, 2017, to assist members of our community who are vulnerable to poverty. They are also hosting an educational campaign on housing, homelessness and the affordability crisis in Vancouver and will be studying long-term issues around affordability and renting in Vancouver.

The class is looking for new socks and underwear, new toiletries such as toothbrushes and soap, and lightly used clothing cleaned and ready for use. Donations can be dropped off at Room 211 at Windermere Secondary School, or directly to the Collingwood Neighborhood House. All proceeds will be going straight to the Morning Star Program, so come on down and support those who need your help.

Katie Frain is a student in the Law 12 class at Windermere Secondary.

Time is ticking on the homelessness problem

BY ALYSSA YAN AND CINDY CHEN

Homelessness isn’t “necessary.”

It’s a problem that policymakers can address and take action to improve the situation. Despite that, homelessness is still on the rise in Canada, specifically in Metro Vancouver where the number of homeless people rose up 30% this year, as compared to the most recent count in 2014.

More than 1,032 people are unsheltered, sleeping in doorways and alleys, or simply couchsurfing in Metro Vancouver. Furthermore, an additional 2,573 people are living in homeless shelters or transitional houses.

Too many Canadians are feeling the effects of the ever-growing housing crisis, and it’s time to take assertive action on homelessness!

Causes of homelessness

With nearly one in every 300 residents homeless in Vancouver, what is the main cause of homelessness?

The main cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing – due to rising housing prices and the average house in Metro Vancouver costing around $860,000, according to the Globe and Mail. This leaves most people scurrying to find a place to rent. Even while renting, an average person living with a roommate can start paying at $2,000+. That hefty price tag doesn’t even include taxes, student loans and personal needs, so imagine the price of living alone.

That leaves most Vancouverites needing to make $50,000+ per year, per person in order to even have enough money to pay rent. That kind of money is only achievable for a fraction of people, resulting in more homeless people in Vancouver than any other cities in British Columbia.

Alyssa Yan and Cindy Chen are students in the Law 12 class at Windermere Secondary.

Alarming homelessness numbers – No end in sight but there’s help around the corner

BY CHRISTAL DO

Homelessness is a rising issue in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, and it’s no secret. There are so many keys that factor into the cause of people ending up on the streets. However, all but one is very obvious; housing affordability.

This year’s homeless count has skyrocketed due to lack of income and the outrageous housing costs of the real estate market. According to the same survey, the report counted 3,605 homeless people in total–a 30% increase since the last report in 2014. Yet, this number doesn’t include those who don’t seek help from public services, or are living in the crooks and nannies of places where volunteers aren’t able to find them.

According to Vancouver Sun (Sept. 15, 2017), “Vancouver rental cost for one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is now $2,020.” It’s going to get even harder for many people to make ends meet. Lack of income and the sizzling real estate market, it couldn’t be more difficult.

About half of the people surveyed in the 2017 Metro Vancouver Homelessness Survey stated that they were residents of the city for over a decade before ending up on the streets. Yet, we should keep in mind that this method of counting the number of homeless people all across the Lower Mainland only accounts for those in the state of absolute homelessness.

Types of homelessness

Absolute homelessness is the “visible” homelessness that we see on a day-to-day basis, such as those on the streets.

Meanwhile, there are many more people who are considered in the stage of “hidden homelessness.” Hidden homelessness is where these people have the opportunity to stay in shelters or are “urban couch-surfers”—those who do not have a regular address and temporarily stay in another household.

iceberg homeless count

Visible homelessness is only the tip of the iceberg compared to homelessness as a whole. Source: 2017 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver

Often times, visible homelessness is only the tip of the iceberg compared to homelessness as a whole (as shown in the iceberg image, provided by the 2017 Metro Vancouver Homelessness Survey report).

In addition to this, there is the idea of “relative homelessness”—when people are one pay cheque away from reaching the point of hidden homelessness.

With temperatures dropping, and Vancouver’s unpredictable weather, shelters are expected to be packed, while many others shiver in the freezing weather. Public services such as serving hot meals, food banks, and other programs are forecasted to be jam-packed with volunteers and guests for this winter season.

Are you looking for help?

The Collingwood Neighbourhood House is located in East Vancouver, and the Morning Star program for serving homeless folks occurs every Saturday morning from 7 to 10 am. Showers, a community breakfast, clothing exchange, and much more are offered to those who seek support.

Christal Do is a student at Windermere Secondary taking the Law 12 class.

Copyright (c) 2017 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News