Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Quick Mind, Quick Feet: Claire Fergusson works toward her softball dreams


For grade 11 Windermere student Claire Fergusson, a love affair with the game that started at age five has now turned into a personal mission to play softball at the college level in the United States. After getting her start playing baseball in the Trout Lake Little League program, Fergusson switched over to softball at age nine and has been playing ever since.

This past fall Fergusson made the prestigious Synergy travel team in Maple Ridge, which focuses on providing young players exposure to college scouts.

“The Synergy team travelled to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Houston, in October and November, to showcase local talents whose teams don’t usually travel as much,” explains Fergusson.

Most of the year, however, Fergusson can be found playing for the White Rock Renegades, training year-round, practising up to three days a week. On top of team practices, Fergusson works out once a week on a strength-and-conditioning program (set up by fitness trainer and former college softball player Jill Munro) with the aspiration to one day receive a scholarship to play in the United States.

Like most young athletes, one of Fergusson’s main priorities is to get stronger.

“I’d like to work on upper-body strength mostly,” says Fergusson. “I’m currently working on getting more power hitting right-handed and throwing.”

On top of that, Fergusson is currently perfecting the art of switch hitting, meaning being able to bat both left handed and right handed when called upon. More specifically, she is working on becoming a left-handed “slapper.”

“A left-handed slapper usually just tries to put the ball in play and then beat the throw [to first base] because you can run to first quicker [rather than the right-handed side of the plate],” Fergusson explains. “A lot of the time it screws up the defensive players because they have to always be guessing where [the batter] is going to put the ball.”

This would only add to the repertoire of an already versatile player who can play shortstop, centre field, pitcher and, because of her quickness, usually bats leadoff.

But the physical side of the game is not even her greatest strength, according to Fergusson.

“I think well on my feet, so when I am put in a situation I can make that snap, tenth-of-a-second decision and just go with it,” she says.
This sharpness of the mind is not only confined to the diamond. Claire is currently taking a full academic course load with the intentions of studying kinesiology and physiotherapy while at university. When asked about how she handles this enormous workload to go along with her training, Fergusson claims self-discipline is key.

“Just being able to lay a schedule out and follow it is the biggest thing,” Fergusson says.

Quite the humble athlete, Fergusson points out that she would not be in the position that she is without the support of those around her, particularly her parents and coaches.

With her natural athleticism and smarts to go along with an uncommon work ethic, Fergusson is primed to achieve anything she puts her mind to. Her current mindset is following her dream: attend college in the U.S. while playing the game she loves.

Soren Elsay is a Langara student and an aspiring journalist.

Let’s Play Ball!
Spring is just around the corner. Time to start thinking about signing up your kids to play baseball or softball.

Vancouver Minor Softball Association. Girls softball.

Trout Lake Little League. Baseball for boys and girls.

Vancouver Minor Baseball. Plays out of Nanaimo Park. February tryout dates.

Burnaby Minor Softball Association. Girls softball.

Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Neighbourhood Small Grants Project celebrates community

Grassroots Heroes Weave the Social Fabric


They came clutching their homemade posters―men, women and children of every skin colour, from every neighbourhood of Southeast Vancouver. The families filed excitedly into the Collingwood Neighbourhood House gymnasium and taped their display boards to the walls. They had glued photos to whatever materials they could find, and beneath the images they scrawled captions to explain how they used small amounts of money from the Vancouver Foundation to host community-strengthening events on their streets.

With all the posters hung, people mingled before the displays and shared tales of meeting people in their districts. They spoke of block parties, backyard barbeques and park picnics; and the animated conversations continued as everyone sat for dinner.

This was a modest buffet meal in an East Van gymnasium, certainly not the top event on the city’s social calendar, but the annual Neighbourhood Small Grants Project Celebration held at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House November 6 proved a crucial point: people still yearn for a sense of community.

This despite the fact that in recent years, there has been a growing mass of gloomy literature published about the decline of social connectedness in our world. Robert Putnam’s bombshell book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community draws upon a substantial array of data that show his fellow countrymen disengaging from political and civic life over the past 40 years. He claims that the average American entertains friends at home half as often as they did in 1975. Virtually all leisure activities that involve doing something with someone else, from playing volleyball to playing chamber music, are declining. People still go bowling, but they don’t join leagues―hence the title of his book.

While it may be tempting for Canadians to dismiss Putnam’s Yankee-centric work as not applicable to our situation north of the border, a June survey by the Vancouver Foundation found that most Metro residents do not know their neighbours, nor do they participate in community activities.

In light of these disturbing findings, the informal celebration at the CNH gym assumes a noble stature, because the Neighbourhood Small Grants recipients, who posed proudly beside their event posters, are forging connections in an era of growing isolation.

As desserts began to circulate, Sheri Parke, NSGP coordinator, invited some of the grassroots heroes to share their experiences. First up: Monika Garg, a diminutive 27 year old who immigrated from India only nine months ago. Her English was shaky and her Punjabi accent thick, but Monika soldiered through her summary of the kids’ talent competition she staged for 40 guests in her neighbourhood. When she finished, the audience eagerly applauded her courage.

She was followed by Che Nolan, one of the organizers of the 5th Annual MacDonald Park Block Party. He reported that 200 people from his Sunset neighbourhood contributed to the potluck meal that they enjoyed in the tiny green space that anchors their community.

Other grant recipients present that night included Miriam and Wayne, a Collingwood couple whose home was burgled shortly after they moved into the area. They joined a block watch program and used NSGP money to create wooden address shingles that they distributed free to their neighbours. The shingles are hung in their back alley to help police locate homes when they respond to 911 calls in the area.

The crime-fighting couple sat at the same table as the trio of teens who decorated a boring, beige earthquake preparedness container in the playground of Fraserview’s David Oppenheimer Elementary School. The students used their grant to paint a brightly coloured nature scene on the bulky metal bin.

And across the table from the artists was Nita Carvajal, an avid green thumb from Marpole who encourages her neighbours to visit her home garden where she shares seeds, teaches composting techniques and introduces people to one another.

These community builders were a small sample from one table that stood among 13. The entire gym was full of progressive individuals who saw their crudely designed posters cloaking the walls as a weaving of the social fabric in our city.

Before the evening’s entertainment took the stage, Lidia Kemeny, Vancouver Foundation’s director of grants and community initiatives, stood to address the big question: WHY?

Does it really matter if we know who lives across the street or down the block?

“Research shows that when neighbours know and trust each other, streets are safer, people are healthier and happier, our children do better in school, there is less bullying and less discrimination,” explained Kemeny. “We are simply better off in many of the ways that matter.”

© Copyright (c) 2012 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News