Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Slocan Park notice board keeps community connected

Local artists create a gorgeous salmon-shaped bulletin board with the help of a Neighbourhood Small Grant from the Vancouver Foundation


This beautiful salmon-shaped bulletin board, hanging on the wall of the Slocan Park Field House, is an invitation for neighbours to connect with each other.

This beautiful salmon-shaped bulletin board, hanging on the wall of the Slocan Park Field House, is an invitation for neighbours to connect with each other. Photo courtesy of Rob Howatson

When it comes to community building, you can never have too many bulletin boards to help spread the word about upcoming neighbourhood events.

Problem is, aside from libraries and community centres, the city offers few legal spaces to display notices. There are about 200 or so municipality-approved poster cylinders – metal bands that wrap utility poles – located in the city, but they tend to be restricted to the busiest arterials. And, as the Vancouver Public Space Network points out in a letter to Mayor Robertson’s Engaged City Task Force, commercial poster companies quickly and repeatedly blanket these word rings with their paid advertising. This leaves little room for neighbours to tape up their block party invites.

Fortunately, some community-minded Renfrew-Collingwood residents have found a way to provide at least a little space for grassroots notices. Local artists Carmen Rosen and Suzo Hickey applied for a Neighbourhood Small Grant from the Vancouver Foundation to create a gorgeous bulletin board shaped like a chum salmon. The functional art piece hangs on the wall of the Slocan Park Field House, an effective location given its proximity to the busy 29th Avenue Skytrain station.

Suzo says they chose a fish shape for the piece in recognition of Still Creek that used to flow through Vancouver’s eastside until much of the waterway was culverted in the early 1900s. Sections of the creek still run on the surface in the Renfrew Ravine, near the Grandview Highway and in Burnaby. In 2012, a record number of chum found their way up the creek to spawn, despite the fact that until recently the creek was considered one of the most polluted streams in B.C. and little fish activity had been reported there in the past 50 years.

“This project was a great way to share local history with the neighbourhood,” says Suzo, “but more importantly we invited area residents to help decorate the notice board’s fishy frame with steel washers, copper washers and bottlecaps. And in doing so, we provided a  great opportunity for people to meet and share experiences, which I think is the best way to build community.”

The eye-catching bulletin board is managed by the Art House in the Field Collective, which uses the Slocan Park field house as studio space for visual art classes, costume design, music and photography.

Neighbourhood Small Grants Project – Application deadline April 7, 2014

Collingwood Neighbourhood House has once again partnered with South Vancouver Neighbourhood House to host the Neighbourhood Small Grants and Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grants project this year. Pairs or small groups of residents are encouraged to apply for a grant from $50 to $1,000 to improve your neighbourhood socially, culturally or physically!

Please go to  for more information and to apply. All applicants are encouraged to apply online. If you cannot apply online, paper applications can be picked up at the Neighbourhood House beginning in March 2014. Online application opens on March 3, 2014. Application deadline is April 7. For further information contact Sheri Parke at or reception at Collingwood Neighbourhood House, 604-435-0323.

Copyright (c) 2014 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