Impact Stories

Hi Neighbour Clayton Heights creates a strong legacy  

On April 17, United Way BC Hi Neighbour hosted an appreciation dinner at Clayton Heights Community Centre to celebrate our Clayton Community Champions and Clayton Heights’ transition into a legacy neighbourhood. 

Why Clayton Heights? 

Hi Neighbour Clayton Heights started in 2018 as a United Way BC (then United Way Lower Mainland) pilot initiative in response to increased social isolation and disconnection in our communities. The neighbourhood was chosen because it was a newly developed suburban community with very little infrastructure. A City of Surrey survey revealed high rates of social isolation, along with high rates of early and middle childhood vulnerabilities through the Early Years Development Instrument, which measures children’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development at kindergarten and the Middle Years Development Instrument, which measures children’s social and emotional health and well-being during middle childhood. While the neighbourhood lacked physical assets, there were lots of social assets, including passionate people who wanted to make a difference.  

Community building starts right here 

Over almost five years, Hi Neighbour has empowered Clayton Heights residents to create a community that is meaningful for them. Working together, we supported resident leadership, developed community ownership, and strengthened vital connections through numerous community projects, volunteerism and special events. Engagement, mobilization, collaboration, organization and sustainability were key phases of the community’s transformation to legacy. 

The pilot started with United Way BC leading 1-1 coffee conversations with residents, facilitating community dialogues at a local hall, connecting with the local high school and bringing the community together with pancake breakfasts. We built partnerships and collaborated with the Surrey School District, the City of Surrey, labour unions and many community organizations and local businesses while Local Love funding of up to $1,000 encouraged resident-led projects. We brought on our first paid United Way BC Community Builder, Sabrina Melhorn, which helped us deepen our impact in Clayton Heights and inspired our current HI Neighbour model to hire local resident Community Builders who know their neighbourhoods best.  

Laying the groundwork for Urgent Response 

Our relationship in Clayton allowed us to support isolated seniors, provide food for recently unemployed and connect residents with community services during COVID-19 global pandemic. Our approach in this neighbourhood and neighbourhoods across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley during the pandemic lay the groundwork for our Urgent Response Program, which serves communities in need in times of natural disaster and other crisis. By working at a neighbourhood-level we were able to see gaps in programs and services and spot challenges and help provide solutions. Along with our Urgent Response Program, Hi Neighbour also helped us understand food needs leading to the further development of our Food Security Initiative and Regional Community Food Hubs. 

Inspired, caring staff 

Many United Way BC staff have been involved throughout the journey. The original team included cross-departmental participation, with many making the drive from various parts of the Lower Mainland to meet at Hope Church several times a week. Kim Winchell and Cindy Cassidy could be seen in the early days flipping pancakes; Tobias Jones helped set up community gardens and numerous long term community projects, and, most recently, George Berking has been supporting residents around the sustainability of their projects and volunteer networks. We have made mistakes and failed forward and brought learnings into our other neighbourhoods, such as intentionally bringing champions together earlier in the journey to create space for peer learning and centering equity in our community engagement.  

There are currently 10 sustainable resident-led projects in Clayton Heights including: Clayton Seed Library, Little Yarn Library, Little Free Pantry, Clayton Storywalk, Ready Set Grow Community Garden among others.  The Seniors Social project, through resident advocacy, successfully became embedded in the Clayton Community Centre programming in January 2023 and will continue to create a space for Clayton seniors to connect.  


The Clayton Height Champions have come together to support each other around the long-term impact of their projects.  Some have decided to join with the Cloverdale Community Association and will continue to lead their projects and share their experience and learning with new Surrey residents.   

Thanks to United Way Hi Neighbour Clayton Heights more residents are connected to their neighbours increasing well-being and creating a healthy, caring inclusive community.  

United Way BC will bring Hi Neighbour into a new Surrey neighbourhood this year.

The Hi Neighbour program works in up to 12 neighbourhoods across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley annually and last year supported nearly 150 Local Love-funded projects connecting almost 9,000 community members! Over 230 new Community Champions got involved to drive making a difference in their neighbourhoods. This includes 95 in leadership positions. Over 4,500 community members connected at182 events with just over 1,500 volunteers helping make it happen.

Lets’s be here. For each other. Donate today. For tomorrow.