Impact Stories

Hi Neighbour Lower Mainland builds community

Fall is here with rainy days and dark nights, but across the Lower Mainland in July, August and September, neighbours supported neighbours to strengthen vital connections that build stronger, caring and more inclusive communities. United Way BC’s Hi Neighbour Initiative and community champions were out in parks, playgrounds, at fairs and festivals (and creating their own) thanks to Local Love funding and hundreds of dedicated volunteers known as Community Champion. Here’s just a bit of what went on this Summer. 

Edmonds – Helping grow and shape community 

Food grown at the Edmonds community was harvested at the end of August.

In July, Hi Neighbour Community Builder Mary and eight Community Champions partnered with the City of Burnaby’s Official Community Plan and the Edmonds Town Centre Official Community Plan teams to collect input for the Burnaby and Edmonds Town Centre planning documents, which will guide development and policy until 2050 for both. According to a Burnaby 2050 Official Community Plan Lead: “This was the most comprehensive feedback of any engagement that we have received!”  

In August, United Way supported Fraser Health’s heat response in Burnaby by distributing 12 cooling kits to senior Afghan women participating in the United Way Community Partner Malalay Afghan Women’s Sewing and Craft Co-operative while a Community Garden Harvest Picnic was held at Edmonds Park at the end of the month. Read more about what’s happening in Edmonds: Edmonds Burnaby Neighbourhood Group | Facebook.

South Coquitlam – Skateboards and seniors 

Getting ready to paint skateboard decks at Coquitlam’s Mackin Park.

Youth-led activities brought Coquitlam residents of all ages into the world of skateboarding and scootering for SK8 JAM 2023. From painting skateboard decks to showing off moves in the park, residents connected with each other and their local outdoor area, Mackin Park in September. Pro-Skater Dave Jonsson, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, City Councillors, Matt Djonlic and Craig Hodge, and actor and skateboarder, Gordon Cormier were among the almost 200 participants. The second annual event was supported by Local Love funds and Hi Neighbour Community Builder Erinn who helped lead planning through a series of meetings drawing in youth organizers and mentors, as well as participants.  

Speaking of annual events, the Seniors’ Summer Tea in the Park looks to become another. In July, a corner of Blue Mountain Park in South Coquitlam was transformed into a welcoming and relaxing tearoom where about 50 local seniors gathered to enjoy complimentary High Tea with sandwiches and sweets thanks to United Way Hi Neighbour. The event was a perfect opportunity for seniors to relax, socialize with current and new friends and enjoy the beautiful summer weather in one of Coquitlam’s loveliest parks. Getting together also prevents loneliness and social isolation. Learn more about United Way BC supports seniors.

North Delta – food creates community 

Bringing people together for meals creates community and builds friendship and resilience. In North Delta, the BC Centre for Disease Control, City of Delta and New Hope Church provided community cooking classes for newcomers, Punjabi, seniors, low-income, and Indigenous residents. Hi Neighbour North Delta’s Local Love funds supported volunteers to learn about food safety and food processing. 

North Delta Community Builder Cathie worked with Community Champions to support Belinda’s Summer Connection Café.  In August, the café was a safe place for North Delta seniors to meet, connect and create. Glass art fusion, silk dyeing samplers and art journals were just a few of the items created. Those aged 55 and above found opportunities to share experiences and develop new skills leading to an increased sense of belonging and well-being. These connections extended beyond the sessions, enriching the lives of older area residents. Local Love funds supported space rental, art supplies, light refreshments and honorariums for instructors.

Sunset – raising awareness 

Celebrating traditions and more in Sunset.

In South Vancouver’s Sunset neighbourhood parties helped bring residents together for fun, understanding and community building. In July, Hi Neighbour Local Love funds supported Community Champion Travis to purchase food and more for the 2-Spirit United Pride Family Celebration and Free Barbeque at Moberly Park. Travis is an organizer of this second annual event, which connects families and two-spirit people together in safe space and environment to raise 2SLGBTQIA+ awareness in the area. Drag queens mingled with Indigenous dancers, singers, drummers and between 500-600 people!

Showcasing cultures of the Caribbean took place in August at the new Public Plaza at 48th Avenue and Fraser Streets. Hi Neighbour Community Builder Javier supported Community Champion Ana Rosa in this family-friendly event, which included sharing of folklore, dance lessons, food and face painting. Interested in volunteering for events in your community? Visit iVolunteer Powered by United Way British Columbia for opportunities right in your neighbourhood.

Willoughby – a powerful weekend at the stɑl̓əw̓ Pow Wow 

Derrick Mitchell, Kwantlen First Nation Director of Operations, 2022 stɑl̓əw̓ Pow Wow pageant winner, Alexa Daniels, United Way BC Staff, Leila Trickey, and Kwantlen First Nation member of Council, Tumia Knott.

September 16-18, the 2nd Annual stɑl̓əw̓ Pow Wow – a celebration of Indigenous culture with performers of every age – took place at the Langley Events Centre. United Way BC supported stɑl̓əw̓ with a Hi Neighbour Community Impact Grant, which went toward the Pow Wow and Pow Wow Gatherings – a series of evenings of drumming, dance, and community gathering leading up to the main event. 

On September 16, Phyllis Webstad, author and founder of Orange Shirt Society attended the Pow Wow to sign and sell her impactful book “Every Child Matters.” The stɑl̓əw̓ Pow Wow committee also sponsored the Orange Shirt Special, featuring non-competitive dance and ceremony honoring Residential School Survivors and those who didn’t make it home. This Special also honoured the strength of those who continue to share their stories and advocate for truth. United Way BC is grateful for the opportunity to support and witness this significant annual event. 

Guildford – kicking off community engagement 

This Summer, our newest Hi Neighbour community, Guildford ‘opened’ its door. United Way Community Engagement staff have been connecting with residents by meeting for coffee to gain a better understanding of their dreams, wishes and challenges for their neighbourhoods. The team, including Community Engagement Specialist, Hala, also began meeting with local organizations, such as United Way BC Community Partner Umoja Compassion Society as well as the City of Surrey to deepen their understanding of the community and its needs. United Way BC will be hosting a series of pop-up events in the Guildford area to meet with local community champions and to create a space for engagement. Learn more about our latest Hi Neighbour community, Guildford.

Last year, nearly 150 Local Love-funded projects like the ones showcased above connected almost 9,000 community members in 12 Hi Neighbour communities across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Making connections not only builds community and belonging, it also helps build awareness of the resources and services available to those in need. Learn more about how United Way BC supports our communities.
Let’s be here. For each other. Donate today. For tomorrow.