By Greg Stone
Nestled into the come and go of Vancouver’s West End is the Gordon Neighbourhood House. When I asked VCN’s intern at GNH, George Mohan, to describe it in his own words, his response was, succinctly, “Gordon Neighbourhood House is a vibrant community hub within the West End and we reach out to a very diverse group of residents in Vancouver’s West End.”
“Gordon House supports anything that builds community”, says Sam Mickelson, GNH’s Initiative Coordinator.
GNH has been working to build community in the West End since 1942 and these days, they have a bunch of projects on the go.
Friendly Neighbourhood Thrift Shop
If you’re in the West End and you’re looking for thrift clothes, the top floor of GNH houses Donna’s Thrift Shop. It’s got loads of everything and the proceeds go to GNH’s initiatives. And you won’t pay Value Village prices!
Small grants, big deal
One of the main ways that GNH works to build community is through their neighbourhood small grants initiative. Every year, GNH gives out dozens of small grants to individuals and organizations in the West End for projects that will help build community. Last year, GNH gave out 80 neighborhood small grants.
“The work that we do with neighborhood small grants allows us to really have more of a presence in the community and make a difference”, says Mickelson.
Past recipients of small neighborhood grants have been programs like a cigarette butt buyback program, rainwater collection, and expanded recycling programs.
Addressing the Digital Divide
There’s economic disparity in the West End, and where there’s economic disparity, there’s often a digital divide. While GNH is working to bridge this divide, “We need to be doing more to address it”, says Mickelson.
GNH has three computers in their lobby for community use, and they are almost always in use. That’s one gesture towards digital equality.
GNH is also using their small grants program to address the digital divide. Late last year, a small grants recipient organized two workshops open to West End residents on utilizing social media. GNH hopes to expand these workshops and offer them to small grants recipients right off the bat, to help them promote their projects.
Coming up: Listen up
What’s next on GNH’s agenda? Coming up: The Listening Campaign. Already underway in various neighborhoods in metro Vancouver, a Listening Campaign is a group meeting aiming to bring different members of the community together to discuss ideas and concerns about their neighbourhood and come up with action plans to address them.
“Activists are really good at acting, but not listening and planning, and academia is really good at discerning, but not necessarily acting, so this is a really cool model”, says Mickelson.
Keep an eye on GNH’s website for more information about the Listening Campaign, .