As many of you know, we are in what we hope is the final stage of negotiation with the Park Board regarding the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA). There is a lot of back and forth between us and the Park Board staff right now. We are cautiously optimistic that we are on a path that will result in a JOA that we can recommend to our respective boards in the near future.
One of the key elements that has come up again and again throughout this negotiation – which has gone on for coming up to two years – is that community matters. As we said in last week’s blog post, it certainly matters in the strength and empowerment we have felt because our communities supported us throughout this long, tough process. It also matters because Vancouver is a city made up of diverse neighbourhoods, places that have distinct characteristics that are only found in that specific area, nowhere else in the city. It is one of the things that makes Vancouver great.
When it comes to Community Centre Associations (CCAs), our role does include – in partnership with the Park Board – identifying and delivering programming and running the community centre operations. An important part of what we do is how we create a sense of community for the people that live in our neighbourhoods. Communities in Vancouver can be very different in many ways – in culture, ethnicity, race, median age, religious beliefs and more. It doesn’t mean we don’t have much in common with those who live in other neighbourhoods – we absolutely do. In fact, I bet most of us who live in Vancouver think we have more in common with each other than not. We are a city that is known to celebrate our diversity. It is what makes the pulse of Vancouver so vibrant.
Our strong belief is that what we provide to each community must respect and address what the people of the community want and need from their community centre. Some examples of this are:
- Kerrisdale has an incredibly popular senior’s lunch program in their senior’s centre. This is an important program for many people in that area. For some seniors who live alone, it is a chance to socialize, to connect and to get a nutritious meal that they might not make for themselves.
- Killarney partners with Killarney Secondary High School to fund a youth dragon boat team. Through this, youth gain a range of life skills and build strong friendships by working as a part of a group. This is especially valuable for those young people who may have not had an opportunity to participate in a sport because of costs. The funding provided by Killarney greatly reduces these costs and gives many the chance to become a part of a team – and learn lessons in sportsmanship that will serve them throughout their lives.
- Hastings is involved (for the third year in a row) in Youth Matters Forum and Reconciliation in Action. An engaging and interactive event, it showcases some of the collective efforts and successes of Hastings Community Centre and several area partner groups over the past year in their continued commitment towards reconciliation and inclusion in the local neighbourhood.
These are just three examples of how CCAs specifically contribute to their communities. It shows how important the CCAs are to their unique neighbourhoods – and the value that they provide, day in and day out, to the people who live there.
Each CCA president, board member, volunteer and staff person works hard to meet the needs of its specific community – and we have done so for many decades. Community Centre Association board members and presidents are deeply connected with their community members. They are engaged, proactive in the community and involved. They hear the challenges that people in their neighbourhoods are facing, they understand what programs are popular with their members, and they actively listen to the people that come to the community centres about what is going on in their lives and what the community centre means to them. Our CCA presidents and board members are a conduit to very important people – our community centre members.
Strong communities are at the foundation of a functioning society. CCAs help support our unique and diverse communities throughout Vancouver. We see the community centre as the heart of a community. It is where people come to learn, to be active, to connect, to meet new friends and catch up with old ones. They come to us for daycare, for nutritious meals, for exercise, for arts and crafts, to learn a new language, for cooking classes or just to have a coffee and talk to a friend. Community centres are an important part of many lives.
We know that on every level, community matters. That is why we continue to push for a JOA that works for each of our diverse communities.