Posts Tagged ‘champion’

Champion of Dunbar Village

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

Dunbar Residents’ Association

The Dunbar Residents’ Association (DRA) definitely fits the bill as a Champion of Dunbar Village; it plays an instrumental role in making Dunbar a better place to live. The association promotes community spirit, informs residents about important issues that have an impact on the neighbourhood, and works tirelessly to make sure Dunbar residents’ views are heard at City Hall.

The community can thank a much-needed stop sign for being the catalyst to form the highly valued DRA.

In 1989 a group of neighbours successfully petitioned for the installation of a stop sign at the corner of Crown Street and West 27th Avenue. The group was not active again until 1991 when a developer proposed to build a disproportionately higher density develop-ment in central Dunbar’s business district. It was another victory for the community, thanks to the DRA, after discussions with the developer the project was dropped. Rather than disband, the group decided to carry on as a registered non-profit society and officially became the DRA.

The organization’s mandate is to facilitate meetings regarding proposed changes to the Dunbar neighbourhood. They build community by printing a newsletter with a circulation of 6,000 copies three times a year, which is delivered to every household with the dedicated assistance of 250 volunteers.

Dunbar Residents Association Sonia Wicken Colleen McGuinnessSonia Wicken has been involved with the DRA’s board since the beginning. She is currently the board’s treasurer. “It is a way to give back to this wonderful community that is home,” Sonia says.

DRA’s president of the board, Colleen McGuinness says, “As an association we speak on behalf of the neighbourhood.” She points out there are many accomplishments to be proud of during the DRA’s 25-year history. She has been involved for 10 years and is in her second term as president. She mentions, “A two year term provides continuity and allows new people to step up and contribute to the board.”

Part of their work involves advocacy at City Hall. They utilize the expertise of their members to act as spokespeople. She points to board members Bill Rapanos (a retired planner) and Jonathan Weisman (a lawyer) as two examples of instrumental DRA advocates.

With a small budget and no paid staff, Colleen admits it is hard to manage new technologies such as the website that they are in the midst of redesigning. The association appreciates the work of two students from Lord Byng Secondary who manage the DRA’s interactive email list for communication amongst Dunbar neighbours.

DRA played a role in initiating the Dunbar Community Patrol, DEEP (Dunbar Earthquake and Emergency Preparedness) and Salmonberry Days.

Every month, considerable effort is made to schedule the Dunbar Community Patrol, run entirely by volunteers to increase neighbourhood safety. Patrol assignments are based on the city’s crime statistics with the goal of ensuring coverage throughout Dunbar with an emphasis on higher crime areas.

DEEP emerged out of a presentation Village Vancouver Transition Society (VV) made to the DRA in 2011. At this meeting, enthusiasm ignited and key DRA members including Susan Chapman, Jane Ingman Baker and Walter Wells formed a steering committee to join forces with Ann Pacey of VV to form DEEP. This active team of Dunbar citizens has been talking about and preparing for a full-scale earthquake, to ensure Dunbar residents are able to take care of themselves and each other should such a disaster occur.

Synonymous with May in Dunbar is Salmonberry Days, a unique month long environmental festival to build awareness of Dunbar’s natural surroundings. The DRA created this event in partnership with the Dunbar Community Centre Association and the business association that was active at that time.

Each year Salmonberry Days chooses a theme and fills the entire month with walks, talks and a bus tour.

As an example, Colleen describes how 60 people will magically appear to go on a guided walking tour of the neighbourhood to learn about the fascinating history of Dunbar’s early architecture and the original property owners.

This year the Salmonberry Days planning committee has selected anniversaries as the theme, to tie in with the festival’s 20th anniversary, the 25th anniversary of the DRA, and Canada’s 150th birthday celebration. Nature, the environment, history, gardening and community will be in the spotlight.

The culminating event is the annual Dunbar Community Centre Associations’ Salmon-berry Days Fair on May 28 at Memorial Park. The DRA is looking at new funding sources for Salmonberry Days. Colleen says, “Happily, this year we have found an anonymous fairy godmother.”

B.C.’s May 9 provincial election is just around the corner. The DRA always organizes a candidates’ debate and this year, working in cooperation with the Dunbar Community Centre Association, it will be held on April 28 at Dunbar Community Centre. “We always get an excellent turn out. Dunbar is a politically savvy community,” Colleen says.

Colleen explains why she offers her time, and her response likely represents many DRA volunteers’ motives. She says, “Dunbar is my community. I want to live in a viable, safe and engaged neighbourhood and this is how I can do my part.”

As for the future of the DRA, Sonia concludes, “The organization is still very important and relevant as the city and its neighborhoods are rapidly changing.”

Thank you to each DRA champion who has offered his or her time over the past 25 years to help make Dunbar a special place to call home. Here’s to the next 25 years!

Membership in the DRA is $20/household/year ($10 if a household member is 65 or over) and runs from October to September. Monthly DRA meetings take place on the first Tuesday of the month at the Dunbar Community Centre. Visit the DRA’s website for the schedule at

Dunbar Little League

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Champion of Dunbar Village.

You can almost hear the aluminum bat ping, smell the burgers on the grill and feel the teams’ collective energy as David Berrington enthusiastically describes his involvement with Dunbar Little League (DLL).

David-Berrington-DLL-Dunbar-LifeDavid is president of DLL’s board and he’s a huge fan of the organization. This season DLL celebrates its sixtieth season, making it Vancouver’s second oldest Little League. Although the season is short, three months in total from April to June, in addition to tournament season (mid-June to the end of July), DLL is a true community anchor.

Volunteers are fully responsible for running DLL and there is no problem getting people out to lend a hand. David says, “This is not drop and go, this is drop and participate.”

“We have the strongest volunteer base of any league we interact with. We measure our success by our community spirit.” David Berrington

An example of community spirit is the pre-season field preparation workday; approximately 150 people turn out every year without fail. They come equipped with hoes, shovels and rakes to weed, put up fences, and spread “red gold” which is what David jokingly says they call the expensive dirt.

He mentions that season openers draw as many as 500 kids and 1,000 family members. He adds, “No other Dunbar events have a turn out like this.” Closing day also draws huge crowds. An annual parade kicks off the day, beginning at West King Edward Avenue and processes, complete with police escorts, along Dunbar Street to Memorial Park. With as many as 700 kids, coaches and parents joining in, by the time they reach the park the numbers double in size with the awaiting crowd.

Community celebrations are at the heart of DLL. Perhaps it is because, as David acknowledges, “Baseball has a rich tradition of history and ceremony” that they place value on commemorating special occasions. On Mother’s Day the concession stand is off limits – no mothers are allowed to volunteer. Instead, mothers and grandmothers are showered with adoration in the form of a cooked breakfast made by the dads.

Another notable occasion is the annual coaches game. This one night tournament is an opportunity for everyone to come out and watch the coaches play. A volunteer who happens to be a restaurateur, came up with the idea of offering a special menu of meatball sandwiches and crab rolls at the concession stand, which met with great approval. As many as 300 people have come out to cheer on the coaches; kids act as umpires and get an opportunity to make announcements. Pancake day for the Majors players is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on the senior players prior to the playoffs. They hold fun competitions and players receive a commemorative pin in appreciation of their time spent with DLL.

Players and their families are guaranteed to be neighbours due to set boundaries within the Dunbar area.

Only accepting registrations from Dunbar kids creates instant connections with one another at Memorial Park and Balaclava Park, which are the home parks to the 500 DLL players who range in age from 4 to 12.

Beginning at age 4 children can sign up for T-ball where they will get their first taste of being a Little Leaguer. At age 7 they progress to Minor B division (the only level that plays at Balaclava Park), at age 9 they advance to Minor A and finally at age 11 through 12 they reach Majors division at Memorial Park’s big diamond.

All teams are co-ed and it’s never too late to learn to play baseball. David notes that while registration has already taken place for the older divisions, T-ball registration is underway during the month of February.

“The concession turns a small profit every year. It’s not about making a profit, it’s about the community feeling.” David Berrington

The concession is open to everyone; residents will often stroll by and make a purchase. For $5 you can purchase a burger and drink. Popcorn, hot dogs, Caesar salad wraps and slushies are all very popular but the top seller by far is the candy bags priced at a mere 50 cents. Over the course of a season DLL sells over 6,000 bags. Groups of volunteers meet twice a season to bag the candy.

With 50 DLL teams in total there are plenty of opportunities for local businesses to get involved as sponsors. David mentions there is a waiting list to sponsor the Majors level. Businesses benefit from exposure to local residents but it is also a philanthropic investment in the neighbourhood that drives many to get involved.

How did David get involved? Although he did not play baseball as a child he made a point of introducing his two sons to a variety of sports. They became hooked and have worked their way up through DLL. His oldest son has now moved on to Bantam Triple A with Vancouver Community Baseball. His youngest son is completing his final year in DLL’s Majors division.

DLL logo sqDavid admits that as a human resources consultant his strength is managing and leading people. He has thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for DLL. With one final year as president he admits, “I’ll miss it terribly. The involvement I have is special.” He will remain for an additional year as past president, but will always be involved in some capacity. “I don’t own the league. I have been a caretaker for a few years. You always hope to leave an organization in a better place when you move on,” he says.

Regarding the sixtieth anniversary season DLL plans to host an alumni game and hold a party in June which all former coaches and players are invited to attend. Information and details will be forthcoming on DLL’s website at

Elements Academy of Martial Arts

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016


“Champion of Dunbar Village”

Giving back to the community comes effortlessly to Elements Academy of Martial Arts business partners Mysha Dewar-McClelland and Emma Hamilton. They share the common value that Elements is much more than a neighbourhood business.

Dunbar reminds Dewar-McClelland of Lindsay, Ontario, the close-knit rural town where she grew up. She feels fortunate to work in this special neighbourhood; therefore it is part and parcel to invest in the community where Elements’ members live and attend school.

“We encourage our students to not only build community within our studio but to embrace and give back to our larger Dunbar community.”

Mysha Dewar-McClelland

For a number of years Dewar-McClelland volunteered and subsequently was employed at Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW). She attributes the personal satisfaction she derives from volunteering to the time she spent assisting the rape crisis centre. WAVAW is one of many organizations that benefits from the excellent fundraising work Elements regularly undertakes.

Dewar-McClelland had no experience with martial arts until she was 27 years old. That was when she was introduced to Hamilton who persuaded her to attend a class. She trained with Hamilton and has been working as an instructor and the studio’s administrator since Elements opened in 2009.

She wishes she had discovered martial arts when she was a teenager. The girls’ programs have special meaning to her. “I see myself in them. It is inspiring to see young women taking pride in their physical ability,” she says.

Hamilton is the only female owner of an independent martial arts studio in Vancouver.

As role models for girls of all ages, she and Dewar-McClelland like to offer the gift of empowerment through self-defence and kickboxing training whenever possible.

A few years ago Hamilton connected with KidSafe Project Society and volunteered to train Grade 6 and 7 inner city girls. Subsequently, she discovered KidSafe’s GEMS (Girls Exploring Motion and Self) program, which assists girls at Florence Night-ingale Elementary on Vancouver’s eastside.

Elements_Academy_Dunbar_Life_Harvest_FestivalElements held a fundraising Kick-A-Thon at the studio to benefit GEMS. Elements’ members of every age (kids, youth and adults) collected pledges and participated in different categories to demonstrate their ability and technique and to see how many timed kicks they could accomplish. They were ecstatic to raise over ten thousand dollars for GEMS, far surpassing their goal; the extraordinary accomplishment provided the girls’ program with funding for a year.

Other Elements fundraisers have benefited WAVAW and Big Sisters. This year the martial arts academy (in partnership with Vancity Buzz) offered four free self-defence workshops for women, including one held at Musqueam. Over the years Elements has run numerous community programs at the Musqueam Community Centre.

Dunbar Apartments recently invited Dewar-McClelland to talk to residents about self-defence and safety in the community. It was so well received that she plans to return to offer a self-defence workshop.

Elements can also be found participating in Dunbar Village Business Association’s (DVBA) events such as the Harvest Festival and Salmonberry Days. Another way Dewar-McClelland gives back is through volunteer work as a DVBA board member.

After two terms as Dunbar Village Business Association’s secretary to the board, Dewar-McClelland has recently been appointed as vice president.

elements_academy_dunbar_life_exteriorShe says, “Since taking my place on the DVBA board I have become even more integrated into the Dunbar community. It is a source of pride knowing my business neighbours and being able to say hello to many familiar faces when I walk up and down Dunbar. I love it. It’s a stepping stone that connects me to the community.”

McClelland believes the assorted ways Elements contributes to Dunbar nurtures the community. Relationships develop both inside the studio and out and ultimately connect people from all walks of life.

Hats off to Elements Academy of Martial Arts, this champion of Dunbar, for leading by example and showing how a small business can accomplish great things.

Elements Academy of Martial Arts, 4465 Dunbar St, Vancouver BC   Telephone 604-568-3441

Clayton Ablett

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Clayton Ablett Vancity Dunbar LifeChampion of Dunbar Village

It’s all in a day’s work for busy Vancity branch manager Clayton Ablett. He and his staff may start off the day cleaning up Dunbar Street as part of their volunteer commitment to the Dunbar Village Business Association’s Clean Team, or he may find himself organizing a financial literacy program.

Ablett has been Dunbar’s Vancity branch manager for a little more than a year. During this time he has worked hard to create strong reciprocal relationships with the neigh-bourhood to ensure the credit union fulfills its mandate of investing in the community. Vancity gives back an impressive thirty per cent its net profits back through its Shared Success program.

Drawing on his experience at the two most recent branches where he worked Ablett was eager to implement an enhanced member experience in Dunbar village.

He explains, “Being a community branch manager means that I have the ability to support our members and community beyond just their financial needs. It is an all-encompassing role, which combines financial services with community advocacy, so it really is the best of both worlds. As a social activist and a branch leader, I am able to combine my skills with my passion for helping others. This combination is not only fulfilling but it is also extremely rewarding.”

“For me, often satisfaction comes from just doing the right thing.” Clayton Ablett

When he was a child his father worked in the mining industry, which meant living in
Smithers, Squamish and Thunder Bay. When Ablett was a teenager his family settled in Richmond where he continues to reside with his wife and three small children under the age of six.

He started his career as an automotive mechanic. Five years later he diverted to the world of banking and began working at Vancity. Initially he was hired as a teller and began taking financial courses at BCIT and quickly progressed to management level. Within five years he had worked his way up to assistant branch manager. In April 2015 he was promoted to branch manager when he moved to Dunbar’s Vancity.

How does Vancity’s model different from other financial institutions? Ablett says, “Our goal is to create positive member and community impact through all our operations—from how we make money to how we spend and invest it. We’re committed to finding new and better ways to use all our resources, people and capital to create large-scale positive impacts. This way of doing business differentiates us from traditional financial institutions. By redefining wealth, we are measuring our success in terms of the health and vitality of the community as a whole.”

Vancity lends its support in a number of ways, from grants to financial literacy programs such as “Each One Teach One,” educating people about banking basics, offering financial fraud seminars for seniors, getting actively involved in a number of local events such as Salmonberry Days, Chinese New Year celebrations at Dunbar Community Centre and participating in Dunbar Village Business Association events. Vancity also recently donated five cherry trees to the neighbourhood.

Another initiative of Ablett’s was approaching Dunbar Apartments to lend assistance. The financial institution gets directly involved in a variety of ways including offering financial services and workshops, inviting residents to showcase their crafts for sale at the bank and offering inclusive displays of kindness such as saying hello and offering up a wave of recognition on the street.

“Beyond financial wealth it’s the community’s wealth as well. Not everything we do translates into dollars. It’s about what is the best interest of the community.” Clayton Ablett

Dunbar’s small business owners are deeply valued. Vancity’s merchant members have the opportunity to promote their business in house on digital signage for increased exposure.

He believes, “When we eat, shop, and play locally we help to grow and strengthen our community. This is especially important when trying to promote sustainability and social responsibility.”

Ablett takes pride in having established many of these connections. He believes that building sustainable relationships is of utmost importance for the staff to nurture and build on over time.

What makes this neighbourhood unique? Ablett believes, “The people make it special. They are kind. It is a very close knit community and people care.” Reflecting on his role as branch manager he concludes, “It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding. It’s redefining the way we work.”

Jane Ingman Baker

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

Champion of Dunbar Village

Jane Ingman Baker Dunbar Life coverThe saying “If you want something done, give it to a busy person” applies tenfold to Dunbar resident Jane Ingman Baker.

Ingman Baker’s resume reflects an incredibly diverse academic career and a full slate of volunteerism equal in length to her employ-ment experience. Not only does she hold a degree in law but also a PhD in biochemistry. When asked about this she laughs and says, “Some would call me jack of all trades, master of none.”

More likely people would call her an active community-minded citizen who has the best interests of Dunbar at the top of her list.

Her array of volunteer work includes five years as a board member with the Dunbar Residents Association, her ongoing role as chair of the Dunbar Vision Implementation Group (she has been actively involved for nine years), and her latest volunteer venture, as vice president of programing with the Dunbar Community Centre Association.

Ingman Baker has lived in Dunbar for 27 years. She recalls visiting the Dunbar Community Centre frequently when her children were growing up but noticed in the last few years that patron usage was slipping. She isn’t one to sit back and wait for someone else to do something; she rolls up her sleeves and jumps in to offer assistance.

Her volunteer work with the Dunbar Community Centre Association is currently her largest involvement with a commitment of close to 20 hours each week. She joined the executive 18 months ago and is happy to report that the facility has “turned a corner.”

The Dunbar Community Centre’s parking lot is busy again. This is largely due to adapting program-ming to meet the community’s needs.

She has a visionary quality and is determined to make the community an even better place to live. The seasoned lawyer/UBC adjunct professor in the Faculty of Medicine is always asking questions and looking for answers.

She chuckles when she reports she is currently taking a master gardener course, as she would like to see gardening flourish in the community. She believes gardening is an important part of our culture and the Dunbar Community Centre will eventually offer a course to teach new residents these skills. Ingman Baker feels it will help bring people together and ultimately help to better under-stand each other.

She says new residents from Asia often hail from concrete cities and are in awe of our city’s greenery, lawns and gardens. It is her belief that working side by side and creating a gardening community will foster more tolerance and break down stereotypes.

Examples of other adaptive programming include an exercise class for ages 50 plus. She says some octogenarians really love it. An outdoor preschool program has been well received and line dancing to Mandarin music, mahjong and table tennis always draw crowds.

Speaking of crowds, Ingman Baker is extremely impressed with the turn out at 2015 holiday craft fair. Vendors reported higher sales than the last few years and over 2,500 people passed through the community centre.

Salmonberry Days is one of this dedicated volunteer’s favourite events. With a smile she says, “It is wonderful to see happy people enjoying a free event with bouncy castles and volunteers barbequing $2 hotdogs.” She and the entire Dunbar Community Centre Assoc-iation board have taken the Food Safe course so they can serve food at all events.

Ingman Baker is always searching for ways to engage more adults on a volunteer basis in their community.

She asks, “How do we give people the tools to get a satisfying volunteer experience?”

Jane Ingman Baker Dunbar LifeShe believes it is entirely possible based on the record number of volunteers that popped out of the woodwork during the 2010 Winter Olympics. She says teen volunteerism is in good shape thanks to the mandate of accruing community volunteer hours as part of the high school curriculum.

Ingman Baker grew up in London and started volunteering as a teenager. She regularly visited seniors’ homes and psychiatric hospitals and later became an active volunteer at the University of Sussex.

Where did her philanthropic nature stem from? She says it is a combination of being innate and modeled by her parents and grandparents. “I come from a family of gregarious people. We are people who know our neighbours.” She adds, “Your personal health reflects the health of your community.”

Regarding volunteer experiences and moving on after a time she says, “It is a time to refresh and renew with new experiences.”

A good friend shared words that resonate with her, “Leave an organization in better shape than you find it.” She has certainly taken this to heart with the legacy of valuable work she has contributed to many Dunbar organizations through her gift of experience and time.

She says, “There is a lot of talk about Dunbar village, and a lot of things that happen here are village-like.” She notes that the only move she and her family made was when they bought their neighbour’s house four doors away. She feels this is part of the small town charm of Dunbar.

She recalls when a new headmaster arrived at St. George’s School. He was smitten with the local independent shops where merchants know their customers by name and people recognize each other on the street. It is Ingman Baker’s hope to foster and maintain this sense of community. She feels, “It is possible. You have to see the silver linings.”

This champion of Dunbar’s commitment to her community is inspiring. She says, “The level of engagement and opportunities in Dunbar unparalleled in the city.”

Ingman Baker’s go-getter attitude may very well spawn a spike in Dunbar volunteerism as others follow suit and seek out the plethora of opportunities that lurk in this great neighbourhood.