Kitsilano: Kits House grows with community

New facility to be completed fall 2014

The video is brief, but in less than a minute Collin van Uchelen conveys just what Kitsilano Neighbourhood House means to him.

In the video, van Uchelen explains the society, which offers services and support programs to residents of the city’s West Side, shares his values when it comes to community.

Van Uchelen, who appears in the video with his seeing-eye Labrador retriever cross, says Kits House offered him a way to share his love of community without barriers. With more than 25 years of first-hand experience in developing collective homes, van Uchelen knows about community, which made him the ideal facilitator for programs offered at the house as part of the Neighbourhood Small Grants program funded by the Vancouver Foundation.

The video is just one of several created for a series entitled “It’s how we work,” which seeks to publicize the programs offered at Kits House and its efforts to raise the final $1.7 million of an almost $20 million renewal project for its West Seventh and Vine location. The goal of the Help Build the Heart of Our Community campaign is to provide more services to even more community members. Kits House has outgrown the location, which opened in the 1970s, and many areas of the old house weren’t accessible so upgrades were vital. Construction on the new facility began this past May and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2014.

The “It’s how we work” video and poster campaign launched June 25 at a special ceremony at the Kits House construction site where the Vancouver Courier was announced as the official media sponsor and community partner. Attending the ceremony was publisher Dee Dhaliwal, who told the small crowd the work being accomplished at Kits House is a perfect fit for the Courier’s focus on community. The videos can be found online or through a series of posters that bear the Layar icon. Layar is a free smartphone app that adds digital content to print media and has been used in the Courier since January.

Kits House executive director Catherine Leach agreed the Courier shares many of the same values. “We have the same interest in community and also in health and wellness,” said Leach. “The relationship has been fantastic and the fact they are clearly interested is another bonus for us.”

Leach said while Kits House staff came up with the idea for the video and poster project, Courier staff helped make it a reality.

“We’re not graphic designers or PR people,” said Leach. “We know what we do, but not everyone is aware of what a neighbourhood house is. We were able to take that idea and work with the Courier to create something professional that got across what we were trying to communicate.”

Dhaliwal said the newspaper’s role is to highlight the work being done at Kits House, help raise the remaining funds needed for the redevelopment, and continue assisting the organization once the project is completed.

“I liked the idea of the garden because it’s proposed use is very much in line with the Courier’s own values,” said Dhaliwal. “It’s fully accessible, creates community and allows for conversation between neighbours. It will also brings people together through entertainment. Farmers markets, street performers and benches are envisioned to occupy the space.”

Dhaliwal said in recognition of that support, Kits House wanted to acknowledge the Courier. As a result, the ground-level garden will be called the Vancouver Courier Community Corner.

“I loved the work that they have been doing in creating community for generations and that resonates really well with the Courier’s own vision,” said Dhaliwal.

See related story on page 19 and a photo gallery at or scan this page using the Layar app.

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