Banners project pride in neighbourhood market

When Kitsilano resident Mel Lehan thinks about his neighbourhood, it's the weekly farmers market that comes to mind.

"All over the world people celebrate markets," said Lehan, who helped launch the Kitsilano Farmers Market several years ago. "And in Kitsilano the farmers market is becoming that same kind of gathering place. People are starting to say, 'I'll meet you at the market.'"

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Today Lehan's fondness for the market has been made public through a banner program called Kits Me- Love the hood you're in!

In total 89 banners, each including a photograph of a resident and one quote from their submitted short story, are lining Fourth Avenue between Burrard and Balsam streets.

The project launched in March when Kitsilano Neighbourhood House put out a call for submissions asking residents to write about what they love most in their community. Almost 100 residents responded with short stories and 89 were chosen. Photographs were taken of each contributor and those pictures, along with the full version of each story will soon be available at kitshouse.org.

Lehan's banner includes a photo of him wearing a straw hat, as well as a T-shirt and apron emblazoned with the logo from Vancouver Farmers Market, the organization responsible for the majority of this city's farmers markets. Lehan's quote included on his banner reads, "I love its urban yet rural feel."

Lehan told the Courier one of Kitsilano's charms is that it has the feeling of an oasis in the heart of a big city. "It has the ocean and the forest and the foreshore," said Lehan, who jokingly referred to his banner as being like a medieval gonfalon. "And the community gardens in Kits are astounding. There are so many renters who don't have their own space so they flock to these gardens."

Lehan has a small community garden at his home, which is tended by three families.

Julie Rieter, fund developer for Kits Neighbourhood House, said almost all of the banners are up with just a few left to be mounted.

Rieter was inspired to organize the banner project after seeing a woman during last year's Khatsalano! Music and Art Festival, wearing a T-shirt that read "I Heart My Hood."

After brainstorming with sponsors from the Fourth Avenue BIA, the Kitsilano Chamber of Com-merce and the West Broadway BIA, the Kits Me initiative was born. Once the participants were chosen for the banners, the Fourth Avenue BIA took care of the photographs. "The people were great and came out with props like paddle boards, bikes, kimonos and dogs to help tell their story," Rieter said.

The next stage in the community project will be to paint windows along West Broadway in the theme of the banners. As well, Kits Me buttons will also soon be available for sale at local retailers, accompanied by coupons as a way to promote local shopping, with proceeds going to Kits Neighbourhood House.

sthomas@vancourier.com

Twitter: sthomas10

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