When Laurie Brondgeest was a little girl, fresh fruits and veggies were just steps away in her family’s backyard garden.
“I remember being with my dad, picking the carrots,” she says. “We’d just brush the dirt off and start eating them. It’s such a fond memory.”
But as Laurie explains, home-grown carrots provide more than vitamins.
“Gardening helped me form a family connection, but also a community connection.”
Strong North Shore roots
Laurie grew up in the Lynn Valley, and her dad owned a barbershop in Lower Lonsdale. It was a time when the North Shore was more rural, and according to Laurie, more closely-knit.
“People would sometimes bring my dad things they had made or grown, in exchange for a haircut,” she says. “It was really great, with neighbours helping neighbours.”
Much has changed since then. North Vancouver has transformed into a big, bustling city. While this growth has created many valuable opportunities – more local business, jobs and homes – Laurie also says it’s created a sense of disconnection.
“People don’t smile at each other, or talk in line at the grocery store,” she says. “You can walk right by a friend and not even notice.”
This is why Laurie dreams of building garden plots around her apartment building.
A little goes a long way
Gardening is an amazing opportunity to meet people, explains Laurie.
“Someone might walk by who wants to talk to you about your garden. You can get help from your friends. You’re going to the gardening store. These are all valuable community connections.”
At the same time, money matters. One in six Lower Lonsdale residents are low-income.
“Money can be a barrier for a lot of people,” says Laurie. “We might not be able to pay for a whole [project] ourselves, but if at least part of it is paid for, more people will step forward and contribute.”
Enter: the Lower Lonsdale Local Love Fund
United Way of the Lower Mainland is offering up to $12,000 for projects designed by Lower Lonsdale residents, an initiative we hope will foster more local love in the North Shore community.
The fund has two categories: Small Spark funds are for community projects funded up to $250; examples might include a block party, or a neighbourhood clean-up. For bigger, bolder ideas, residents can apply for up to $1,000.
“Local love means empowering residents to make their home the best it can be,” says Ivy Staker, community engagement specialist at United Way of the Lower Mainland.
“We’re pairing United Way programs with the passion and actions of local citizens. This is how we believe we make our communities better, neighborhood by neighbourhood.”
Dreams for Lower Lonsdale
Ana Fortes is eager to apply to the fund. Ana moved to North Vancouver from Brazil just six months ago. While she’s excited to build a new life in Canada with her family, she can’t help but miss home.
“When I came here, I started feeling homesick,” she says. “I was talking to friends, or other immigrants – most of them felt the same way.”
Left unaddressed, homesickness can lead to social isolation and depression. But when Ana started looking for informal peer groups to deal with her melancholy, she struggled to find something affordable, accessible and community-based.
Ana wants to create a peer group for newcomers to support each other through homesickness and adjusting to life in Canada.
“When you connect you better understand what you can give someone, and what they can give you,” says Ana. “It’s not just talking and listening. It’s energy.”
Laurie agrees. She says she might apply to the Local Love Fund if she can rally more supporters for her garden idea, in her apartment building. Whether she applies herself or waits to see what her neighbours come up with, Laurie is excited by what’s possible.
“For my physical and mental well-being, the more I can connect with people the better I am, and the healthier I stay.”
“I’m looking for projects to do, and people to get to know. I want community.”
Live in Lower Lonsdale? Ready to get started? Applications are now open at uwlm.ca/lolo!
Learn more about how our work in Lower Lonsdale is made possible by Neptune Terminals.