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With Easter and the coming of spring, thoughts of transformation and new beginnings are in the air. Our staff at First United in Vancouver work with two women in our seniors’ programs who are building a healthier community through art.    

"I love art, art is my healing” – Gladys  

Meet Gladys, who was born, raised, and has lived on the Downtown Eastside all her life. Gladys told me about the community art room she created for herself and her neighbours, and the Friday night art workshops at First United’s housing building, Jennie Pentland Place.  

Gladys and her friend Tina understand themselves as “fighting the same fight” to “stay alive and stay as healthy as we can be.” They see doing art as part of their struggle for wholeness and respect.

  Tina lives her life in a wheelchair due to osteoporosis, but despite her diagnosis, she is a volunteer and activist for women-only spaces in the neighbourhood. She also teaches traditional arts such as drum making, soapstone carving and leather work – skills she taught herself as a child because few elders could show her the old ways.  

“We decided to hold it on Fridays – not everyone wants to go to a bar on a Friday night. It’s about friendship and making new friends… that’s just my heart talking.” – Tina  

Elders living in poverty with no family to care for them are uniquely vulnerable.   The number of vulnerable elders is increasing year over year, and their needs – for companionship, community, and meaning – are a crucial part of our mission. We are honoured to be able to provide this support, but we can’t do it without your help.  

Seniors’ Arts Nights is just one of several programs to reinforce the web of community that helps keep them housed and healthy. Elders attend weekly movie outings, community lunches, and coffee time. In the summer, there is a gardening skills exchange, and special events such as health and wellness workshops and barbecues.  

“Art helps my grandson come out of his shell.” – Gladys  

Staff tell me how community seniors have come to rely on art nights – some say that it is the only thing that gets them out of their unit and keeps them connected with others.  

Thanks to your support, programming for seniors is thriving at First United, but we need your help to ensure it continues for those who have come to rely on it.  

Easter blessings to you, The Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne

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