We are excited to welcome The Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne as our new Executive Director! An ordained minister in the United Church of Canada and a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, Carmen brings a breadth of experience both in theology and community service to our busy East Hastings ministry.
Growing up, Carmen saw her parents as active and engaged volunteers at First United–they were even married here. She recognizes its historic presence and the importance of its location, a place she describes as “a place where people from all over Canada can find themselves.
“I hold a strong personal conviction that none of us are fed unless all of us are fed, and that none of us are cared for unless we care for each other, so First embodies all the things I believe theologically.”
Carmen holds that the richness of our community is something to be valued, especially by the Church at large. “There is an opportunity to practice what we preach about intercultural ministry (as opposed to multicultural ministry). The changing landscape of Vancouver, but particularly the Downtown Eastside, means that the most vulnerable people become more so. “I hope that the wider Church joins us in facing what that looks like and the challenges it brings.”
Giving to First United has become something of a family tradition for the Matricks. Jean first became involved while serving on the Outreach Committee at West Vancouver United Church 40 years ago. She went to First United to help at an event and was touched by the work. “I can’t think of a more worthwhile place to donate to–they help so many in the Downtown Eastside.
“I see it as our faith in action. First United’s work expresses the golden rule–they help the poor, sick, hungry, lonely, and so many others with great kindness, empathy and love.” Jean’s daughter Diana became involved with First United after seeing her parents volunteering and helping them deliver donations. As a weekly volunteer with a drop-in for vulnerable women she had the opportunity to witness the great transformations that can happen.
Larry, seven years retired from his psychiatric practice, served on the Oversight Board of First United and couldn’t imagine not being involved. “Our commitment to the greater community is what keeps us giving,” he says. “First United is caring, compassionate, reliable, and always available for those in need.”
Diana says her favourite part about giving is how happy it makes her to think someone won’t go home hungry. Knowing the church is making a real difference reinforces her faith. Marylin McPhillips, Diana’s sister, also provides crucial support to First United by providing donated computers and technology assistance.
Jean would like to ask everyone to help First United as much as possible and to volunteer in any way possible, helping others to carry on the good work. “Hope is a constant need for everyone. When we hear about a person who is helped at First United, it renews our faith in the church and that we must all help each other.”
We are so thankful to the Matrick family for their loyal support and compassion for those in need!
Struggling with undiagnosed mental illness and addiction, Beverley soon found herself stuck. Thankfully, someone at The Women’s Centre recommended First United.
At First United, Beverley worked with a Shelter Case Planner who helped her get a doctor in the neighbourhood and the medical help she needed. Right from the beginning, Beverley started giving back, volunteering for any job she could. Even after finding transitional housing in November, she continued volunteering every week, becoming a bright light for many in our community. She says the biggest reason she keeps coming back to volunteer and visit is the people.
“I think that First United saved my life,” says Beverley. “I don’t know where I’d be without them: If we come together, we can ensure no one is left behind.”
By giving monthly, you bring stability, possibility and joy to people in need. Please consider joining Frontline today!
On Saturday, February 25, 150 walkers from 34 teams, supported by 70 volunteers, walked 2, 5 or 10k to support the homeless, hungry, and hurting in Vancouver, and to show solidarity with those working to alleviate the suffering associated with homelessness and housing insecurity.
Fundraising by supporters was strong, and we are on track to meet, or at least come very close to our $50,000 goal.
With the building full of First United supporters from fourteen plus United Churches and other faith groups, 4 corporate teams, 2 community teams and numerous groups of friends, the energy was high as those gathered listened with appreciation to inspirational words shared by our new Executive Director The Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne, First United Board Chair The Rev. Dr. Brian Thorpe, MP Jenny Kwan, Deputy Mayor Geoff Meggs and First United staffer Natalie Lanoville.
The chill in the air this year served as a stark reminder of the realities of living without a home, but by contrast, the warmth and fellowship at First United affirmed that there is a place out of the cold where everyone is welcome.
The coming spring and Easter reminds us that, despite the hard times, there is always a chance at renewal and rebirth. At First United, we strive to make that a reality for everyone, regardless of circumstances. Though the weather is improving, the hardships of homelessness are numerous and complex. People struggling with homelessness and addiction are often marginalized, uncared for and alone, but as a community we can change that. By donating, you lift someone up and walk with them on their journey to renewal. You show them that they are cared for, and that can make all the difference.
No matter the season, First United provides crucial services to people in need–whether that means offering legal advocacy, clinical care, or a listening ear. We are the only shelter in the city of Vancouver that does intensive case management in addition to our many other services. Your gift not only helps us provide these services to more people, it could be the catalyst someone needs to find their way out of poverty. Everyone deserves a chance at renewal, so please join us and help cultivate hope in the Downtown Eastside this spring.