Matching Gift Campaign Christmas 2018

Meet Our Fantastic Partners At Dunbar Ryerson United Church

Story by Kristine Lawson

With the arrival of spring, inspiration and gratitude have bloomed throughout our ministry community. In this edition of our reinstated First Things First newsletter, we’re featuring our congregation partners and supporters of First United, with the spotlight on Dunbar Ryerson United Church. Whether it’s supporting newcomers to Canada, speaking out on the injustices of the residential school systems, or helping provide for community members on the Downtown Eastside, the efforts of Dunbar Ryerson are helping to break down systems of exclusion and inequality. We are glad to have these wonderful friends walking beside us.
I recently paid a visit to the church and met with the outreach committee who taught me about their Focus on First initiative. Chatting with committee members Susan Burns, Maggie Hosgood, Jean McTavish, Betty MacDonald, Brian Thorpe, and others, I learned that Focus on First has been operating since the early 2000s, and manages three four-week seasonal campaigns. Focus on Feet, Focus on Hygiene, and Focus on Underwear are donation drives that supply critical items to community members. The donation bin is displayed in the community centre next door, ensuring interest from others who use the space. The committee also takes cash donations which, especially since amalgamation of the Dunbar Heights and Ryerson United Church communities, regularly surpass their fundraising goal. This is largely thanks to the expert deal-hunting skills of committee member/purchasing agent, David Thomas.
We are grateful to our partners at Dunbar Ryerson, and excited to see what new developments unfold this season!
 If there’s a donor, partner, or congregation that you think would be great to feature in First Things First, please reach out! Email and share your idea for a partner story.
“The combined efforts of all our donors generate about $2.5 million per year – these are the partnerships that sustain us”


As spring emerges we feel enlivened by the warmth and anticipation of growth to come. It’s been a challenging winter for community members and we deeply appreciate your ongoing commitment of expertise, thought and prayer, financial support for our programs, donations in kind, and willingness to volunteer.

Our shared priority is always the wellbeing of community members, and sometimes the built environment can interfere with our ability to provide good service. With your support, we’ve been making the much needed improvements at First. Your gifts have contributed to a new Community Help Desk which is bright and clean and allows our staff to serve multiple people with differing needs in a more efficient way. The new health clinic room gives each person privacy to consult with health care workers. Our office centre is now spacious and well organized, the men’s washroom has been completely redone, and the kitchen has been upgraded. Thank you!

With building in mind I am thrilled to tell you that our Board has approved commencement of planning for First United Church site re-development, partnering initially with Catalyst Community Developments. There is much work ahead as we come to grips with creating more space for shelter and housing, community services, spiritual care and social justice at First United. Stay tuned for updates in the months (and years) ahead.

The Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne

The 11th Annual Golf for the Homeless Tournament is Happening May 28th!

Join us once again at UBC’s University Golf Club to raise money and have fun doing it! We will once again be hosting a BBQ dinner and silent auction after the tournament wraps up; guest speakers to be announced. Please check out our social media as we announce and thank this year’s sponsors. Visit to learn more.

Thank You to All Our 2017 Frontline Donors!

Thanks to you, we are building a stable base to better serve our community. We currently have 325 Frontline Monthly Giving program donors. To learn more about becoming a Frontline monthly donor, visit


Spotlight on First United’s Tax Program

Amanda Pellerine always knew she would do social work, though she never imagined how becoming a tax specialist for a Downtown Eastside homeless shelter could have such an impact. Since the day our First United Tax Program first opened its doors, Amanda has been responsible for much of the high degree of organization around tax season. While gathering intake information, she takes the opportunity to educate people about the importance of keeping up to date on their taxes.

Midway through intake, the line cleared out except for one person who came specifically to see Amanda and present her with a thank-you gift. She says, “I’ve been coming here for two years and Amanda is really nice, really professional.” Amanda explains how many folks don’t realize they are eligible for a refund, “$4,000 or $5,000 can really turn things around.” If you do the math, living in an SRO in our community, that amount would cover rent for a full year.

“People come to First United’s program because they know they won’t be judged, and they’ll be treated with dignity and respect”

First United’s program is unique in a number of important ways. Year-round service means no waiting until tax time to file, which in turn maintains eligibility to receive social service benefits like disability. We are also one of the few remaining programs that has not shifted exclusively to e-filing, which is necessary for those who are more than a couple years behind.

We are very grateful to Amanda’s work through the Tax Program and hope she plans to stay for many years to come! To support First United’s Tax Program, visit

Coldest Night of the Year Fundraiser a Success!

Thank you to all who supported us on February 24th for our Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser! Deputy Mayor Tim Stevenson and The Honourable Shane Simpson got things started with words of encouragement. So far, we’ve raised $46,136 – please forward your gift if you haven’t already!

Challenging Conversations Ahead

On June 7th, First United invites the public to an informed conversation about decriminalization of drugs for personal possession. The panel will be held on June 7th at St. Andrew’s Wesley UC; panelists include Dr. Evan Wood, Donald MacPherson, and Mary Clare Zak. For details visit


A Sneak Peek at the 2018-2019 Roddan Jubilee Lecture

Thank you for supporting our inaugural season! The new season kicks off this fall, focusing on reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians. Speakers include John Ralston Saul, Karen Joseph, and Tink Tinker. Watch for updates at

Go Digital with Us!

We’re putting your money to even better use, and lowering our carbon footprint while we do it! Please email to join us and receive your newsletters and tax receipts online!

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First United
Located on Unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Lands
320 East Hastings Street
Vancouver BC V6A 1P4
CRA#82672 6135 RR0001


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