When I first moved to our Departure Bay neighbourhood and found out that there was a Neighbourhood Association, I was pretty keen to get involved as a means of meeting new people and getting connected to the going on’s in our new neighbourhood.

It has been almost 6 years now that I have sat on the Executive for the Departure Bay Neighbourhood Association (DBNA). In this time we have facilitated a great number of community gatherings such as our annual History/Information Night, old fashioned Halloween fun and games for the children, beach bonfire that coordinates with the Nanaimo Yacht Club Christmas Carol Ships Sail Past, music in the park, and our AGM’s that feature guest speakers and storytellers.

These gatherings bring our neighbours together. They build a sense of community and build relationships.Building a strong rapport with our community peers has made a positive impact in creating a neighbourhood that is happy, healthy and safe.

The Covid Pandemic has made it impossible for our neighbours to gather. We have a high senior demographic, and the pandemic has been isolating to many. When I learned of the Nanaimo Foundations Neighbourhood Small Grants I worked with my fellow DBNA Executive members to brainstorm ideas of how we might bring our neighbours together again, even if it was to be done virtually.

Out of this brainstorming session came the idea of a virtual evening gathering series. We decided that history, music and storytelling were areas of interest. I knew that the Grade 7 class in our local elementary school was working on gathering research artifacts from the nearby Wardropper homestead which is now a neighbourhood City Park. They had been using metal detectors to find artifacts from the land and then researched and catalogued the artifacts to a web page that they created. Their findings and historical research was most fascinating and well received by the 53 neighbours who attended the Zoom presentation put on by the Grade 7 students and their teacher in June.

In July, we had a local musician put on a terrific concert for us. He played cover tunes from all the ages and our neighbours sang and danced along from the comfort of their own homes. It was great fun.

In August, we Zoom hosted our final virtual event which saw a local storyteller tell the amazing story of “Annie’s Garden” the story of Vancouver Island pioneering legend Cougar Annie. Everyone in attendance loved it.

Putting this Virtual Evening Gathering Series together was in truth, easy. With the help of the other DBNA Executive Members, we connected with our talented contacts who were eager to be a part of it. Setting up the Zoom meetings was done with the help of a tech savvy friend with an account, and sending out the invite to our membership was just a few clicks from our email account.

The grant that we received from the Nanaimo Foundation was so appreciated. The Grade 7 class is now able to purchase more tools to continue with their artifact search. The musician and storyteller so appreciated the honourarium as live performers have particularly struggled
financially through this pandemic. And finally, our neighbourhood community certainly was grateful for the opportunity to once again gather and feel connected.

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