Building Community – THE NWEP AGM

Monday night is the Annual General Meeting of the New Westminster Environmental Partners, an organization which, when I speak about it, I must declare my bias. I’m a member, was the President of the NWEP for two years, and I still take an active role in many NWEP initiatives. So, yeah, I’m going to the AGM, and hope some of you will as well.

Sometimes the NWEP is out at community events, manning the booth as in the photo above, and people ask what we do. The quick answer is “lots”.

It can be summarized in our Mission:

To work with residents, businesses, and government agencies within the city, as well as regional (locally connected) environmental groups, to achieve environmental, social and economic sustainability in New Westminster through the identification of issues, education, public advocacy, the promotion of best practices, and the implementation of effective projects.

But that doesn’t really say what the NWEP does.

It was a group of NWEP folks a few years ago who found a common interest in seeing a Farmers Market in New Westminster – and the RCFM was built. Another group of people got together at an NWEP meeting, lamenting the lack of Community gardens in New Westminster, and from those seeds the New Westminster Community Gardening Society grew. When one of our more astounding volunteer members saw a niche for Documentary Films in New West, he got a group together, and with NWEP help, started the New West Doc Fest.

All of these organizations are up and running outside of the envelope of the NWEP, and all credit goes to those organizations and their volunteers for the successes they have seen in the last couple of years. The role of the NWEP is not to run organizations like this, or even to take credit for them, but to bring people together so that these types of things can ferment in the City.

The NWEP has also spent a lot of time engaging the public and decision-makers on issues of sustainability. We lobbied the City effectively during the transition to automated trash collection and organics separation, then worked with the City and MetroVancouver to outreach at community events to prepare people for the transition. We were up front on the UBE issue, and continue to follow the ongoing saga of the Pattullo Bridge replacement.

We also have also brought the potential decision makers together with voters in a couple of very popular “All Candidates Meet & Greets” during the previous couple of elections (I love how the first word on that poster is a typo – volunteers!), and working with our friends at Tenth to the Fraser, we brought the subject of “Sustainability” (plagiarized or not) to the last municipal election. More recently some of our volunteers have organized a couple of massively-successful Shoreline Cleanups in Queensborough, with invaluable assitance from the City.

All this with a few volunteers and a bank account that rarely sees three figures.

So I am hoping I make the case that the NWEP is a force towards good in the City, and something you should support. So what does “support” look like?

#1: Go to the AGM Monday. There will be a couple of great speakers talking about, of all things, sustainability and community engagement. It will be a fun, social evening, the talks will be informative and relatively brief, and we will have lots of time to meet and greet, hang out, and talk City.

#2: Join the NWEP. It costs you $5, but it provides the group the ability to speak with a louder voice, and to draw on a larger group of volunteers when need arises. Many hands make light work.

#3: Bring your ideas about what the City needs to be more sustainable. You might find some folks who share your interest, and are willing to work with you to see it happen. Or you might hear someone else’s idea, and decide you want to help with that. “Helping” can me as simple as bringing an idea, or providing a few hours of volunteer time and energy, or knowing a contact person to bring groups together under a common cause, or even just acting as a sounding board for ideas to tease out their viability.

Doesn’t that just sound like “building community”?

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