As a friend and admirer of Mel Lehan I am pleased to be able to invite you to an event to honour his achievements. Mel has worked tirelessly for as long as I can remember on numerous community, environmental and social justice issues. He has been a mentor, organizer, and leader in making his neighbourhood and the world a better place – one project at a time. He believes in and brings out the best in people. His patience, enthusiasm and energy are boundless – and this year he is celebrating his 10 year anniversary of surviving esophageal cancer.
I have long believed that local communities will be the unit of strength as we enter a period of profound ecological stress, and we’re moving there now. For me, environmentalism is far more than protecting nature. It’s about poverty and hunger (a starving person is not going to worry about whether an edible plant or animal is endangered or polluted); it’s about full employment, justice, security, equity, and freedom from terror, racism and war. It is people like Mel who work on these issues who are absolutely critical in making things happen, in rallying people to work together, in inspiring people with unflagging positive enthusiasm and energy. To me, Mel is one of those essential people who do things because it’s their passion and without any expectation of recognition or even thanks. We must celebrate people like Mel who make community a word that really means something.
On October 19, 2008 the Board of Directors of St. James Community Square is honouring Mel for both his role in the creation of The Square and for his community work. In 1993 Mel saw the need for and came up with the idea of creating The Square. He brought together the first Board of Directors and has been with the organization ever since. His work in the community is staggering. Some of his current projects include: bringing the Farmer’s Market to Kitsilano; organizing STANDS around homelessness and housing; bringing the Downtown Eastside opera “Condemned” to his community; helping to create 20 car free block parties; and being a spokesperson for “Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver”. In the past, to name just a few projects, he founded Neighbour to Neighbour; created playgrounds at Beaconsfield School and Tatlow Park; worked on preserving the Pt. Grey foreshore and daylighting Tatlow Creek; assisted parents at the inner city school of Macdonald Elementary to successfully organize to improve learning for their children; and organized bus drivers at HandiDart to protect essential services for clients and save the jobs of dedicated drivers.
His work has been recognized with awards from Kitsilano Neighbourhood House; the Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce; and my organization, the David Suzuki Foundation. I think you get the picture. Mel has been doing good work for a long time. So I think it is wonderful that a plaque is being unveiled and installed to honour Mel at The Square.
I invite you to join in the evening of recognition and celebration of Mel Lehan. The event will take place on Sunday, October 19, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. in the Hall at St. James Community Square, 3214 West 10th Avenue. Mel would like to use this opportunity of bringing friends, neighbours, and colleagues together to raise funds for two of his favourite organization. The money raised from tickets and a silent auction will be split between Citywide Housing Coalition’s work around homelessness and affordable housing and obtaining improved seating in St. James Hall. This enjoyable evening of recognition includes entertainment, refreshments and desserts. Tickets are a suggested minimum donation of $30 and tax receipts will be issued for 50% of the donated amount. For tickets and information, please call 604-739-9373 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to seeing you there.