A group of children by the Camp Alexandra swing set in 1934.

A group of children by the Camp Alexandra swing set in 1934.

Celebrating 100 years of Alex House

Camp Alexandra has helped build community for a century

If I were to ask you to conjure up a vision for the year 1916, you’d probably picture a group of soldiers huddled in trenches; or a barren, blasted, pock-marked landscape in France.

Canada and other countries were immersed in the brutalities of the Great War – two years in, two left to go – with little energy or focus left to consider anything else.

But there was a lot going on.

For example, the activist Emma Goldman was arrested for lecturing on birth control. In Mexico, Pancho Villa was leading a revolution. The light switch was invented in April; and, conveniently enough, Daylight Savings Time was invented the following month.

Henry James, Jack London, and Lord Kitchener all died that year; and Jackie Gleason, Olivia de Havilland, and Walter Cronkite were born.

Also born that year was a camp for orphans and destitute children, established on four parcels of land at Crescent Beach, owned by the Agar family.

The Alexandra Fresh-Air Camp was a project of the Alexandra Orphanage, located at Pine and West 7th in Vancouver, and was made possible by a major fundraising campaign.

Over the years, our mission broadened. Disadvantaged mothers were taught to make simple, low-cost meals; donated clothing and toys were provided; and services to older adults begun.

By the late 1930s, Camp Alexandra and its parent organization had become part of the neighbourhood house movement. The model derives from the settlement house movement of the 19th century, using a place-based, community-driven, organic approach to developing and delivering programs and events.

The model prioritizes the unique and diverse character of the communities served, with special attention to including those who may be marginalized and/or feel silenced.

Our anniversary is an opportunity to showcase what we do best – community engagement – in the context of celebrating our heritage and visioning for the future.

We have been hosting community conversations covering a range of topics in the context of the past, where we are now and what we want to build for future generations. Our next one on Sept. 28 is called “Something in the Air: Local Action on Climate Change,” and will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. at Beecher Place,  located at the foot of Sullivan Street.

But our centennial is also a time to look back and recollect. In co-operation with the City of Surrey Archives and Surrey Museum, we have mounted both a physical and online exhibition of historical artifacts focusing on the history of Alexandra Neighbourhood House and Crescent Beach. During the summer, it is located on the first floor of Beecher Place.

In addition, we have been conducting historical walking tours of the Crescent Beach neighbourhood. Led by volunteers, the walks begin from Heron Park (by the railroad crossing). The last one is this Saturday, from 1-3 p.m.

Most importantly, Alex House’s 100th birthday is a time to celebrate and strengthen our connections with community.

Our Homecoming Festival, on Saturday, Sept. 10, is an opportunity to enjoy live performances, historical re-enactments, crafting demonstrations, historical exhibits, a petting zoo, and midway rides. Admission is by donation, and you’re encouraged to show up in period costume.

The festival will also feature the sod-turning for our new plaza to be constructed around our heritage flagpole.

Individuals, and organizations can purchase an inscribed brick to be built into the plaza. The $100-contribution for individuals or $500 for businesses is a great way to support the completion of this legacy project, while honouring someone significant to you.

Interested? Would you like to find out more? Do you have a story to share? Contact our centennial programmer, Neil Fernyhough, at 604-535-0015 (ext. 236) or communityprograms@alexhouse.net

Neil Fernyhough, manager of Alexandra House’s community programs, takes over writing duties from regular columnist Donni Klassen this summer.

Just Posted

A cache of 89 crabs was discovered during a 2018 compliance inspection at South Surrey’s Elgin Park Marina. (Contributed photo)
$7,500 fine for illegal crab harvest discovered in South Surrey

Laird Goddyn found guilty in Surrey Provincial Court following 2018 investigation

South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course – a 15-acre property that also includes a residence – has been sold. (Colliers Canada photo)
South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course sold to new owners

Deal for popular par 3 course expected to close by end of the year

Gerry Vowles (left), Michael Cook, and Dave Sinclair were awarded “Dominion Command Presidential Citations” June 17 in Cloverdale. The rare awards were given out for “exemplary service to the Legion.” (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Three B.C. legionnaires awarded ‘Presidential Citations’

Ceremony took place in Cloverdale June 17

City of Surrey photo
Surrey starts Slow Streets pilot project

Speed limits have been reduced in six Surrey neighbourhood zones for one year to monitor impact on residents

Gymnast Shallon Olsen. (Photo: olympic.ca)
Olympics-bound Surrey gymnast Shallon Olsen enters sports hall of fame – in Coquitlam

She was the youngest member of Team Canada when she made her Olympic debut at Rio 2016

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read