About Us

Building Community Society is one of the many legacies of Milton Wong (1939 – 2011).

“Milt was a very generous and wonderful guy,” said longtime friend Michael Clague, who recalled the time in 2003 when, as director of the Carnegie Centre in the Downtown Eastside, he asked his university buddy for help in raising $50,000 for the arts to celebrate the centre’s 100th anniversary.

“We were having our lunch at the Ovaltine and he just said, ‘I’ll give you $50,000,’” said Clague. “He said ‘I believe in making a social investment.’”

The contribution planted the seed for what would eventually be the Downtown Eastside’s Heart of the City Festival, now in its eighth year.

It is but one of the many causes Wong, an Order of Canada and Order of B.C. recipient, would lend his money, passion and energy to.

“Many people approached Milt for money, and he couldn’t support all of them, but he rarely turned them down,” said Clague. “He offered them advice and suggestions. He would take a personal interest in them.”

Among Wong’s other legacies are the Aboriginal Mother Centre Society, which provides a home for at-risk mothers and children, a $3-million contribution to Simon Fraser University’s School of Contemporary Arts, and a local area planning program for the Downtown Eastside.

“Milt was well familiar with the strength of the area — that’s where his family used to live,” said Clague. “He was convinced of its potential and wanted to make sure that local residents have a voice in its future.” (Vancouver Sun)

Board Members

Mike Harcourt, Chair
Jacquie Forbes-Roberts
Frank Kaplan
Paul Sullivan
Joe Wai

buildingcommunitysociety @ gmail.com

Building Community Society Participants

Larry Beasley C.M.
Larry Beasley is recognized as an authority on urban development and urban issues. As the Co-director of Planning with the city of Vancouver, he played a leading role in transforming the downtown core into a vibrant, liveable urban community. He is recognized as having a participative and socially responsible approach to zoning, planning
and design, which has become known internationally as the “Vancouver Model”. Larry is an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia in the School of Community and Regional Planning and lectures widely elsewhere. In 2004, Larry was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.

Ian Chang
Ian Chang is a second generation Vancouver native. He has over thirty years experience in city planning work with Canada Mortgage and Housing, the City of Richmond and in private consulting. He is strongly committed to the goal of seeing the Downtown Eastside become a vibrant neighbourhood again and that the low income working and non-working residents benefit from the pending growth of the area.

Michael Clague C.M.
Michael Clague has worked for all three levels of government and has been Executive Director of Britannia Community Services Centre, the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria, the Social Planning and Research Council of BC and the Carnegie Community Centre. Michael has said his experience at Carnegie was the most challenging and rewarding of his career for all he learned about community and the miracles that people with very little means can accomplish for themselves individually and collectively. In 2007, Michael was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.

Jacquie Forbes-Roberts
Jacquie Forbes-Roberts is recently retired from her position as General Manger of Community Services for the City of Vancouver. She was responsible for wide range of planning, development, social and cultural services. She is a former Co-Director of Planning for the City and has served as Vancouver’s Heritage Planner. Jacquie has many years of experience working with the public and private sectors, non-profit agencies, and community groups in the delivery of policy, projects and services. She brings expertise in organizational change, policy development, strategic planning and conflict resolution.

Maggie Geiser
Maggie Geiser is an advocate and community volunteer. Maggie has served as a Neighbourhood House board member, initiated and undertaken fundraising campaigns and is an activist with Citywide Housing Coalition. Maggie has many years of experience running an office in both non-profit and health care environments, including Harbour Light Detox. She now runs her own consulting business setting up accounting and bookkeeping systems.

Mike Harcourt
Mike Harcourt has travelled from storefront lawyer in Strathcona, to city councillor, to mayor of Vancouver, to Premier of British Columbia. Mike’s commitment to the environment and sustainability helped BC earn its reputation as one of the most liveable places in the world and has also contributed to the transformation of cities and communities around the world. Mike continues to be approachable, enthusiastic and supportive of the community in which he started in politics. Mike has received many awards, including the University of British Columbia has awarded him the Alumni Achievement Award of Distinction for contributions to British Columbia, Canada and the world.

Frank Kaplan
Frank has practiced law for the past 42 years and has been the managing partner of the law firm. He has participated as a Panelist and Chair in Continuing Legal Education Society courses on real Property law and has lectured throughout Canada on Real Estate and Banking Law.  Frank was the lead lawyer for the Law Society of BC as it developed the Western Conveyancing Protocol and assisted various Canadian banks with its implementation.  Frank has also sat as a board member for faith institutions and has been closely involved in their social endeavours.

Ken McFarlane
Ken McFarlane is a lawyer who has a wide range of professional experiences in the public, private, non-profit and university sectors.  He has served in three federal government departments including being chief of staff to a cabinet minister and as a consultant to several Canadian royal commissions.  Ken was the founder and principal of The Katalysis Group Inc., a company specializing in economic and business development projects in various parts of the world.  As a volunteer he has served on the boards of numerous arts, cultural and social service agencies.

Paul Sullivan
Paul Sullivan was the western editor of The Globe and Mail, and managing editor of The Vancouver Sun; he also worked in television and radio before launching Breakthrough Communications to provide communications products and services. Breakthrough Communications works with a wide array of corporate and institutional clients across North America to create effective communications. Clients include non-profits, including a number from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Joe Wai
Joe Wai has helped shape the way Strathcona, Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside appear today. Joe has designed 22 social housing projects, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens; the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum; the Chinatown Parkade, and the Millennium Gate. The restoration of the Chinese Freemasons Building received a Special Jury Award from the Architects Institute of British Columbia in April 2008. Joe is a passionate advocate for the Downtown Eastside and believes he has a greater insight into his own surroundings through living in Europe and visiting and experiencing different communities and cultures.

Gerry Zipursky
Gerry Zipursky has over 35 years of committed strong leadership and expertise in organizational development and community work in the field of social, community and social enterprise services. Gerry’s experience in fund development has enabled him to secure millions of dollars for capital, operational and endowment funds through major fundraising and event planning. Gerry has overseen a wide variety of large projects including, major construction, international events, as well as video and film productions. Gerry is a committed community member with extensive board and committee involvement with a variety of municipal, national and international organizations.

We also want to acknowledge the valuable contribution our colleague Ray Spaxman made to the DTES LAP report before retiring from BCS.