The last few years have been challenging for residents of Paddington Station.
A rash of break-ins, mail theft, people defecating in stairwells, and even people sneaking inside to sleep in the fitness centre, has created an atmosphere of fear and frustration for many owners of the 220 units at 201A Street and Fraser Highway.
But not Donna Francis.
She sees huge potential for a great community, and on Saturday, she’s taking the first steps to make that happen.
On Aug. 29, Francis is hosting a block party in the normally empty courtyard, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
She believes if the complex’s neighbours get to know each other, they can look out for one another and create lasting friendships.
“A lot of people here don’t even know each other,” said Francis, a strata council member whose company All in Order Suites owns rental units in the building.
“It’s kind of like you step out of your place, look to the left and to the right, then you run in the elevator, you get in the car and then you drive. And then you come home and it’s the same thing over.”
The idea came from City councillor Rudy Storteboom, also a resident of Paddington Station, who mentioned to Francis that a block party would be fun.
It turns out, they’re not the only ones who thinks it’s a great idea.
Save-On-Foods has come on board, donating a barbecue and food, the City of Langley is helping Francis find a local musical act and HomeLife Benchmark Realty has donated $200.
Other residents are donating grab bags, a popcorn machine and face painting for the kids.
Even the RCMP are sending out two auxiliary members to give block watch tips to the residents.
“If people can’t get excited over this, they’re nuts,” Francis said.
She believes if they create a sense of community within their own block, it will only spread outwards from there.
Langley City is “a mini-Yaletown in the happening,” she said.
“People can’t see it, but you have to tell them over and over again — this is a great place.”
Francis herself has headquartered her business just down the street from Paddington Station on Fraser Highway.
“The City itself is really cool,” she said.
“This is a cool place and I think people are going to miss out. If they pack up and if they leave, in five to 10 years they’re going to be shocked.
“They’re going to wish they had stayed.”
And because local business were generous enough to provide food for their block party, Francis wants to return the favour.
She will be collecting donations for the food bank at the event to provide meals to those who need it most.
This is just the beginning, she said.
Eventually, she hopes residents can start brainstorming solutions to help the very people that have been vandalizing their property.
“It’s not just about ‘we’re safe, we’re good.’ It’s about our community,” she said.
But for now, she’s just hoping Paddington residents will attend the block party.
“Let’s get our act together,” she said. “Come here, meet your neighbours, start owning your community.”