Larry Hnetka Community Builder Award

Purpose of the Award

In honour of the late Larry Hnetka, the Community Builder Award annually recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of Vancouver’s Westside neighbourhoods. The award recognizes someone who is committed to neighbourhood values of connection, engagement, and neighbourhood involvement. The Larry Hnetka Community Builder Award will is presented at the annual Kits House AGM & Volunteer Appreciation events.

What is a Community Builder?
An individual – who through action, passion and commitment – has created opportunity for community members to come together, create together and pursue a common goal for the good of all.

If you know a person who fits this description, nominate them for the Larry Hnetka Community Builder Award!

About Larry Hnetka
Larry Hnetka was born on the prairies and grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan.  He travelled to Vancouver in his 20’s and quickly decided BC was where he wanted to be.  He moved to Kitsalano and lived on W 4th since the mid ’80’s.

He was a beloved friend, neighbor and colleague to all who had the pleasure of knowing him.  He loved his neighbourhood and every dog he met particularly the ones around his home whom he often baby sat.  He used his dog walking as a way to get to know people.

In the last decade of his life he was “the” person who brought the 6th Avenue Kitsilano neighborhood together.

He watched many changes happen in the Kits area, one major one was the revitalization of the Kitsalano community centre.  He walked around the block everyday to see what progress was made. He became friends with every project manager and construction worker on site.

Larry was a proud tour guide when the renovated Kits House opened and had just become actively involved in the art courses at the time of his passing.

Everyone on site as well as many in the neighbourhood knew him by name and by reputation- he was known as the man with a million ideas and the charm and energy to make them happen.

Nomination Form

Nominees for the Larry Hnetka Community Builder Award must be from Vancouver’s Westside which includes the neighbourhoods of Kitsilano, Dunbar-Southlands, Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale, Arbutus Ridge, West Point Grey & UBC.

Nomination forms can be submitted online to – deadline for submissions is June 30th, 2021 at 5 pm

Nomination forms can be downloaded by clicking on the link below:

Larry Hnetka Community Builder Award Nomination Form2021 – PDF


Luisa Deziel is a natural community leader who is passionate about raising awareness and sharing information about important issues affecting Westside neighbourhoods. She is a person with a knack for seeing an issue or a problem, thinking about what could be done to address it, and then acting upon a solution.

One of the ways Luisa builds community is through sharing resources, updates, recommendations, and safety concerns through the Kitsilano Community Group.

She is also passionate about educating community on critical social justice issues and building capacity of community members to take meaningful action for positive change in our neighbourhood. She often shares resources and facilitates thought-provoking discussions on such important (and challenging!) topics as Indigenous justice or LGBTQ+ allyship.

Kitsilano Community Face Book Group

Luisa is the founder and the key lead of the Kitsilano Community Facebook Group. The group was organized in March 2021 as a platform to provide a welcoming and safe space for community members to gift and exchange items, ask and offer help, request and receive recommendations, or raise questions of neighbourhood concern.

Luisa intentionally cultivates this online community, which in only a few months reached over 2,100 members. Luisa is building community in positive ways, bridging the divides and building consensus: she cultivates a respectful, welcoming environment by instituting and monitoring community guidelines, addressing concerns or mediating conflicts with tact, respect and diplomacy. She takes upon herself to share community resources and helpful neighbourhood recommendations. Whenever neighbours have questions, needs, or concerns – they know that the Kitsilano Community Group is where they can find the support.

During the 2021 summer heatwaves Luisa organized resource sharing and mutual support through the Kitsilano Community Group Facebook page, helping community members keep each other cool over the hottest days. By organizing a way for those who were able to spare a fan to lend to those who were in desperate need, she was instrumental in ensuring those in need were safe.

Kitsilano Neighbourhood House Volunteer

Luisa onboarded as a Kits House volunteer in January 2021 during the COVID pandemic. She quickly found her niche volunteering in the Frozen Meal Program, a program supporting the community with food security issues during COVID.

It is oftentimes every day, routine, less visible actions that make the world of a difference in communities. Every week, Luisa helped prepare up to 150 nutritious home-made meals for members of our community experiencing acute food insecurity or unable to cook for themselves.

Neighbourhood Small Grant Project Leader | Kitsilano Community Food Pantry

When Luisa was volunteering at Kits House helping prepare frozen meals, she became aware that food insecurity is a real issue in our Westside community, often wrongfully labelled as universally affluent. That’s when she had an idea to build a Community Food Pantry, based on the principle of take what you need – leave what you can.

“I bet amongst us all we have the tools and wherewithal to make this happen”.

She then set out to make it happen and put a call out to the community members to see who would be interested in helping build the pantry and help maintain it. Luisa’s intentional community engagement efforts helped spread awareness about the issue of food insecurity on the Westside and motivated others to get involved. More than 20 community members jumped to help and her idea took off!

Luisa secured permission from Kitsilano Neighbourhood House to build the pantry on their property, then applied for and received a Neighbourhood Small Grant to help cover the construction costs.

Luisa and her team are now working hard on sourcing materials and skills from within the community for the Community Pantry Project which will be located on Vine Street.

Congratulations to Luisa on becoming the recipient of the 2021 Larry Hnetka Community Builder Award!

Ksenia Stepkina embodies the word “community builder” in the numerous activities & events she takes on! Here are just a few examples of what Ksenia has been involved with this past year. 

Kitsilano Cares Community Volunteer Group –  
When COVID19 shut down everything so suddenly last March Ksenia saw a need in the community and quickly took actionWithin days she reached out to the community and built a team of 80 community volunteerspairing them to support seniors and others not able to venture outdoors to do routine errands for themselves due to COVID19 

Months later, she and her team continue to support seniors and others living on the Westside helping with grocery shopping, pharmacy pick up, and friendly visits to lonely seniors. This endeavor ended up in a partnership with Kits House where her volunteer team continues to support and assist the community.  

The speed with which Ksenia was able to get this up and running was truly remarkable – she was able to move quickly when organizations could not. She made a huge difference in the lives of seniors living in isolation and fear through her quick action and ability to organize supports for them. 

Kitsilano Cares: COVID19 Community Support Facebook Page –  
With the creation of this Facebook page Ksenia established a way for the Kitsilano community to come together, engage, and support each other. This very active Facebook page now has over 780 members.  

Ksenia also has an Instagram page @kindly.ksenia as well as Facebook page Ksenia Stepkina – Community Builder, dedicated to her community-building journey, where she shares resources and inspiration for people to get involved in their community! 

NSG Project Leader
Ksenia applied for and was granted a Neighbourhood Small Grant for her project “Get to Know your Neighbours: The Ultimate Community Building Challenge”Her NSG project enableda way for people, living within the same multi-storey building, or within the same block to get to know their closest neighbours, and deepen the sense of community within their immediate neighbourhood during COVID. She achieved this through the distribution of a Community Building Box –containing a number of activities/challenges for people to get to know and support one another


Russian Tea Ceremony Multiculturalism Project –
Ksenia is an active Kits House volunteer! When the call went out for volunteers to share their traditions
and customs Ksenia stepped up! She hosted two multicultural tea ceremonies, one at KNH, one at
Steeves Manor. Ksenia came wearing full Russian traditional costume, provided a full Russian tea
ceremony including traditional foods, and even brought in a large antique wood burning tea pot to show


Congratulations Ksenia!

Sheila Kirkby was born and raised in Vancouver’s Westside and is always working toward bringing people together. She is known for just rolling up her sleeves and getting the work done, often behind the scenes. Sheila has been a long-time volunteer for numerous local organizations including here at Kits Neighbourhood House whether it be helping with Community Potlucks or telling strangers about Kits House programs and building design. In the pre-renovation Kits House, Sheila volunteered at the reception desk and pitched in when needed at the Senior’s lunches. Sheila is also involved with Kitsilano Showboat, the General Gordon Elementary School Parent Advisory Committee, and Families with Children from China BC. Sheila has been a UBC Health Mentor, has facilitated a Parkinson’s Society Support Group and is currently a caregiver for her father, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease.  

When asked about her involvement in the community Sheila is most proud of her work with Families with Children from China BC, a network of families who have adopted children from China. Sheila is co-chair of this organization and this role takes up a significant portion of her volunteer time.

Sheila strives to be a community builder. She is always warm and welcoming and loves connecting people, introducing people who have something in common, or forwarding information when she knows someone would be interested. For example, when the curator at the Museum of Vancouver asked if she might have a Pussy Hat to donate for a MOV exhibit about the history of local protests she was able to introduce her to someone who had been at the Vancouver Women’s March and had published a well-received crocheted Pussy Hat pattern.

During the Gordon School seismic upgrade she saw a need for a bulletin board at the school bus stop and kept it updated with important dates and information during the two years of construction. Sheila can be often be found picking up garbage or clearing drains.

Congratulations Sheila!

The 2018 Larry Hnetka Community Builder Award goes to  Mel Lehan. Through action, passion, and commitment, he has created numerous opportunities for community members to come together, create together, and pursue a common goal for the good of all.

For 40 years Mel has continually and tireless worked to build neighbourhood, improve the environment, and to assist the poor and disadvantaged. His actions have affected not only the citizens in his Kitsilano neighbourhood, but also all of the Westside, and even the whole city of Vancouver! He is a community builder.

 Because of Mel’s commitment, passionate energy, and dedication, he has brought hundreds of volunteers together to participate in dozens of projects. His positive attitude and enthusiasm are so infectious he could get a mole to volunteer!

Mel is definitely a mover and a shaker! He was instrumental in changing St. James United Church into St. James Community Square, bringing a Farmers Market to Kitsilano, and initiating the daylighting of Tatlow Creek. He also organized volunteers to help him gather over 10,000 signatures to help save the UBC Farm. Mel helped set up the Point Grey Residents Association and also helped to create Neighbour to Neighbour, a coalition of over 50 neighbourhood associations to assist with building their own communities and helping each other. Mel Lehan played a big part in having the Point Grey Foreshore declared a natural foreshore in perpetuity. He led the battle to save it from being destroyed by a seawall, which would have had a devastating impact on the natural habitat for birds, sea life, and vegetation. Mel was involved in the initial stages of the Kitsilano Car Free Block Parties and played a big role in the rally to save the Hollywood Theatre. Social relationships and feeling connected through environmental or social issues is what Mel does so well!

Keiko Honda, through action, passion, and commitment, has created numerous opportunities for community members to come together, create together and pursue a common goal for the good of all.


Trained as a health research scientist, Keiko was living a busy life in Manhattan and had worked in the field of cancer epidemiology as a faculty member at Columbia University before she was suddenly struck by acute spinal cord inflammation which confined her to a wheelchair to date. Shortly after that tragedy — which she now she truly thinks of as a gift — Keiko moved to Vancouver in 2009 with her family, and started volunteering as a director of Kerrisdale Community Centre Society while adjusting to a new place and a new pace.

Yearning to re-create her culturally stimulating life in Manhattan, especially the open exchange of ideas and dialogues with like-minded people of all ages and background, Keiko started hosting her “intergenerational cultural salon” at her residence in the quiet Dunbar-Southlands neighbourhood in 2010. It is precisely how her now well-known artists-in-residence saloncame about. True to her vision, Keiko continues to bring neighbours and friends together to share passions and discuss things that matter, such as art, intuition, the environment and social issues. She has hosted nearly 120 salons in the last 7 years, thanks to all the people who participated and continue participating. Among her favourite Japanese teachings, she likes this proverb the most, “Treasure every meeting, for it will never recur.” “Mindfulness was everywhere and became a way of life throughout my upbringing, so I really never paid attention to it until I moved to North America,” Keiko says. In retrospect, she attributes her strength in adversity to her cultural heritage and intuitive mindfulness.

In 2014, she received the Remarkable Women Award by the City of Vancouver. In that same year, she founded her non-profit organization called, Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society in order to promote the work of emerging artists (we all are artists) and build cultural resilience and empathy in communities through art. She truly enjoys her non-profit work as her creative outlet and she finds the process exhilarating when an idea becomes a reality.

Keiko has also been active with the Westside Neighbourhood Small Grants for over 3 years, both as a project leader and as a member of Resident Advisory Committee. You may have come across some of her Westside NSG projects over the years – the range of her NSG projects are vast and diverse and include projects such as her numerous gardening workshops, her Neighbourhood Seed Library, and her cultural workshops such as Japan’s “Mamezara” cooking and dining workshop, Storytelling through Weaving, and Clothes Upcycling, and many more that have not been included in this list and I’m sure there are a few others that Keiko just hasn’t gotten around to doing yet!

In summary, Keiko is a visionary leader who is passionate about the community and has built something long lasting; human relationships.  She builds community through her many and varied interests and her ability to connect people to each other. More importantly, she embraces each and every encounter, like in the Japanese proverb. Between her busy work and family life, she continues to volunteer for Kerrisdale Community Centre Society, Park Board Neighbourhood Matching Fund Advisory Committee, Rick Hansen Institute Consumer Engagement Committee, and Westside Neighbourhood Small Grants Resident Advisory Committee (RAC).

Last but not least, “Being a mother is my greatest achievement and happiness of my life.” says Keiko.  “And, my daughter agrees with me!”

There were many worthy nominations submitted this year and Keiko certainly had some competition in being chosen for this award tonight! Keiko Honda’s contributions to building community, not only here on the Westside but all through the City of Vancouver, truly made her stand out in a group of what are simply amazing community builders and leaders.

Ross Moster is best known as the founder of Village Vancouver (VV), being part of the global movement and integrated network of the Transition Movement. He has been a strong advocate for climate change and one of Vancouver’s leaders in creating community-level sustainability. With a premise so simple and yet profound: “Getting to know your neighbours can save the world,” Village Vancouver has grown with relatively short amount of time as a grassroots network of over 3000 + people in the City of Vancouver.

Ross, along with his enthusiastic team of Village Vancouver volunteers and dedicated board members, have created socially vibrant communities through sharing resources, including but not limited to, community gardening, chicken coops, tool sharing, community potlucks, or car-free block parties, all of which help build strong human connections and ultimately, a healthy community.  If you come to the Westside Community Market on Thursday here in front of Kits House you will often see Ross there with his seed library, always willing to share his skill and knowledge about gardening with others.

Since its Westside inception in 2012, Ross has been active with the Westside Neighbourhood Small Grants, both as a project leader and as a member of Westside Neighbourhood Small Grants Resident Advisory Committee. He extends the same integrity and dedication he holds for Village Vancouver to the Resident Advisory Committee and always tries to give EVERYONE a chance to shine as a NSG project leader and community builder.

You may have come across some of Ross’s Westside NSG projects over the years – the range of his NSG projects are vast and diverse and include projects such as the Kits Plastic Recycling, Permaculture projects, his Seed Library, creating pollinator corridors, collaborative gardens, and I’m sure there are a few others that haven’t been included in this list and a few others that Ross just hasn’t gotten around to doing yet!

In summary, Ross is a visionary leader who is passionate about the community and has built something long lasting – human relationships.   He builds community through his many and varied interests and his ability to connect people to each other.

There were many worthy nominations submitted for consideration for this award this year and Ross certainly had some competition in being chosen for this award tonight! Ross Moster’s contributions to building community, not only here on the Westside but all through the City of Vancouver,  truly made him stand out in a group of what are simply amazing community builders and leaders.