For The Greater Gatsby

For about a half a year now I’ve been volunteering at the Burnaby Neighbourhood House near Metrotown, in, you guessed it, Burnaby. They run a laundry list of programs and events for families in the area, for individuals, for migrants. It’s the kind of organization that makes you feel like maybe people aren’t so bad after all.

They brought me on board to photograph their events, so they can better advertise their services. Picture worth a thousand words and all. A Canadian picture is worth maybe six hundred US words, but never mind.

It’s always fun to observe BNH events. Mostly it’s seasonal dinners, sharing cultures nights, that sort of thing. A cozy few dozen people chatting and eating together while the kids play with teenaged volunteers at the far end of the room. Music, dinner, conversation, lots of smiles, very nice.

This past weekend, though, was their annual Diamond Gala fundraiser, and let me tell you that was a whole other ballgame. They filled the entire Fightfighters Banquet & Conference Centre with hundreds of donors glammed out in Great Gatsby themed flapper dresses and bow ties for a succulent steak dinner, period cocktails, a live brass band, pledges of support from the mayor and several councillors, a Scott Fitzgerald meets Agatha Christie play, and a live auction of some very generously donated prizes. The pièce de résistance was a $4000 heart-shaped diamond the size of an eyetooth, donated by Vancouver Diamonds. The diamond was raffled off to a randomly chosen winner.

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Except she wasn’t so random.

Last year this same lady won a similar diamond, which she immediately and very charitably donated to BNH to cap their fundraising efforts. This same diamond, along with other prizes and gifts for this year’s event, was stolen last month.

Who steals from a non-profit? That’s a whole other subject. Needless to say, everyone was stunned and delighted when the same lady won this year’s diamond.

“The universe may be ironic, but it’s never neat.”

Ian McDonald

I read that line in a story years ago and thought it very true at the time. After that coincidence, it’s hard to believe. I think I still do. But if the thieves are caught, say, trying to fence the diamond back to its original donors, or end up homeless and in need of BNH’s programs, I might just give it up and buy wholesale into the cult of the neat universe. Our mascot will be the giant vacuum cleaner spaceship lady from Space Balls. I could get into that.

Anyway, if you’re a Burnaby citizen wanting to connect with your community, or looking for volunteer hours, or just a charitable person by nature, I recommend paying BNH a visit. They’re pretty great, and you’re probably pretty great too. Greatness isn’t just for Gatsby, yanno.

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