History of Hope

For the past 20 years, CityReach has been helping people prosper…but the reality is, the CityReach story began long before there was a CityReach. Join us in reflecting on the origins of our organization, programs, and events - as we celebrate two decades of community impact.

Early 1900’s
The Emerging City of Vancouver

The Emerging City of Vancouver

The industrialized city of Vancouver was emerging. The city experienced its first rapid growth in population, from 26,000 people in 1901 to 120,000 in 1911. This was before the Port of Vancouver, before the World Wars, even before the wide use of the automobile. 

During these early days, a small church that would become known as Broadway Church began in downtown Vancouver in 1910, as a place for people to find hope, help, and experience the love of God. This small church would become “a city church changing city lives”.

The city of Vancouver was changing quickly, and over the decades, people continued flooding in.

Mid 1900’s
Growth of the City

Vancouver had become one of the most densely populated cities in North America. Growth in industry, technology, education, immigration, and business continued - as did the rise in hunger and homelessness. The divide between those who were affluent and those experiencing poverty continued to expand.

Broadway Church continued to serve the city and the people of Vancouver and ran community outreach programs for vulnerable children and families, and for the rising number of people experiencing poverty, addiction, and other challenges. 

Columbia Tire Warehouse Purchased

Columbia Tire in East Vancouver had closed up shop, and the land was available for purchase. In 1984, the property was bought and secured by Broadway Church, who had outgrown its previous locations, to build a new facility and secure a secondary site for a future outreach centre.

The Columbia Tire property was divided into two distinct buildings, the tire showroom, which was torn down and rebuilt, and the tire warehouse (or repair shop) – a 30,000-square-foot warehouse facility, which was left vacant and unused. While no one knew it at the time, that old tire warehouse would one day become home to the CityReach Care Society.

Boxes of Love

In 1993, Boxes of Love Christmas Hampers began as an outreach from Broadway Church to serve local families in need in the community. Christmas gifts, turkey dinners, and family events were held annually during the holidays. Over the years, CityReach has continued the tradition, and thousands of families have been helped and given hope at Christmas through this event. Boxes of Love continues to this day, providing support annually for over 700 families and 2,000 children and youth. 

Club Freedom

In 2001, Club Freedom had its humble beginnings when one couple took a man out for lunch, who was living on the streets of Vancouver. They were moved by his story and wanted to give him a warm meal and a little bit of hope. They wanted to help him journey from addiction to recovery, and from isolation to freedom. 

That one lunch turned into a weekly meal, and soon others experiencing homelessness and addiction were invited. Eventually, as the need grew, they moved their meal from the local ABC Restaurant to ordering Swiss Chalet take-out to the Board Room at Broadway Church, and then eventually into the newly renovated CityReach Warehouse where they would cook their own hot fresh meal every week. 

Club Freedom is the longest-running CityReach program. The team continues to welcome guests 52 weeks a year, with the original founders - and the original guest -still cooking in the kitchen, serving those in need with unparalleled compassion. Today, Club Freedom serves 350 guests every week across 3 different locations.

CityReach Care Society Established

Many years and countless hours had been poured into the plans and proposals and vision for the “CityReach Care Society”. Broadway Church was going to formalize and organize urban outreach ministry into a separate, registered not-for-profit society. Early leaders were steadfast in their desire to see the community impacted, and to see lives transformed. It was down to the wire, but on Christmas Eve in 2003, the renovation permits for the old tire warehouse were approved. With the CityReach Care Society officially established, and the funds miraculously raised, the renovations began… confirming that the time had come that so many had been praying for. It was here that the commitment was made to focus their best efforts on “helping people prosper.”

Official CityReach Launch & Warehouse Grand Opening

The day had come! After decades of planning, preparing, and praying, the CityReach Warehouse received its occupancy permits in March of 2004. Now, the building could operate as a centre for community programs, serving practical needs, in an environment of hope and belonging, for any guest who found their way to its doors. 

This space had transformed from a place that changes tires to a place that changes lives.

Many programs, events, and services were provided over these early years, including after-school tutoring, lunch programs for the adjacent high school, a kids' Saturday activity program, a single mother’s group, ESL programming, family counseling, clothing services, an at-risk youth drop-in centre with a climbing wall and skatepark, and more.

And yet, our history was still only just beginning…

Food For Families

In 2007, in partnership with World Vision’s “Partners to End Child Poverty”, CityReach did an in-depth community research study and discovered the number one issue the community was facing was food insecurity. In response, CityReach started a small, fresh, and healthy food bank called Food For Families. A commitment to providing fresh, healthy, and highly nutritious food was the distinguishing factor that set Food For Families apart from any other food bank in Vancouver at the time.

This program has seen many seasons of expansion, from the first walk-in cooler and freezer, to the installation of additional storage, to doubling capacity by adding a second distribution day, to the purchasing of the first, then second, then third refrigerated trucks, to the addition of mobile sites. Over the years, the commitment to fresh food remained, with the development of strong food rescue partnerships and key in-kind donors as pillars in the development of the program. These vital partnerships allowed for rapid 1000% growth of families served in 2020, while recording zero dollars spent on food that year and to this day. 

Today, Food For Families is one of Vancouver’s largest fresh food banks. It is here that CityReach is nourishing thousands of families and individuals all across the region while rescuing millions of dollars in quality food, and offering every guest the opportunity to find community and to find Hope.

Out of School Care

The Out of School Care Program began in 2009, as a response to the growing need in our city for quality, affordable childcare. As housing prices increased, and more families needed to rely on a double income, childcare demands grew rapidly in Vancouver. And so, CityReach opened a before-and- after-school-care and day-camp site, with license approval from Vancouver Coastal Health. A desire to also serve single-parent families, foster families, and children with additional needs was also key pillar of this program. The commitment to offer compassionate, engaging, inclusive, and professional care for children and their families continues to this day. 

Coldest Night of the Year

As the range and scope of programs offered by CityReach continued to grow, so did the fundraising needs of the organization. In 2015, the first annual Coldest Night of the Year walk-a-thon fundraiser was held. Every year, teams or walkers are rallied and funds are raised for those experiencing hurt, hunger, or homelessness. Over the years, the individual participants (known as “fundraising champions”) have raised over $1 million for the CityReach Care Society.

Tri-Cities Location Launched

A major step forward in the history of CityReach was the establishment of a second permanent location in 2016 in the Tri-Cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody).

CityReach was now able to offer Greater Hope to Greater Vancouver. 

While families from across the region had been served over the years through various programs and events, there had not been a set location for CityReach operations other than the East Vancouver ‘Warehouse’ until now. 

Operating out of the Broadway Church location in Port Coquitlam, CityReach could now host weekly Food For Families programming, Club Freedom meals, Adopt-a-School support, and even community events.

Notably, several of our current and previous CityReach initiatives and events began in Tri-Cities including Family Movie Matinee, Meals to Go, School’s Out Carnival, Outreach Walks, and Food For Families Mobile.

To this day, the CityReach Tri-Cities location is actively serving hundreds of local families and individuals, thanks to the continued investment of the local community and a wonderfully dedicated team of volunteers.

Easter Bash

Starting in 2016, the Easter Bash is CityReach’s annual Spring celebration. Hosted in Vancouver and the Tri-Cities, each year hundreds of families with children join us for a morning of excitement including a live family-friendly presentation, pony rides, a petting zoo, bouncy castles, cotton candy, games, crafts, and a hunt for 35,000 chocolate Easter eggs. Every year, the event grows, but the smiles on children’s faces never grow old.

Back to School Blast

The Back to School Blast began in 2018 with a desire to offer added support to local, low-income families at a time of year that often results in added financial and social pressure. In contrast to the stresses families may face in providing for their children to head back to school, CityReach desired to offer an event focused on joy, empowerment, and community building. 

At the end of the summer, over 1,000 backpacks filled with quality school supplies and other essentials are provided at three event locations (East Vancouver, South Vancouver, and Tri-Cities) and to over 150 children in Surrey. These students also receive free haircuts, hygiene kits, and lunch.

In addition to the practical help, families are reminded that they are not alone and that there are people in their community rallying with them for their child’s best future. 


The Adopt-A-School vision is built on the principles that children deserve our best investment -and that local schools are deeply connected to the needs of families and their children. While schools face strains with funding and staffing, the goal is to support the tremendous work being done within the school walls, while also offering timely and quality support to their families in need.

In 2018, CityReach began to “Adopt” local public schools by beginning a partnership with them by serving practical needs. Today, with over 50 schools adopted across three school districts in the region, we are able to offer a menu of resources from weekly food support, to hygiene kits, to bursary awards, to on-site support, to cooking classes, and more. In addition, these adopted schools are offered priority referral access to the Food For Families program in their area, Boxes of Love, and the Back to School Blast. Schools are a trusted and accessible resource for families, and by partnering directly with them, CityReach is able to build bridges and respond to needs that might otherwise be unanswered. 

Through Adopt-A-School, thousands of children and youth are impacted each year, and new schools are being added every term. 

Pathway to Prosper

Developed in 2018, the Pathway to Prosper is what makes CityReach uniquely different. The Pathway to Prosper is based on our mission statement, “helping people prosper”, and is the catalyst in understanding our greater purpose. 

Here at CityReach, we believe that everyone has been designed to experience and express the purest love imaginable. We understand that all people have needs that extend beyond the immediate and tangible. Everyone deserves the chance to thrive - physically, emotionally, socially, mentally, and spiritually. To truly prosper, we must address each of these areas. 

The Pathway to Prosper is the framework for invitation into greater community, greater health, and greater hope. We strive to not only provide for a need today, but to create a better tomorrow. Therefore, we create opportunities for our guests, and volunteers, to ‘take their next step’ toward wholeness. Whether that means entering a mentorship program or a recovery program, participating in a parenting course or a budgeting workshop, attending a kids camp or youth leadership program, there is always a next step along the pathway from where you are, to where you want to be.

To this end, we cannot do it alone. We rely on local churches, community partners, and like-minded not-for-profits to come alongside our guests and volunteers t create safe spaces for life-giving relationships to occur. This wholistic approach heals the whole person, and gives so much more than physical help, it gives Hope.

CityReach Bees

As far as important species go, bees are at the top of the list. Honeybees don't just make honey; they pollinate 70 of the 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world. In a world without bees we would struggle to sustain the global human population of 7 billion.

In response, the City of Vancouver had reached out and asked anyone who had the ability to keep bees to do so. In 2020, seeking to partner with the city and care for God’s creation, CityReach decided to do their part in helping nature's little striped pollinators thrive by starting our own rooftop Apiary.

Each year, the volunteer bee-team cares for multiple hives filled with tens of thousands of honey bees. At the end of the season, the honey is harvested and gifted to volunteers and donors (while ensuring enough remains in the hives to sustain the bee population over the winter). It is quite an experience to see CityReach Bees in action - an invitation that is extended to volunteers, local teams, and special guests every spring and summer.

Food For Families South Vancouver

“Food For Families Mobile” had already begun in the Tri-Cities, bringing fresh food hampers to local schools and community centres. But in 2020, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic that the Food For Families Mobile program expanded to South Vancouver. 

In 2020, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, CityReach’s Food For Families program began to grow by 50 families per week until it had grown 1000%, serving 3000 people per week. The Vancouver School Board reached out to CityReach in desperate need to respond to their lunch program being shut down due to school closures. CityReach held a seat on the “Vancouver Food Security Task Force” with local leaders and city officials, and so it was through these contacts that the Vancouver School Board asked CityReach to do something in South Vancouver as other programs were forced to shut down. CityReach arranged to use a refrigerated truck to distribute Fresh Food Hampers directly in the parking lot of the Killarney Community Centre in South Vancouver.

This arrangement was meant to just be temporary but the needs in the area continued to come forward through the local schools and surrounding community. The Food For Families team found a way to pivot and split into two, more permanent locations (YWCA and Culloden Court). From here, a partnership with the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House was established and continues to thrive today.

Surrey Expansion 

The CityReach mission continues to develop and serve more individuals, more families, and more children with tangible help and transformative hope.

Why Surrey? This metropolitan city is the fastest growing city in BC, and the 4th fastest-growing city in all of Canada. Surrey welcomes more refugees than any other provincial municipality, and is home to the largest school district in all of BC. The need for Hope has never been greater.

The expansion into Surrey occurred in stages, firstly with Club Freedom, through borrowed space at Nightshift Ministries in the Whalley area. Next, Adopt-A-School partnerships were founded, and fresh food hampers from Food For Families began to be transported weekly from the Vancouver Warehouse to this district. From here, key partnerships were formed including being selected as the “United Way Regional Community Neighbourhood Food Hub” Steward in Guildford/Whalley. Later, family events were hosted at local low-income housing communities, homeless outreach initiatives expanded, and CityReach’s first Prison Outreach at the Surrey Pre-Trial Centre began. Now, Food For Families Surrey operates weekly as a regular distribution site, in addition to fresh food hamper delivery to multiple local schools for their families in greatest need. 

Surrey continues to be a city of great need, but also of great potential. The days of the Hope Business in Surrey are still only just beginning, and it is through the continued generosity of others -and the faithfulness of God- that we believe the best is yet to come.

$10 Million of Rescued Food

In the summer of 2023, CityReach surpassed the milestone of $10 million in donated and rescued food that has been re-distributed to vulnerable individuals and families across Metro Vancouver, through the ‘Food For Families’ program.

This represents over 3,000,000 pounds of food and 150,000 fresh-food hampers that have helped to nourish this community.

It is important to note that these numbers represent the total value of donated and rescued food from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the Spring of 2020, to 2023, a three-year time span. It was at this time that CityReach saw the rapid growth of this program (1000%), and along with it, the exponential increase in food they were able to rescue. 

It is truly only thanks to the generosity of the community and the passionate investment of food rescue partners that this milestone was possible. Through these partnerships, Food For Families helps put healthy food on the tables of 1,000 families each and every week - and put $10 million back into the pockets of vulnerable families while helping to keep our planet green.