Our Team

Work With Us

Eastside Family Place’s team is a diverse, multicultural group composed of experienced and professionally-trained social workers, teachers, early-childhood educators and family-resource practitioners. We are a small, dedicated staff consisting of full-time, part-time and casual employees, with parent group contractors and workshop facilitators providing specialized programs and resources. The following is a list of current staff and board members. We welcome your inquiries. Please contact us via telephone or email by using our contact form.

Volunteer Opportunities

We are very grateful to all the volunteers who make valuable contributions to Eastside Family Place on a daily basis: from sweeping the floor to cooking a hot meal, volunteers are integral to ESFP and indispensable. If you have a skill or a particular interest relevant to our programs, or if you have some extra time that you would like to give back to the community, please talk to us! We welcome your support and can help you find a meaningful volunteer opportunity. Please visit our Volunteer page for further information.

Staff Members

Brenda Lohrenz – Executive Director

Brenda has been an executive director in various capacities for 20 years. Prior to starting with ESFP in 2018, she was on the board of Burnaby Family Life – a community organization that she accessed as a mom. Brenda has a Masters in Community Development from UVIC and firmly believes that a sense of belonging in community is a foundation for strong families and thriving children. 

Anda Gavala – Office Manager

Anda has been working with Family Place as an Office Manager for 25 years. Anda is committed to supporting parents and caregivers to bring up healthy and happy children. All kids need strong families, and strong families need strong communities. When families are strong and children thrive, the community prospers.

Melissa Rodrigues – Family Support Worker – Program Coordinator

Melissa was a professional ballet dancer for 14 years dancing with Ballet BC, The National Ballet of Canada, and many companies in NYC.  She has lived in the Commercial Drive area for 15 years and is the mother of two daughters.  Melissa has been a yoga teacher and a birth doula for over a decade which helped ignite her passion for connecting with families in her community. 

Arlene English – Family Support Worker – Drop-In Centre Lead

Arlene grew up in Ontario and worked in licensed daycare before she discovered family resource programs. A mother of four, Arlene sees the importance and value of supporting families in a community environment. Having worked with Eastside Family Place since 1998, she has appreciated the opportunity to watch families grow and develop over time.

Mamata Mohapatra – Family Support Worker – Drop-In Centre

Mamata immigrated to Canada from India in 1995. Connecting with families reminds her of the value community plays in a child’s life, particularly considering the support she received while raising her two young adult sons. She feels lucky to live in a community that helps children feel that they are valued. Mamata loves gardening, volunteering, and exploring Commercial Drive.

Gisele McClain – Family Support Worker – Childminding

Gisele who was born and grew up in Vancouver, has been working in family center environments since 2007.  She sees the value of families connecting with their neighbourhood and loves to watch parents and children thrive in the welcoming world of Family Places.

ESFP Board of Director Bios

Kate Buium (Board Chair) joined the Eastside Family Place board in January 2020 and is the current board secretary. Kate has lived in the Commercial Drive neighbourhood for many years and has two school-aged children that attend local schools. Originally from Toronto, she has a Masters of Social Work and has worked in a broad range of positions in the field over the past two decades. Currently, she works with a child development research centre with a focus on the early years.

Lindsey Mann (Board Treasurer) has lived on Commercial Drive for over a decade and loves the community and support that East Side Family Place provides for neighbourhood families. She and her partner have been business owners on The Drive for over 5 years and have one wonderful kiddo. 

Angela Henning (Board Secretary) worked as a teacher and then elementary school principal for the Burnaby School District for 25 years until she retired in 2015. She worked with many diverse communities and enjoyed helping children and families develop bonds of belonging to their school. In her retirement she keeps fit by swimming, walking and cycling. She also volunteers in the community and enjoys spending time with her family.  She especially loves playing with her three young granddaughters!

Juanita Gonzalez has lived in East Van for the past 5 years and often visits ESFP with her daughters. Her background is in anthropology and philosophy and she has been in the non-profit sector for the past 8 years. She currently works as a human rights educator for an international development NGO. She enjoys going for walks and reading memoirs.

Adom Jeffers is a parent who’s enjoyed many morning drop-in sessions at Eastside Family Place with his young child. He is a teacher and a flight attendant. He also loves coaching and playing soccer whenever he can.

Matthew Smith has lived and worked in East Van for fifteen years. He is a community choir director, music teacher, and professional musician and is currently busy being the full-time caregiver to his two young children. He has appreciated the services the ESFP provides since becoming a parent six years ago. 

Anupam Singhal moved to East Van in 2022 with his wife (Neha), two year old daughter (Pallavi), and newborn son (Savinay).  Eastside Family Place has been like a home to Anupam’s family.  Anupam originally hails from Toronto, and has a bachelor’s degree from UofT and PhD in bioengineering from UBC.