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.

Board of Directors

Kyleen Ennis – Board Chair

Kyleen is an East Van mom to two toddlers who make good use of ESFP programs. Originally from Winnipeg, she has a Bachelor of Social Work degree and Masters of Public Administration. After 10 years in direct service and director roles in the health sector, she joined the provincial civil service and later the federal government, working in policy and planning for Health Canada and most recently Fisheries and Oceans.

Raha Melville – Board Treasurer

Raha is a new mom living in East Vancouver who frequents the ESFP drop-in sessions and classes with her son. Born in Tehran, she immigrated to Vancouver in 2005. She has an engineering and business background. Raha currently works as a shipbuilding planner, budgeting and scheduling work on projects for the Canadian

Kate Buium – Board Secretary

Kate joined the Eastside Family Place board in January 2020 and is the current board secretary. Kate has lived in the Commercial Drive neighbourhood for 16 years and has two school-aged children that attend Laura Secord  Elementary. 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 institute with a focus on the early years.

Renee Aeyelts

Renee is a mother of two living in East Van and a new member of the ESPF board.  Trained as a social worker she has worked in the field of chronic mental health and substance abuse for the past 15 years in both the public and not for profit sector. Most recently she is at home with her two young children and a frequent ESFP attendee.

Juanita Gonzalez

Juanita has lived in East Van for the past 4 years and often visits ESFP with her daughter. Her background is in anthropology and philosophy and she has worked 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

Angela Henning

Angela 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 two young granddaughters!

Adom Jeffers

Adom 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

Matthew 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.