In honour of Black History Month we are paying tribute to the late Leonard Lane who spent his life bettering his community as a founding member of a branch of the BC Unity Credit Union. Along with acting as one of the founders of the local branch, Leonard acted as treasurer for 8 years. The branch opened in 1959 and merged with Vancity in 1971.
Leonard is one of the unsung heroes of Black Strathcona, a neighborhood in East Vancouver that was home to this city’s first and only black community. His daughter, Lenora Lane, says her dad enjoyed teaching her the value of money. “I learned so much from him at an early age and it became a great base to build on as I grew older. Today, I still hold those values dear to my heart.”
Her father became involved with The British Columbia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People in 1956. In addition to helping fight problems or prejudice, the group was also an opportunity to bring people together to share ideas. One of those ideas was a credit union.
“Their vision was to show adults and, especially young people, how good it was to start saving and see their money grow,” Lenora says. “They also supported young adults who struggled to get loans from banks.”
When the credit union started, Leonard took a bookkeeping course. He wanted to learn how to keep the records properly. He pulled together what was necessary to set up an informal office in the basement of his home in Burnaby. It became a place where members would come to make deposits or do whatever business they needed.
Lenora remembers being six or seven and filling a green folder from the BC Unity Credit Union with nickels. “When it reached a dollar I would run downstairs to the basement and deposit them into my account,” she says. “I was always so excited.”
Leonard retired in the 1980s. Sadly, Leonard died on January 8, 2016, at the age of 94. His accomplishments and passion left our community better off than he found it and his legacy is an example of how one person can make a difference.
For more information on the contributions of Leonard Lane and the history of Vancouver’s black community visit: http://blackstrathcona.com/.