05/07/2015 06:35 EDT | Updated 05/19/2015 04:59 EDT

These People Prove Surrey, B.C. Is More Than Shootings

"Headlines were focusing on these shooting sprees, so we decided to have a kindness spree."

Gun violence flared up in Surrey, B.C. again early Thursday morning with shots fired between two vehicles. One car lost control and crashed into a post.

No one was hurt, but it's the latest in a string of more than a dozen shootings in the last several weeks. One ended with the death of 22-year-old Arun Bains.

The city of Surrey finds itself once again thrust into the spotlight for crime. But what about the good things happening in B.C.'s fastest growing city?

Groups like Friends of the Grove have been quietly and successfully proving that Surrey is about much more than violence.

“There were up to 23 shootings in Surrey in six weeks last year and headlines were focusing on these shooting sprees — so we decided to have a kindness spree,” founder David Dailey said. “People in the grove were giving away cookies; one woman even had a sign up for free hugs.”

"The grove" is a small wooded area beside the Newton Recreation Centre, and not far from where Julie Paskall, a mother of three, was attacked and killed in 2013. A group of neighbours wanted to take back the area by simply sharing stories and meeting others in the community.

Friends of the Grove began with simple get-togethers which turned into barbecues and picnics. A free piano as well as artwork hung on the trees were soon added to the mix. The volunteers are now working to expand four planter boxes into a free community garden that encourages people to harvest food when they need it.

While Friends of the Grove started as a way to combat negativity, Dailey is quick to point out that they are not reactionary anymore. “We are a very proactive group now," he told The Huffington Post B.C. in an interview. "We enjoy sharing visions for what our community can be."

Here are some other people and groups who re-define Surrey's tainted image and working to reverse the influence of gangs in the city:

  • Facebook
    Artist Jude Hannah is a community advocate behind ReNewton Nation, which is working to revitalize the Newton area. She's a vocal supporter of redeveloping the old Surrey Public Market site. She argues that turning an "eyesore" into a positive community space — like a park or amphitheatre — gives young people a place to go, and discourages vandalism and crime.
  • Ranj Dhaliwal
    Ranj Dhaliwal
    Ranj Dhaliwal
    Growing up in Surrey, many of Ranj Dhaliwal's friends and acquaintances were caught up in drug and gang lifestyles, which claimed many lives in the South Asian community. In 2006, Dhaliwal wrote his first book, titled “Daaku,” on gang life in Surrey. In 2011, he published its sequel: “Daaku: The Gangster’s Life”. The books give insight into how youths get caught up in the money and glamour of the underworld. Dhaliwal organizes Sikh programs for young people, and gives lectures on organized crime in high schools and universities.
  • Clothes on Wheels
    Clothes on Wheels
    Clothes On Wheels
    The non-profit Clothes on Wheels is based in Surrey and transports donated clothing to areas that are convenient pick-up areas for low-income families. It co-ordinates clothing drives with Surrey public schools to offer "free stores" up to four times a year to equip kids with clothes they would need for each season. This year, the organization is expected to help distribute 120,000 articles of clothing to more than 20,000 children and adults in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Donations are stored at Surrey’s Hjorth Elementary School.
  • Volken Academy
    Volken Academy
    John Volken Academy
    In April 2015, United Furniture Warehouse owner, John Volken, opened a state-of-the-art $80-million addiction recovery centre in Surrey. The Volken Academy in Newton can accommodate up to 150 people. It focuses on education and recovery. There are two smaller Volken centres, located in Seattle and Phoenix.
  • Surrey RCMP School Sports Program
    Surrey RCMP School Sports Program
    Surrey RCMP
    The Surrey RCMP have pioneered community programs to help troubled kids. More than a decade old, the School Sports Program connects police officers with Grade 7 students across the city. As these 12-year-old kids enter high school, the program encourages them to engage in positive relationships with police. Once a week, "Team RCMP" goes to different schools to take on the students in whatever sport the kids wish to play. The Surrey RCMP also host an annual high school basketball tournament.
  • Mani Amar
    Mani Amar
    Mani Amar/Facebook
    Surrey filmmaker Mani Amar is aiming for social change through his movies. The semi-fictional "Footsteps Into Gangland" looked at young Indo-Canadians whose lives are ruined by gangs, violence, and abuse in their families. Criticized for portraying the South Asian community in a negative light, Amar told Surrey Now that he'll "say what needs to be said. I don’t sugarcoat."
  • Youth Intervention Program
    Youth Intervention Program
    Surrey RCMP
    The Surrey RCMP’s Youth Intervention Program targets at-risk youths to steer them away from crime. About 300 troubled young people get counselling and mentoring ever year. “These youths are just looking for a little guidance,” said youth counsellor Brian Aasebo in a news release. “The most rewarding part is seeing their behaviour change once they understand the real consequences that their actions have.”
  • Code Blue
    Code Blue
    Surrey RCMP
    Code Blue is a weekly drop-in fitness program that lets kids try some of the intense physical training it takes to become a police officer, by getting them do do sprints, push-ups and sit-ups. Officers often do the exercises with students and encourage them to challenge themselves. Like the School Sports Program, Code Blue wants to build positive relationships between youth and police in an effort to prevent them from getting involved in gangs or other forms of crime.

Do you know of others making a difference in Surrey, B.C.? Let us know!