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What can you do when people say terrible things about something you love? That has been a challenge for Lucie Matich, who has lived happily in the Surrey community of Whalley for 50 years.

The retired special-needs teacher and her husband raised three children there. Five of her six grandchildren live in the community of 67,000 whose name often evokes images of drugs, crime and homelessness.

No one denies it. Area MLA Bruce Ralston, who moved to Whalley in 1990 from Vancouver, says there's a "core of poverty" in the area and problems that come with that.

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"It would be naive to suggest it doesn't exist," he says. "There are problems, but they are being tackled and are not insurmountable."

The affable Ms. Matich links the imagery to a "media frenzy" over the activities of a relatively small slice of the community. In the meantime, people have got on with their lives and had a lot of fun doing so in a neighbourhood they adore.

"We all had jobs, paid our taxes and were volunteers, took our children to games and participated in community life, and had a very good life," says Ms. Matich, 70. "There is something going on for families in Whalley just about every week of the summer. People are enthusiastically taking part in that kind of community life."

A Matich tour today, she says, would include the Central City Shopping Centre, which includes an iconic 26-storey skyscraper that's home to a satellite campus of Simon Fraser University.

She dislikes shopping centres in general, but loves the complex as an "electric" mix of students and members of the community, sometimes attending events in the central plaza out front. Next stop: a quick walk to neighboring Holland Park, which has about a kilometre of walking trails. "It's relaxing. You sit around the fountains. Even in the middle of the winter, if it's sunny, you'll see people eating lunch and parents with strollers," she says.

"It's a great community place to meet, for different activities."

The last stop would be at 108th Ave and King George, she says, where pioneer settler Arthur Whalley set up a service station around 1925, becoming the community namesake.

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Ms. Matich chuckles at one memory of the way in which the Whalley she loves connected with the Whalley of its less enviable image.

Once, she started setting up about 6:30 a.m. for an outdoor festival, and had to ask homeless people sleeping under the bushes to leave.

"The first couple of years they left, and after that they helped us, and then they came to the festival, and then they danced in front of the stage," she says.

That festival was held at the site of a brand-new $36-million public library that's the first big piece of a $3.1-billion wave of redevelopment. It will include a new cultural centre, city hall and business redevelopment that will help define a core for the municipality expected to surpass Vancouver in terms of population.

Ms. Matich welcomes the change. "People have lived for 30 years with these plans in mind," she says.

Ms. Matich is working on a history of Whalley for the library, collecting photos and accounts of the past from area residents.

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