Category Archives: Neighbourhoods

Celebrate your community’s super heroes

superheroSMNora Begoray, EFCL Marketing Director

April 7, 2019 – Sometimes as a society, we look for heroes. Mabel and Spiderman championing the cause of the Cancer Society, our Edmonton men walking in High Heels to shine a light on Domestic Violence for the YWCA, and we are so amazed by their efforts – they inspire us to move mountains.

When it comes to communities, we might think that we need heroes to help our communities be strong, but our heroes might live closer to you than you think!  Consider these wise words published recently by the Tamarack Institute.  The EFCL is supporting their Deepening Community Conference at Concordia University June 7-9.

They say:

“The heroic approach to community assumes that the community itself is somehow inadequate and in need of rescue. But the truth is, every community, no matter its state, has possibility. Every community member, no matter who, has something to offer. When we, as a community, discover our own super strengths we build a resiliency that stands up to some of our toughest challenges. It is possible to be our own superheroes.”

Our own local initiative here in Edmonton that is supported by Edmonton community leagues and the City of Edmonton – The Abundant Community Initiative – finds our superheroes in Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). Christie Nash from Tamarack describes this as

“…an approach to community building that asks the question ‘Where is the beauty?’ ABCD mobilizes community growth and social change, not by focusing on needs, but rather on assets – it is about empowering people to discover and utilize, the gifts that already exist within themselves and their community. It is about finding your superpowers.”

The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues is the support organization for the 157 independent community leagues in Edmonton that each have hundreds of volunteers. Local super heroes that each day, are honing their skills to govern and steward their neighbourhoods through building a playground for their local residents, or advocating for safer streets (40k speed limit initiative), building community gardens, creating fun programs to keep their kids and youth engaged, or their seniors active and fit – all while encouraging connection with families, residents and neighbours.

At EFCL, it is our mission to help our leagues in their important work as Local Heroes.

Do you know a local neighbourhood hero? If you would like to send your local superhero to this upcoming conference, check out  #nbrhdhero contest details  and nominate them by May 1.


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League worth saving

By BARB MARTOWSKI, EFCL Communications Director

March 23, 2016 – Sometimes you just need a little help from your friends, or in this case, your fellow leagues.

On Saturday, March 12, roughly 30 volunteers from the EFCL and various community leagues descended on the community of Londonderry in Edmonton’s northeastern corner to do a door-to-door membership sales blitz in an effort to save the community league. Or to at least help jump-start it again.

The volunteers came from community leagues across the city, including McLeod, Steele Heights, Northmount, Oak Hills, Evansdale, Fulton Place, Aspen Gardens, Glenwood, Grandview Heights, Highlands, Parkallen, Woodvale, Ritchie, Downtown Edmonton and Strathcona Centre. The mission was simple – sell memberships and rally the community into attending a meeting to hopefully create a new board that could once again bring the neighbourhood together through a shared purpose of building a better community for all.

Volunteers getting ready_websize

Volunteers showed up at Londonderry Hall early to grab a coffee and a identifying pinne before heading out the door.

At day’s end, roughly 89 memberships were sold in the blitz – more than enough to cover the 25 needed to hold a general meeting. Several others were purchased online and thanks to media coverage (both social and traditional), interest is continuing to build with Londonderry residents reaching out to the EFCL – all wanting to know how they can get involved.

Long before March 12

The story of Londonderry isn’t just about this one day – it came to the attention of the EFCL in early 2015, but the circumstances that brought Londonderry community league to its present position had been going on for some time. Londonderry Hall is the largest community league hall in the city, which means it also has the largest operating costs, and takes the most effort to run. The league simply found itself in a position of no longer being able to pay its bills, let alone run community programs. Both the city and the EFCL stepped in to help cover costs, and in May 2015, the EFCL took over the management of the hall.

Working together, both the city and the EFCL worked hard over the last 12 months to raise awareness in the community of the situation and that the neighbourhood stood to lose its hall. Open houses were held, information mailed out to all residents, but nothing seemed to work … until the door-to-door blitz which was to be the last ditch effort of the EFCL.

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L-R Volunteers Bev Zubot (Parkallen CL), Habib Fatmi (Woodvale CL) and Joanne Booth (Strathcona Centre CL) are ready to go door-to-door in Londonderry Mar.12.

The previous lack of response had several of the organizers and volunteers worried about whether or not it would work, but when volunteers started coming back to the hall with their six or seven sales, optimism started growing. There was and is genuine hope for the revival of the Londonderry community league. Conversations at the door gave great insight into the importance of staying engaged – whether it’s the league with the community or the community with the league.

Many of the residents wondered about the hall, some were curious about what happened to their league. Others didn’t even know there was a league and some freely admitted they bought family memberships in neighbouring communities because there was nothing happening in Londonderry.

Many were seniors who had been in the neighbourhood for more than 40 years, and had been on the board while they were raising their families. It didn’t stop them from buying a membership in support but they did hope that younger folks would take over and not let it die.

And that’s what was important to the volunteers – that people not only purchased a membership, but were willing to get involved, to volunteer and sit on the board.

Leagues run on community-minded volunteers

So how did Londonderry get to this stage and what’s to prevent other long-standing community leagues from following its path?

The answer can probably be traced to one major thing – leaving too much in the hands of too few.

Rob Agostinis_websize

Dr. Rob Agostinis from Oak Hills CL in southwest Edmonton was just one of the many volunteers to go door-to-door during the Londonderry Membership Blitz on March 12.

Community leagues are about building strong, inclusive communities through programming and events, infrastructure development and civic engagement. They strive to provide the space and opportunity for neighbours to get to know each other, have fun and ultimately – support each other which strengthens the entire community. And who are they? They are community-minded volunteers and they’ve been doing this since 1917.

Like many non-profit boards and without intention, it can come down to the same few doing everything. They get tired out, but struggle to keep things afloat and that’s where things deteriorate and it becomes a vicious circle: no volunteers – no programs – no programs – no participation – no participation – no volunteers.

It’s not like this hasn’t happened to a league before. In 1980, Jasper Park sent out a special newsletter with the heading, “Jasper Park Community League, Died 1980” and went on to outline the consequences to the community if it closed its doors. In 1946, 100 kids rallied and marched through the Ritchie community carrying placards and demanding that the adults get back into the business of building a strong community by volunteering on the board. These are just a few of the more colourful ways leagues have been saved, but the reason was/is still the same – volunteer burnout.

Annual general meetings are right around the corner

Today there are 157 community leagues in Edmonton, and April, May and June are the prime general meeting months – the months when some board members will be stepping down and hopefully new members will take their place.

Every one of these leagues will be putting the call out to their members and the community at large, asking for people to get involved with the league. They’re looking for board members and also general volunteers – volunteers who might like to lead a program, join a committee or help out at an event.

… maybe my neighbourhood needs something from me.”

And they are hoping for a full house of community league members on AGM night, so they can share with their members, news on the work they have been doing for the past year on behalf of the community.

Don’t let your community league reach the point that Londonderry found itself in.

If you have enjoyed even one the benefits that your community league has created, whether it’s attending the community BBQ or pub night, or your child is playing a community sport, take a page from Londonderry resident, Zekaryas Woldemariam who bought a membership on the 12th, and who so eloquently said it in his interview with the Edmonton Sun, “I want to participate with my neighbourhood … maybe my neighbourhood needs something from me.”

Volunteers - websize

A few of the volunteers who came out in support of Londonderry Community League. All of these volunteers came from other leagues across the city and they believe in the value of strong community leagues and what they can accomplish for their communities.

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Resilience Festival great opportunity for two young volunteers

(L-R) Volunteers from The Meadows Community League, Iman and Kassidey, were thrilled to meet Edmonton mayor, Don  Iveson.

(L-R) Volunteers from The Meadows Community League, Iman and Kassidey, were thrilled to meet Edmonton mayor, Don Iveson.


By NORA BEGORAY, EFCL Marketing Director

February 10, 2015 – The EFCL was proud to be a part of Edmonton’s first Resilience Festival, which was held Feb. 8 and 9 at the Boyle Street Community League Hall. The EFCL and community leagues are passionate about supporting local opportunities for people to get together to develop relationships that make our neighbourhoods stronger, more sustainable and more resilient.

The event was organized by The Local Good. There were all kinds of relationship building opportunities, exchanging information about sustainable environments, protecting our provincial headwaters, sharing yard space for gardens and understanding what goes into making communities resilient.

The festival was a delightful mix of interesting things to learn, but it also had a great deal of local artwork to see,  handmade crafts we could buy and some wonderful free samples. Our team particularly enjoyed the Chocolate and Cherry jam made from Fruits of Sherbrooke, a not-for-profit group that rescues backyard fruit and ensures it is not wasted.

Another reason this festival was such a pleasure to participate in, were my two young volunteers from The Meadows Community League, Iman and Kassidy. They were a delight to work with.

Volunteering with Community Leagues is a great way for youth to gain valuable life skills in a super supportive setting.  Even helping to round up and organize kids for an activity can provide beginning skills in event planning, teaching, social or recreational work.  Being connected with community organizers will provide opportunities to model cooperative decision making and bring awareness to what can be achieved when people, maybe with very diverse interests work together for the benefit of all.

Iman and Kassidy had an interest to “make their weekends more productive” and work on their social skills.  Iman is in the leadership program at her junior high school, and typically shy, she was amazed to realize how receptive and kind people are to a simple smile and a, “ Hi, how are you today?”

Iman and Cassidy are great ambassadors for encouraging friendly, active and engaged neighbourhoods.

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Great neighbourhoods are more than infill housing

We must maintain a voice in any discussions regarding bylaws and redevelopment

By BEV ZUBOT, EFCL Planning Advisor

“Buildings alone do not create great neighbourhoods,” said Ms. Vespi of Queen Alexandra community. This was a common theme expressed by several community people speaking to Council regarding the Infill Roadmap meeting, August 19.

Community people and housing developers acknowledged that infill housing could be key to bringing more people and life to established neighourhoods. There is no doubt that infill housing has the potential to bring more children to populate schools, more people to support local businesses, use local services and recreation facilities, and bring more volunteers to support the work of community leagues.

Nevertheless, just making it easier to do infill housing will not lead to quality neighbourhoods.

Attracted to what’s already established

“Many people are attracted to mature neighbourhoods by the mature trees and landscaping,” said Ritchie resident, Cathy Mowat. For aesthetic and environmental reasons, more needs to be done to preserve the mature trees on private property that is being redeveloped.

Dr. Summers from the Westmount community, and head of the new urban planning program at U of A, suggested revamping the low density zones while ensuring historic residential areas are preserved.

The EFCL’s position which was presented at the meeting by myself, pointed out the importance of maintaining and enhancing public amenities such as schools, recreation facilities, and aesthetic, pedestrian friendly streets. Private redevelopments should be focused on properties which presently have a negative influence on the neighbourhoods, properties such as derelict housing, vacant lots, dying shopping areas and contaminated gas station sites. Ideally, the redevelopments would be neighbourhood driven. Where there is a slow uptake from private developers, a non-profit redevelopment agency could undertake the development work.

Architect Darell Babuk presented some of his experiences with successful non-profit development corporations in the Chicago area. “Neighbourhood development corporations go about their goals in a myriad of ways, yet all share a common passion to bring and guide development in their neighbourhoods by providing useful services to attract the sort of development they find beneficial. In the end it is a win-win situation.”

Change our way of looking at things

Catholic School Board Trustee Acheson said he realizes that the school board needs to keep some of the small schools in mature neighbourhoods open while the neighbourhoods are in transition. “We, as a school board, have to look at what we mean by a small school. Elsewhere in Alberta, a school of 190 students is not a small school. In mature neighbourhoods, schools with 190 students is not a sign that there are too few students, but rather the buildings are too large.”

Both Trustee Acheson and Public School Trustee Chubb agreed that the key to maintaining schools in established neighbourhoods is provincial support.

Queen Alexandra community volunteer, Ms. Vespi, explained the importance of redeveloping safe and aesthetic pedestrian, bike and transit friendly streets in order to create physical and social connections between neighbours. She is one of several volunteers working with their league on the QA Crossroads project. They have engaged the neighbours in developing a new vision for the high traffic streets of 76 Avenue and 106 Street. They want their joint vision brought to life during the city’s rebuilding of the streets in their community. Her group believes that it would not only strengthen the livability and connectedness of the neighbourhood, it would also attract quality infill housing.

Benefits of a compact city

Dr. Jones, Acting Director of the City-Region Studies Centre, encouraged the city to continue to listen to citizens. By continuing this type of engagement, he believes people will have a chance to figure out for themselves the benefits of a more compact city, and enable them to envision how they would accomplish this in their own neighborhoods. By encouraging positive conversation, city residents and city administration can begin to work together to create great neighbourhoods for everyone. In the end, that’s what we are all striving for.

Folks, the conversations have just begun, so let’s make sure we are all a part of it.

The Infill Roadmap accepted by Council on August 19 focused on improving communications and changing regulations and processes to make it easier to build infill housing. The challenge for all of us is to ensure that the bylaw changes and future redevelopments foster all the elements of a great neighbourhood.

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