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Strong neighbourhoods are Edmonton’s backbone

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  • Strong neighbourhoods are Edmonton’s backbone

    Edmonton’s 150th community league opened in July, a reminder that one of the great hallmarks of Edmonton is our unique community league system. In a time when digital communities seem to be gaining a higher profile, Edmontonians are still interested in getting to know their neighbours and thinking locally when it comes to their social and recreational activities. Community leagues transcend ethnic or age boundaries and the only membership criteria to join a league is that you live within the designated geographic area.

    Across the city, community halls are opening, playgrounds are being built, and celebrations such as Mill Woods Canada Day (an event hosted by a partnership of local community leagues, the Mill Woods Presidents Council) are happening because of like-minded volunteers. Community leagues continue to thrive because as a city we continue to need spaces for our programs and activities. Brookview Community League just opened a new community hall in June and judging by the massive crowd that attended the opening, it will be put to good use.

    Community leagues can be anything you want them to be. Each league functions autonomously and organizes activities that the neighbourhood wants to plan. This leads to a tremendous variety of activities that serve each community's unique set of needs. For example, in downtown Edmonton Oliver Community League is building a remarkable Community Garden.

    The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues is an umbrella organization that provides advice, support and coordination for the 150 leagues in the city. Every league is autonomous and free to direct their own activities and events. Leagues are organized into districts that elect representatives to sit on the EFCL board and give direction on behalf of the organization.

    Recently the EFCL has been attempting to move more information and services online in order to improve outreach and help provide more services to our membership. This year is the debut of our online membership sales feature. Visitors just have to enter their postal code and are connected through our league directory to their own league, and are given the opportunity to purchase a new membership. This convenience will help leagues reach out to even more prospective members city-wide—already in June, over 500 memberships were sold online. If visitors don’t have internet access, they can still purchase their membership from their leagues membership coordinator.

    With support from the City of Edmonton, the EFCL has expanded its capacity to take on new challenges such as reaching out to youth and new Canadians. We are raising the profile of community leagues around the city. This year for the first time we partnered with the *Servus Heritage Festival and hosted a booth to promote leagues and our upcoming membership campaign. Expect more opportunities like this in the future!
    On August 8th at Orange Hall, in conjunction with the City of Edmonton’s NextGen Committee, we hosted the “NextGen Community Challenge,” a wine and cheese mixer. This event had people from all over the city unite together to discuss ways the Next Generation (18-40 year olds) could better be engaged in community leagues, both through new communication and outreach methods, and through new programs, events, and activities. Everyone stayed far past their bed time.

    One of the key messages of the discussion was that leagues are a vessel for implementing new ideas and helping people create the city they want to live in. Leagues provide a physical space through their buildings; an established reputation through their history; they are recognized in the governance process with the city; and they are always looking to include new members.

    The participants in Orange Hall were looking for solutions and brainstorming how neighbourhood bonds could provide the answers. Community composters, car shares, sports tournaments and block parties were just some of the suggestions. The drive to bring people together is still as strong as ever; people just want to learn ‘how’.

    If you want to start a community garden, start by going to your local league meeting. Suggest it to the executive and membership; chances are there are others who will embrace your initiative and want to help. The unity between neighbours has accomplished remarkable things in our city’s history and judging by the brainstorming that lit up Orange Hall, the future is looking pretty bright.

    Tools and memberships available online www.efcl.org. You can also ‘become a fan’ of us on Facebook or follow us on twitter.com/efcl

    Upcoming Events:
    • Sept. 12th Fall Membership Kickoff Event – Formal kickoff event for our Fall Membership Campaign
    • 11 AM Saturday Sept. 12th, Clark Stadium
    • All leagues will be sending their best kicker and there will be a field goal contest.
    • Free BBQ, prizes, and Mayor Mandel will be doing the official membership drive kickoff.

    • Oct. 9th Community League Game Day at Commonwealth Stadium
    • Friday October 9th- Edmonton Eskimos vs. BC Lions
    • Community league members can purchase lower bowl seats online for $18 (half price!)
    • Great way to celebrate community in our city and do something fun!

    • Nov. 13th Annual Volunteer Recognition Gala
    • Friday November 13th, Kingsway Ramada Hotel
    • It’s an evening to thank volunteers and celebrate the accomplishments of the year. The gala is a fun evening and city council is invited to attend and join the festivities.

    Ways To Get Further Involved:
    1. Buy a community league membership:
    • www.efcl.org type your postal code into the “Community League directory”
    • Discounts available at leisure centers (20% off annual pass!)
    • Get the 'inside scoop' on your neighbourhood news
    • Meet your neighbors and participate in fun activities
    • Have your say when it comes to planning and development issues
    • Make your community vision a reality…

    2. Volunteer for your league and run for the Executive
    Community leagues are always looking for new volunteers with new ideas. Typically they have a 12 member board with different positions available.

    3. Get connected to your community and city:
    • "Become a Fan" of the “Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues” on Facebook


    4. Go to your league meeting and bring a friend:
    • Help direct your league to projects that you and your friends are interested in
    • Volunteer and help bring other young people into your neighbourhood
    • Everyone is welcome, renter or owner, young or old…

    5. Plan your own activity:
    • Hall bookings are often free for community league events
    • Assistance with block parties, community gardens, or other events
    • Connect with other volunteers and use available grant or lottery funding
    • What is missing in your neighbourhood?

    -- Michael Janz
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