April 2024

“Service club, an organization … that promotes fellowship amongst its members

 and is devoted to the principle of volunteer community service”  – Encyclopedia Britannica     

Volunteerism and fellowship in the community – what could be better than that?

We are fortunate to have a variety of service clubs in Strathcona County doing just that – connecting people in community by volunteering and fundraising for local organizations and international initiatives. 

I recently had a chance to meet with Karina, who is a member of the Rotaract Club of Strathcona County.  Rotaract is a service club for people ages 18-30 (though Karina assured me that folks over 30 who want to be involved are welcomed too!).  I was inspired to hear about this group of younger adults who are passionate about doing good in the world – and also about having fun along the way.    In 2023, they visited Belize to help build a playground they helped fundraise for, and they support local organizations with projects like hygiene item drives for the Saffron Centre and A Safe Place.  On July 7th, 2024, the are hosting a Beer Mile fundraiser – if drinking beer while running around a track sounds like fun to you, you won’t want to miss out!  

Rotaract is an arm of Rotary – the Rotary Club of Sherwood Park started in 1990 and has been going strong ever since.  They describe themselves as a diverse group of business and professional leaders who focus on leadership development, good citizenship, friendship, professional and international awareness.  Their fundraising and volunteerism activities touch a wide variety of initiatives, including community and international service, and service to youth; they have helped organizations like the Robin Hood Association, Linking Generations and the Art Society of Strathcona County.  They are proud to be a partner for Sherwood Park Against Hunger, a local event to pack meals for well deserved people in Edmonton as well as Northern Canadian and international communities – the next event is coming up on Saturday, April 20th, and is a family-friendly volunteer opportunity.  (I have volunteered at this event twice in the past – it was a wonderful opportunity to volunteer with my son, and have good discussions with him about how food insecurity affects people around the world).

ACT/UCT clubs interestingly started out as fraternal organizations for traveling salesmen – but they have grown from there.  The Sherwood Park ACT/UCT Club describes itself as “people helping people since 1973” – and they definitely have helped a lot of people with their volunteerism and the more than $500,000 they have raised for local organizations, such as the Be Brave Ranch, A Safe Place, and many others over the past 50 years. They are gearing up for two big events in May this year – their annual golf tournament on May 24th and the regional ACT/UCT convention they are helping to host on May 25th. 

The Sherwood Park Elks celebrated 60 years in Strathcona County in 2023  They are currently busy with their Gowns For Grads and Suits for Guys initiative, which ensures Grade 12 students who may be facing financial stress can get gowns, suits, etc, to celebrate their graduation in style (contact them to find out how you can donate dresses and suits to help out).  The Elks are big supporters of the Boys and Girls Club of Strathcona County and other youth initiatives.  

Strathcona County also has branches of:

  •  the Canadian Progress Club , who are a service club found only in Canada, with a  motto of  “It’s Great to Be a Canadian” – they are happy to support local organizations with their fundraising and volunteer efforts
  • the Knights of Columbus, a service club of the Catholic Church, with the local club based out of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish

Our Strathcona County service clubs band together for some of their fundraising efforts, like a BBQ tent at the Highland Gathering and the annual Oktoberfest gathering, and most contribute to annual scholarships for local students.

Join us at the Volunteer Fair on April 16th to learn more about Strathcona County’s amazing service clubs, and the many other volunteer opportunities that allow community members to get involved to make a difference!

March 2024

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the two most often heard words heard at Volunteer Strathcona are ‘volunteer’ and ‘community’ – in fact, you may have noticed that our new slogan is “Connecting Community & Volunteers”!

That’s because we believe volunteerism is all about growing community.   When we volunteer, we often spend time with others, who may be friends or people we have just met – and we also help build inclusiveness, get things done to benefit our community, and make our communities places we all want to live in.

Community Leagues are one of the best examples of volunteers growing community, because they are made up of people who care so much about their neighbours and neighbourhood that they passionately volunteer their time to organize events and activities that help people connect with one another.  

We are fortunate to have many Community Leagues growing community in Strathcona County!

I was happy to be invited to the February meeting of the Colchester Community League, to learn more about how volunteers support their events. The Colchester Community League has been around since 1968, with the Colchester Hall providing a community gathering place.   There is a committed group of community members who have been coming together for years to plan community events.  At the meeting I attended, they had several new attendees – and the Community League went out of their way to welcome them and let them know how they can become more involved in their community (without any pressure).  The don’t define community by geography and welcome folks from both inside and outside of the Colchester area – anyone who want to be involved is welcome, and many of their events are free or low cost so everyone can join in.  Their upcoming St. Patrick’s Day Family Event  (Sunday, March 17th from 11am-2pm) sounds like a lot of fun, with face painting, a treasure hunt, cookie decorating and more.

The Gilmore Park Community League in Sherwood Park has been growing community with social and recreational opportunities since 2011 – they were instrumental in building Gilmore Park (complete with a Little Little Library and garden boxes), and they have made their neighbourhood a place bustling with activities, including ‘Community Dates’ held throughout the month of February.  

In 2021, a group of neighbours revived the Sherwood Heights Community League of long ago.  In their own words:

The Community League is more than just a group of volunteers doing fun things; it’s a new beginning in a world where connection is so highly sought after, diversity is embraced, differences are accepted, and community is welcomed. The Community League hopes to enrich our neighborhood, as well as our lives. We thank all our volunteers for their hard work and determination; they are the glue that holds our community together.

I can’t imagine a better way to describe what Community Leagues do to grow community!

The Sherwood Heights Community League’s next big event is their Winter Carnival on March 23rd from 10:30-3pm – sounds like an event not to be missed, complete with horse drawn wagon rides!

Throughout Strathcona County,you can find groups of volunteers growing community through Community Leagues and Agricultural Societies.  

If there isn’t a Community League or Ag Society where you live, maybe you want to find other ways to start growing community in your neighbourhood?  Events like block parties are a great way to get to know your neighbours – and you don’t have to do it alone:

  • Strathcona County has developed resources to help you plan your neighbourhood block party
  • Strathcona County also offers Community Connection Grants to support block parties and small neighbourhood gatherings – the 2024 grant applications will be open from March 28th to May1st, so now is the perfect time to start planning
  • Volunteer Strathcona offers free equipment loans through our We Care We Share program (including lawn games!) and we can print out flyers, posters, etc. for you free of charge.  
  • Strathcona County Library has sports kits for loan as well – all you need is a library card

Whether you are throwing a block party, attending an event in your neighbourhood, getting involved with your Community League or doing something else that helps you connect with your neighbours – let us know!  Volunteer Strathcona would love to tell your story about volunteers growing community in your neighborhood!

February 2024

When we think of volunteers at community organizations, we tend to think of those who roll up their sleeves and pitch in on program delivery, events and fundraisers – like the folks who pack hampers at the Strathcona Food Bank, mentor youth through Big Brothers Big Sisters, show us to our seat at Festival Place, coach kids’ sports, keep the grounds clean at the Ravenwood Music Festival, play music for the residents at Sherwood Care, and drive to Camrose to work a casino – all essential volunteer roles!   But we tend to forget about the less visible forms of volunteering – including that Board Members are volunteers too.

What does being a volunteer Board Member involve?  That depends on the organization.  Some Boards are at the helm of the day to day operations of the organization (often referred to as ‘operational’ or ‘working’ Boards) – these are usually organizations with no paid staff, where Board members end up with double duty – trying to govern the organization but spending most of their time running it.  The Boards I have been on have had one or more paid staff in a leadership role, so the Board was mostly focused on governance – we kept our focus on overseeing that the organization’s Mission, Vision and Values were being followed, and determining the future direction of the organization.  Most Boards likely fall somewhere in between – some operational work, some governance, and a whole lot of volunteering!

No matter what kind of Board you are on, Board Members are volunteers, with the same fundamental duties: the duties of care, loyalty and obedience, which essentially mean you pay attention to what’s going on in the organization, prepare for and attend Board meetings, make decisions that are in the best interests of the organization at all times, and ensure the organization is following it’s mission, bylaws and applicable legislation.  You need to be enthusiastic about the organization’s mission, willing and able to commit to the role, and open to working collaboratively.   You want to be clear about what is governance and what is operations; if you are on a Board that does both, you need to ensure you know which hat you have on at any time – and work with the organization to recruit other volunteers to help with other volunteer tasks whenever possible, so that you and the rest of your Board can focus more of your time and energy on governance.  As a Board Member, I got to be a volunteer with a lot of influence over the direction of the organizations I served – a big responsibility, but it was also some of the most fulfilling volunteer work I’ve done.

  • Are you on a Board?   Whether you are new to Board membership or can’t remember when you haven’t been sitting on a Board, you undoubtedly have questions about how to strengthen your Board and better understand your role on it.  

Check out the next instalment in the FREE Across the Board workshops in Strathcona County  – “Governance and Operations – Building Pathways to Successful Volunteers”.  There are three dates/locations to choose from (February 15 from1-4pm in Josephburg, February 27 from 6-9pm in Sherwood Park, and March 9 from 9am to 12pm in Ardrossan) – you can choose whichever workshop fits your schedule. 

And you won’t want to miss the Bylaw Workshop on March 8th in Sherwood Park – I mean, who doesn’t love a chance to take a deep dive into bylaws?  Whether you are a bylaw geek like me, or wish you never had to look at them, there is no denying that bylaws are a key component of governance – and this workshop promises to make it easy for all of us to start work on revising bylaws to make sure they work for the culture of our organizations.

For more information on these workshops, and to register, visit here: link

  • Interested in joining a Board?  Contact me at Volunteer Strathcona – I’d be happy to answer your questions and let you know about organizations that are currently recruiting in Strathcona County. 
  • Is your community organization currently looking for Board members?  Let us know at Volunteer Strathcona and we’ll add you to our list so we can let folks in our community know what you are looking for.