Lack of volunteers forcing Edmonton community league to fold

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WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton community league is on the brink of being dissolved because of a lack of volunteers. Sarah Kraus reports – Mar 14, 2016

For the first time, one of Edmonton’s community leagues is on the brink of being dissolved, thanks to a lack of volunteers and membership.

Londonderry Community League’s skating rink hasn’t been flooded in years and the soccer fields have sat empty for even longer.

Without volunteers to run events and sell memberships, the community ran out of money.

“Things came to a head last spring when they couldn’t afford to run their building any longer,” explained Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues’ Executive Director Allan Bolstad.

The city and federation got together to step in and save the day, but that was never intended to be a long-term solution.

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“We need basically a new group that’s willing to step up to the plate and do whatever their residents would like to see them do,” said Bolstad. “We want to see if there’s some life in the community league to bring people back together and start doing some programs in the area, whether it’s soccer for kids or card nights.”

To date, the federation has spent more than $25,000 on utilities and other bills. They say it’s a cost they can’t continue to absorb after June 30.

“Of the 126 halls we’ve got, this is the biggest. It seats 375,” explained Bolstad. “But now on the flip side it’s a big building to operate in terms of utilities, insurance and fixing it up from time to time.”

The city is already looking for a tenant to take over the building long-term, likely a non-profit group.

Resident Devon Shepherd was shocked to hear his community was in such dire straits.

“I think it has a lot of value. I think it brings a community together, getting to meet new people and all that,” he said. “There are kids who play sports here. That’s going to suck for them and their families.”

The federation said this is an anomaly. Other leagues, like Ritchie on the south side, are thriving. They offer numerous affordable activities to residents.

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“Like yoga, adult fitness programs, we’ve started a paint night that we’re subsidizing as well,” said Ritchie president Laura Cunningham-Shpeley.

“We have a skating rink that really caters to families with young kids. There’s lots of stuff always going on.”

She said it would be sad to see another community league shut down.

“It brings people together in a geographical area. We have similar interests, similar concerns for our community. I want to see my kids grow up knowing their neighbours.”

Last weekend, volunteers from other communities went door-to-door in Londonderry, trying to raise awareness about the league’s plight and sell memberships.

“We sold 70 memberships on Saturday and certainly a lot of people at the doors were interested in seeing something happening in the neighbourhood again,” said Bolstad. “The interest is there, it’s just a matter of getting some leadership in place to pull it all together.”

Six people in the community have since raised their hand and said they would be interested in volunteering, including former special events chair, Angie Ewanchuk.

She volunteered a few years ago and refuses to stand by and let her community lose what she believes is a valuable resource.

“It makes me feel extremely sad and actually depressed because it’s a wonderful community league, it’s a wonderful hall. There’s so many activities that could be happening. There’s so many new families moving into the area.”

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Ewanchuk plans to attend a general meeting to see how she could donate her time and is trying to get others on board as well.

She thinks the community needs more programming directed at children and families.

If you’re interested in volunteering, you’re encouraged to call the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.

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