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Alberta budget means changes to communities’ Green Shack program

EDMONTON – Summer in Edmonton could look a little different this year. Community leagues’ Green Shack program could be changing.

The program gives parents a break and offers kids a chance to get out and play in the warmer months and keeps them entertained with games, sports, crafts, music and drama. Green Shacks offer free, drop-in activities for children at local playgrounds. Children are supervised by leaders who have passed a security clearance and are trained in First Aid.

However, due to provincial cuts to a grant program, Green Shack likely won’t operate the same way it has in the past.

“It’s really fun! We like doing it because we just have to walk across the street and they play with us, they do crafts,” explains Julianne Vajsabel.

Julianne, Alexandra, Stefan, and Clarisse Vajsabel have always spent their summers at the Avonmore Community League’s Green Shack program across from their home.

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“Last summer when we went to go on holidays, they were crying because they were going to be missing some of the Green Shack,” adds mom Elise.

However, a $7.1 million cut in provincial funding to the Summer Temporary Employment Program means changes could be on the way for community leagues throughout the city. In the past, leagues have used the grant money to help hire Green Shack staff.

“There are three partners,” says Harry Oswin with the City of Edmonton.  “The province was a partner, the City of Edmonton is a partner, and the communities themselves. So it’s a combination of those three groups that have made the program run.”

Now, without the province, the City and community leagues will have to contribute more to make up the difference.

“The program will run,” Oswin says.

But, they’ll be making some sacrifices.

“We will be doing things like combining programs to make sure they run. The other thing we’re looking at is shortening the Green Shack program by two to five days.”

Some community leagues are also scrambling to find other sources of funding to ensure their residents don’t suffer.

The City is also looking for high school and university students to apply for 600 vacant staffing positions.

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Elise Vajsabel says she’ll try to get her kids to the program no matter what, but she’s worried other families won’t be able to. She says that means the families in the community will have fewer opportunities to get to know their neighbours.

“Here, people come from every corner of the neighbourhood and … and this is where we get to know each other,” says Vajsabel.

With files from Quinn Ohler