When Alberta Avenue Community League holds an Annual General Meeting (AGM), several dozen people attend. Its programs consistently attract volunteers and members.
That and the league’s location are a blessing, said Brendan Van Alstine, league president.
“One of the things that perhaps makes our league unique is the level of engagement we have,” he said. “Our hall is generally busy year-round, so even if events aren’t league-run, a lot of people are likely familiar with us because they’ve been to an event like Kaleido or Deep Freeze or the Tibetan Bazaar.”
Flash back to 1912. What is now Alberta Avenue was an area along 118 Avenue in North Edmonton Village. Growth was ramping up, with factories and meat packing, and in 1912 the village amalgamated with Edmonton. As with other outlying districts, Alberta Avenue residents needed a voice with city fathers for recreation facilities and civic improvements. They were aware of the community league initiative and promptly jumped on board. The Alberta Avenue Community League (AACL) was inaugurated in 1922—the same year as Rossdale, —Ritchie and Oliver—making it one of the earliest leagues in Edmonton.
The early working class and immigrant population lent Alberta Avenue a diverse and energetic character. That holds true to this day.
Board members are committed, which speaks to the spirit of the people living in the community, said Nicola Dakers, league secretary.
“The board has a good cross section of ages and experiences, so there is healthy debate and a range of perspectives when dealing with issues,” Dakers said. “We see the beauty in the old houses and grand trees, and we choose to be optimistic and strive for the best despite the challenges we face.”
By the end of the 1970s, Alberta Avenue was falling on rough times. The community hall, built in 1931 at 93 Street, no longer filled the bill, and the league spearheaded a move for a new facility. With funds secured from government and private donations, the new community hall was opened in February of 1982. Jack Hodson, a league member, was honoured and Hodson Hall in the community centre still bears his name.
Today, AACL is building on city-wide efforts such as Abundant Communities and has resources for block parties and community events. The community garden has been growing, with the addition of a pergola and more plots this past summer. League memberships also come with free visits to outdoor city pools and Sunday access to the Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre.
“Some of the more popular things … are supporting block parties, the urban pole walking group, the Spark! Youth Camp and the community garden,” said Van Alstine.
The board is also considering adult education and computer literacy programs, while maintaining its regular hall rentals and event hosting.
Though there are challenges, such as the recent economic downturn, the city’s 118 Avenue revitalization and the growing ethnic and cultural diversity bring advantages.
“We are constantly growing and adapting, and we hope that we can make the right connections so that we can do a better job representing the diversity of our community,” said Dakers.
Van Alstine agrees.
“We’re always trying to keep an eye on what interests there are in the community,” Van Alstine said.
Alberta Avenue Community League
9210 118 Avenue