Upcoming neighbourhood events could help improve community involvement

Westwood residents hope that the recently received City of Edmonton revitalization grant will push the refresh button on their community league. Many of the more than 40 attendees met for the first time at a mingle that was part social event and part idea workshop in March.

A second social event is now planned for April 27 at Westwood Community League Hall.

“The area has seen big changes over the years,” says Kim Ellis, league president. A recent infrastructure grant funded a new roof for the league hall. But the biggest change will come through community involvement.

Residents agree.

Damien and Margaret Hawkswell have lived in the area for over 50 years, most recently in Westwood.

“We walk a lot and feel safe here,” Damien says.

Damien and Margaret Hawkswell live one block from the Westwood Community League Hall. They have lived in the area for more than 50 years, most recently in Westwood. | Constance Brissenden

He stands before large sheets of paper taped to the wall. They are criss-crossed with suggestions for the future of Westwood. Damien appreciates that neighbourhood sidewalks, curbs, and roads were recently renewed. Now he’d like residents to go one step further. “I’d like them to take a good look at their yards and back alleys and clean them up.”

Donna Goulard, a social worker, and husband Pablo Hernandez, an oil field worker, moved to the area last October from northern Alberta. They like the tree-lined streets and proximity to public transit. “Something told me that it would be a good neighbourhood,” Goulard recalls.

Since then, the couple hasn’t met many neighbours. They learned about the community league from a postcard inviting residents to sign up for the eNewsletter, then were invited to the event.

“Coming here and connecting helps break the isolation. It can be lonely to be new in the city,” Goulard observes. Learning about the community kitchens in the area was a plus. “I’d like to see if a group of us could approach a supermarket to buy healthy food in bulk.”  

Carmen Pinto and her young daughter moved to Westwood five years ago. Nearby daycare attracted her initially. This was her first community event. “We can learn from each other,” she says with a warm smile.

Carol McLeod and John Lang are Westwood residents and avid Alberta Avenue community gardeners. Lang, an area resident for over eight years, would like it if Westwood had a community garden.

McLeod has lived in Westwood for 21 years. For safety reasons, she would like local businesses to trim bushes and overhanging tree branches where people can hide.

Not all issues are easily solved. Like some local residents, Alexis Harrogate doesn’t email or text, finding it difficult to learn about community events as a result. The sign board outside the hall is broken and would cost thousands to fix. Infrastructure grants are heavy on paperwork, and take over a year to work through the City system.

Still, Ellis hopes for a positive snowball effect with the second mingle on April 27.

Even her daughter, teenager Lily, has caught the neighbourhood spirit. “A lot of my friends live around here. We meet up and hang out, ride our bikes and skateboard, and go to the parks. It’s a lot of fun,” she says.

Featured Image: Donna Goulard and husband Pablo Hernandez moved to Westwood last October. Meeting other local residents helps to lighten feelings of isolation. | Constance Brissenden