Since 1921, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) has brought together change makers and innovators with the goal of building healthy, active and connected neighbourhoods. To mark the group’s centenary, all 162 community leagues have joined forces to create a lasting legacy; a tribute to community volunteers and Albertans taking care of Albertans.
A model community
When the city’s first community leagues were formed in 1917, citizens were not only seeking basic amenities for their neighbourhoods—such as sanitation and sidewalks—but also community-based activities like recreational hockey.
“Edmonton had recently gone through a devastating flood and the Spanish flu,” explains Nora Begoray, the EFCL’s business development officer. “In challenging times—not unlike today—people needed positivity; they came together to support each other.” Those early visionaries formed the EFCL in 1921 to be a unified steward of these grassroots organizations.
One of the EFCL’s first advocacy efforts is still one of its most significant. In 1922, the organization negotiated an agreement with the City of Edmonton to set aside parkland in each neighbourhood where citizens could gather and build amenities. The initiative resulted in Edmonton having a larger number of local play spaces than any other municipality in the province.
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“To this day, community leagues and the EFCL allow Edmontonians of all backgrounds to come together, discuss issues and plan events that matter to their community, their city and their country,” says Ryan Barber, EFCL president. It’s a great example of citizen-based engagement, and one that extends beyond city limits. Barber notes that Edmonton’s league system continues to influence other communities in Alberta and across Canada.
As a tangible example of its lauded unity—and to mark its 100th anniversary—the EFCL established the Community League Plaza in Hawrelak Park. Opened last fall, the gathering place boasts amenities to be enjoyed throughout the year: picnic areas, a lakeside boardwalk, bike racks, overhead heating for skaters and skiers, and a gas fireplace for warming up on chilly evenings. Life-size art installations and a giant wall map chart the history of Edmonton’s community league movement.
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“The map is one of the most talked about and impactful displays at the plaza,” Begoray says. “People really connect with it, as it showcases their neighbourhoods, where they live now and the community leagues that they grew up with.”
Now more than ever
The essence of the EFCL is to honour the importance of neigh-bourhood relationships. Even after many months of tragic loss and hardship in Canada and around the world, the organization continues to champion Edmonton’s legacy of caring about fellow citizens.
Though community leagues had to pivot during the pandemic—town hall meetings moved online, scavenger hunts took place in residential windows, fundraising was done by e-transfer—the sentiment remains the same. “Be a beacon of kindness and support in your neighbourhood,” Begoray says.
Whether it’s raking a lawn, looking after a neighbour’s pet, supporting your local preschool, weeding a community garden or shopping at locally owned retailers, every little bit helps. As Begoray adds, “Nurturing the spirit of collaboration and care will keep our communities safe, resilient and sustainable for centuries to come.” If you’re eager to get involved in our neighbourhood, visit efcl.org.