March is Community Association Awareness Month. This means that the HSCA and other Calgary CAs (there are over 150 in YYC) want you to know about all of the amazing opportunities to give back to your community association—and there are many ways; from volunteer positions, to donations, to membership, to attending events—but we would also like to take this opportunity to make you aware of the ways HSCA can give back to you.
Resident-Led Initiatives (in our spaces)
The Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association is known for both our Farmers’ Market and Flea Market, but did you know that these programs were initially started, led or developed by residents in the community?
And our drop-in Badminton group and art class program were also ideas that first developed outside of our regular programming. Chair yoga is another example. These arts and recreations ideas came from instructors who wanted to find a foothold for their businesses or share their gifts with the community and found such success in collaboration and a fit with our mission and values that we adopted them into our program offerings.
They all share a common thread of passionate volunteers and participants who pitched ideas for programs they wanted to see in the building, and they helped nurture and grow those in our spaces for the benefit of the community.
The Kensington Community First Garden, located beside the HSCA building, established in 2010, was also a project developed and implemented by residents with some facilitation from HSCA to secure grants and funding, as well as some ongoing stewardship of the garden plots when it was adopted into our Community Food Program.
Resident-Led Initiatives (outside of our spaces)
Community gardens are also a good example of resident-led initiatives.
The Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Garden, established in 1989, was founded by residents who wanted to provide a place for those with limited space to grow their own food and to meet neighbours who shared their passion.
The Community Planning Committee is another example of what HSCA can give back to residents. The committee is volunteer driven and plays a valuable role in providing advice, background information and community context, as well as expressing the concerns of the Community Association to the City of Calgary and to applicants, and advocating for development that fulfills the vision as described in the Area Redevelopment Plan.
HSCA’s Community Planning Coordinator, Lisa, has also taken on Community Engagement initiatives into her role and is available to assist with questions and applications for community grants to throw events such as block parties, or Neighbour Day events.
Outreach and Resources
During and after the 2013 flood in Calgary, mobilization of support efforts on a community level were implemented the quickest. Residents who were flood affected were not necessarily willing to speak to government officials but would open the door to speak to their neighbours.
Eventually, a Flood Task Force was created to assist with the overwhelming amount of information. This task force then evolved into the Emergency Planning and Response Committee of the HSCA board. Volunteers of the committee use their knowledge and expertise, in a similar way to Community Planning Committee volunteers, to advocate for residents, host open houses and informational sessions and push for progress. They also developed a Community Emergency Plan to help keep Hillhurst Sunnyside residents informed and safe.
The Community Connections program at HSCA assists residents either through direct support or by sharing information on available resources externally. Community Connections outreach programs include the Fresh Food Basket, and yearly Tax clinics, and also provides free and accessible opportunities for all residents to participate in social events or programs such as Drop-In ESL Club, Neighbour Night, Seniors Drop in groups (cards or knitting), and Community Potlucks.
Volunteer and Career Experience
Community associations and the community at large benefit greatly from the hard work and skills of volunteers, but there are also opportunities for volunteers to learn and develop new skills and knowledge through volunteering. And for student volunteers we can sometimes provide support through bursaries.
HSCA also hires practicum students and summer students to assist with their education programs and they in turn are provided with meaningful employment that can be applied to their school requirements.
Stories and Belonging
Some of the most compelling stories originate at the community level. Last year, Christie Page and the Garage Door Art Project in Sunnyside gained traction and attention in the news after receiving mention on HSCA channels. And who would have predicted that Painting Birdhouses, a project initiated by North Hill Centre to revitalize the Hearth Room would have gained that kind of steam? But it speaks to the strength of our local partnerships that we could reach out to Framed on Fifth for support on this and they came through in a big way.
Sense of Belonging is generated through these types of initiatives (and many of the above mentioned) as like-minded residents come together to share and explore their passions in the community. HSCA is honoured to provide these opportunities as we know that belonging is a human need, such as food or shelter, and is important for residents to see value in life and cope with intensely painful emotions.
Of course, all of the above are just a fraction of the ways that HSCA can give back to you. As the community of Hillhurst Sunnyside grows and changes the needs of our residents will too, and so these programs and committees may change. But what will not change are the core reasons for why we are interested in supporting our residents, that we wish to preserve and enhance a healthy and vibrant quality of life for Hillhurst Sunnyside and that includes providing opportunities for participation to build a sense of belonging.
Written by Jessica Clark, HSCA Communications Manager