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Vital Signs Reports on the Quality of Life in ‘The Gas City’

Another year has gone by and the Community Foundation of Southeastern Alberta has reported on the quality of life in Medicine Hat and surrounding areas. The Vital Signs report and its findings were presented at the Medicine Vital Signs Lunch Event. At this year’s luncheon, Twitter played a central role in the conversation surrounding the report. The panel, made up of Medicine Hat’s social media gurus, helped lead the discussion and point out some interesting facts. The following are facts and figures from the report:

  • According to the lifestyle and recreation data, Medicine Hat spends less per capita on recreation than other municipalities in the area, which might help explain our high obesity rate of 24.2%. Medicine Hat also experiences a high rate of individuals over the age of 12 who identify themselves as smokers. These numbers are puzzling given that many clubs in Medicine Hat, like the Kinsman, offer free skating in the winter and free swimming in the summer. Across the city, you can find numerous parks, water parks and walking paths available to the public! KidsSport is another wonderful option to help keep children active, regardless of parental income. I will leave it to health professionals to explain why our community is so unhealthy overall!
  • Feel like you need a Mexican get-away to enjoy the sunshine? You may be surprised to find that Medicine Hat is among the sunniest places to live in Canada.We rank second for sunniest days, but also score in the top 5 for hottest summers, driest climate, and most days without rain! People have been known to shovel snow in t-shirts because the sun is blazing during the winter months.
  • Over the years, average income between men and women has differed greatly and this year is no exception; there is a $29,000 gap. Men are surpassing women in wages across the province, and often, even when women are doing the same jobs as men. This is something that has always bothered me.
  • Ending homelessness has been the focus of many organizations in Medicine Hat since 2009. In the first year, 270 individuals and 150 children were re-housed, or diverted away from homelessness. In the second year, 114 individuals and 40 children were lifted out of homelessness! The community members and organizations dedicated to this cause deserve an endless round of applause.

I could go on and on about the interesting facts and figures in this report! My blog would never end. Our city received no conclusive rating, but the Vital Signs report gets an A+ from me!

 

Amanda Liepert

Knowledge Exchange Coordinator (South Region)

Putting Research into Action in Hinton

On September 29, Volunteer Alberta, Mount Royal University, and the Alberta Rural Development Network were in Hinton presenting about ways nonprofits could take research about social enterprise, governance, and philanthropy and turn that research into action in their own organizations.

Sarah Burns wrote an article about the event, saying:

A non-profit researcher told a small group of Hinton’s non-profit organizations that just doing good work is not enough anymore.

Keith Seel, Dean of Foundational Learning at Bow Valley College and former Director of the Non-Profit Studies Institution at Mr. Royal University, laid out some realities at a Sept. 29 workshop titled So What.

“You need to demonstrate what outcomes you have had in the community you serve when you go looking for funding,” said Toby Rabinovitz, Program Manager for Volunteer Alberta, who worked with the local Volunteer and Information Centre to bring Seel and his presentation to Hinton.

“The government is being more selective about who they give money to and while you may think you are doing a good job, so does the other 10 organizations looking for the same pot of money.”

Read the full article here

Jenna Marynowski

Marketing and Communications Manager

There Are Penguins in Grande Prairie

Source: Antarctic Photo Library. United States Antarctic Program.

I recently took a quick trip to beautiful Grande Prairie, or “GP” as the locals say, to give the keynote address at the first Non-profit & Social Purpose Expo hosted and located at The Community Village.

The theme of the talk was The Power of Community. In the weeks leading up to the event, I spent my usual post-work walk home mulling over the approach I’d take. Would I talk about Martha Parker’s ideas around managers and directors of volunteers becoming “strategists in community engagement”? Or I would I speak about the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report and the common global values regarding volunteerism? Although both of those topics interest me (among others), the one idea that made the most sense to me was to talk about Emperor Penguins.

To be clear, I’ve never paid much notice to penguins, I have always considered them cute, quirky birds that dress well, but after seeing the movie March of the Penguins I had a new found respect for Aptenodytes forsteri. While reflecting on the movie I came to the conclusion that these penguins can teach us something about the power of community.

First, what are the similarities? Penguins and humans are both social animals, survive harsh winters and like to summer by the sea, are large and flightless, are mainly monogamous, and look good dressed up. How penguins endure, survive and thrive in their environment is where the lessons can be learned about the power of community. As a side note, when I refer to community I am talking specifically about a community of nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations that operate in the same community trying to improve said community. Without going into a lot of how penguins live (you can look it up on Wikipedia like I did) let’s just say Emperor penguins have chosen a tough path to survival and have chosen to band together during the toughest times.

So, what are the lessons the nonprofit/voluntary sector can learn from these birds:

1)      Survival depends on working together – Without each other, penguins would not be able to stay warm. Without other nonprofit organizations, no one would be able demonstrate their importance. It is a community of organizations that truly has the most impact.

2)      We are all trying to nurture something we care about – For penguins it is their eggs, and for organizations it is the cause, broader community, clients, volunteers, and employees we aim to nurture.

3)      Not everybody makes it– Despite our best efforts, sometimes environmental stresses and ever so slight missteps claim victims. No matter how difficult it is when a fellow organization fails or flounders, it is the larger community’s responsibility to show resolve and continue on to set the example of what is possible.

4)      It is worth the time, effort and energy it takes to work together as a community – In the end it’s about building a stronger community with more to offer and a brighter future, working together guarantees it.  Penguins hatch chicks, organizations get stronger networks working together to more effectively hatch positive community outcomes.

5)      When it feels cold and lonely that is the time to come together as a community – Penguins could chose to do it on their own rather than, literally, huddle together. Nonprofits should think the same way. When resources are low, and the future seems bleak, that is the exact time to look to your peers and find the opportunities to collaborate and find creative solution to common challenges.

There it is. Penguins demonstrate the power of community and, if nothing else, it is a strong image to remember. So, the next time you are feeling yourself out alone in the nonprofit world, think of the Emperor Penguins huddled together staying warm and surviving. It should at least inspire to reach out and connect to your nonprofit community.

 

Annand Ollivierre

Program Manager

Is that a Teddy Bear on a Harley?

The normal hubbub of Saturday traffic was interrupted by the sound of over 800 motorcycle enthusiasts riding through the streets of Medicine Hat. One would need to do a double take to identify the passengers of these bikes; giant teddy bears and other toys rode alongside these big-hearted bikers!

The Medicine Hat News Santa Claus Fund (SCF) believes EVERY child deserves to have a Merry Christmas, and 800 bikers donating their mound of toys is just the start! Food hampers are also given to families in need during the holiday season. SCF also partners with the Medicine Hat Ministerial Association and the St. Vincent de Paul Society throughout the year to provide aid for families, and individuals, in need. SCF, like Santa Claus, works all year long to help community members in need.

Like Santa Claus, SCF would not be able to deliver toys and hampers without the help of elves! Hundreds of volunteer bikers, and non-bikers alike, pulled together for this incredible event! If you weren’t on a bike, you were helping with food, registering volunteers, gathering toys, or selling raffle tickets! Events like this make me proud to be a part of an amazing and generous community.

Executive Director, Celina Symmonds, was touched by the community’s commitment to their families. As I stood and watched this event unfold, she handed out hug after hug to donors and volunteers – everyone’s heart grew a little bit bigger this weekend!

Even though the Toy Ride is over, there are still plenty of other opportunities to help out in the Medicine Hat community:

• Corona Auction
• Mountain of Wishes
• Countless business events through the city

SCF is always looking for gift wrappers, office volunteers, or to be Santa Claus himself and deliver toys to families. Please call 403-528-9900 to find out how you can help.

A special thanks needs to go out to the Biker Enthusiasts, SCF Board of Directors, students at Crescent Heights High School, and the many volunteers who helped this year!

Thanks for reading,

Amanda Leipert

Knowledge Exchange Coordinator (South Region)

Guest Blog: Thinking Differently about the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP)

When SCiP was first introduced to me it sounded like too much work to begin the process, and I felt like I didn’t have the time to take on another major task, so I put it out of my mind. Since becoming the Executive Director of Volunteer Lethbridge, I have opened my eyes to how great SCiP is and how simple the process of acquiring an intern can be. Here are some things for you to think about:

Shift Your Thinking: Is there a specific task that your organization would like done? Could you use help in completing this task? SCiP has hundreds of students lined to do that task for you. Sounds like a win-win doesn’t it? When you provide an opportunity to someone you are benefitting them, benefitting your organization and ultimately benefitting your community. That is the win-win-win experience that SCiP talks about!

Open Doors: Besides the tasks before you, are there new ideas you would like to bring to fruition? Consider the gifts that students have- I did! A student walked into my office and wanted to volunteer. I always ask, “what is it you would like to do?” He wanted to gain experience as a videographer.  This created a new opportunity for the organization, provided fresh experience for the intern and produced an end product to be proud of. Now I have a much better idea of how to engage more SCiP interns.

A second student was looking for graphic design experience. I showed him a project that I wanted to have redesigned. He had great enthusiasm for the project and he created a clean new look. One deliverable our organization added to his position description was for him to job shadow at a local print shop for a couple of hours. This experience was a major benefit for this intern, he was able to see the importance of the graphic work/design and how it reflected on the process at the printing stage.

Create a virtual opportunity. Students are busy people that must balance school, work, and possibly raising a family. Having a position that a student can work into their hectic schedule is a bonus. SCiP is a creative way for students to gain valuable experience while relieving the burden of student related expenses that come along with being a student. Communication through technology is key; ensure you provide them with what they need to succeed in the position.

Flexibility:  If your organization hires an intern and things aren’t turning out quite how you envisioned, take time to evaluate and adapt the deliverables with the intern and make the experience a constructive learning opportunity for you and the intern. Being adaptable cultivates the sense of significance of working in the nonprofit/voluntary sector as a valuable career choice. There are limitless opportunities, sometimes a shift is what brings about the positive experience.

SCiP has provided me with the resources of six talented students (so far). These students all had different areas of interest and various gifts and talents they wanted to share to gain experience. It was well worth the work. I have met students for whom I have created internship positions, when approached, to match their interests. Most important there is no limit to the number of interns your organization can hire. If you have a job that needs doing, there is a SCiP intern for that.

Expand your vision of what an intern can do for you. Not only are you building up the capacity of your organization but you are also expanding the range of experience for someone who may one day look back and say, “my SCiP experience provided me with the opportunity to reflect on my career choice. SCiP helped me discover what my strengths are and the direction that I wanted to take.”

SCiP engages students by providing tangible experiences that will enrich your organization, the student and the community.

 

Diana Sim

Volunteer Lethbridge

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