Lethbridge connects recreation, culture and social services to support their communities

During the early pandemic, we created a framework that brought together as many social service agencies as possible to share information on their services, changes brought on by the pandemic, their needs, and to find collaborations and partnerships. While many of the services were under the subject areas one would expect – Mental Health, Addiction, Parenting, and Food – we added in Activities.

This was a great way for all social service providers to find out what was open, what was closed, how to access certain activities, and creative, free, and safe activities that they could recommend to their clientele to do.

This initiative brought about significant new collaborations. For example, information about activities was provided by service providers to the food banks and was then sent to homes in the community through the hampers. Some service providers even provided “things” like sidewalk chalk or books. One of the local school division provided seeds and ingredients so that families could have the opportunity to grow their own food or bake/cook together virtually.

This true merging of recreation, culture, and social services at a time when the community was feeling “stuck” at home reached community members of all ages – from young children to seniors, from those living in group homes to those living on the streets. Groups like Lethbridge Plays and the Play Charter came together to offer pop up activities in parks and let those uncomfortable with staying, take activity kits home.

This work was recognized by the Tamarack Institute nationally, and by the World Health Organization and the United Nations on World Cities Day. The true collaboration offered the most fully connected recreation and parks merger with all community members, especially those who are often underrepresented.

The 50+ organizations involved have chosen to make this a long-term framework and to continue to work together to find collaborations and ways to communicate to community, but also communicate to each other as they identify needs that may otherwise have been overlooked. This will bring together the most community voices and the most agencies and organizations working together to work towards eliminating barriers and gaps and sharing the importance of recreation and parks to everyone.