Sexsmith: All ages and all stages

“We try to offer things that are enticing to different people at different stages in life.” That is the lofty goal of the very down-to-earth Wellness Coordinator in the Town of Sexsmith. Melody Sample took on her role in the summer of 2015 and set out to build programs that span different ages.

Melody came to the job with a certification as an RHN (Registered Holistic Nutritionist) from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, so while she promised her employer that she would keep up with the recreation side of the job, she also brought a special interest in food and healthy eating. In 2017, she helped get a Seniors Community Kitchen up and running. 

If you are a senior, you are in the minority in Sexsmith.  The town has a population of just under 2500 and fewer than 5 percent are over 65. “When you are cooking for one or maybe two,” Melody points out, “it is really easy to pop open a can of soup and have a piece of toast.” There is a Meals on Wheels program 20 kilometers south in Grande Prairie but it doesn’t deliver to Sexsmith. So bringing together a group of seniors to cook with, and for, each other was a no-brainer for Melody.

The Community Center came on board with its kitchen, approved for safe, clean food preparation by Alberta Health Services. Now, twice a month, seniors gather there to cook, visit, chat, and take home a couple of prepared meals for use themselves or for discreet delivery to others.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Melody heard about a lack of play opportunities for toddlers.  According to the last census, there are twice as many kids under four in Sexsmith than there are seniors. Melody reached out to the “Babies Best Start” program in Grande Prairie.  It is funded by Health Canada and is for any pregnant woman or mother with a child under the age of six. The Peace River Bible Institute offered the use of its brand new gym and in November, little ones and their parents started gathering for activities. It lasted right through the isolation of the winter months in northern Alberta.

For some winter in Sexsmith is to be embraced, so when the members of the town’s  Walk/Run club found their Sunday strolls curtailed by the weather, Melody stepped in to add other activities such as yoga to the weekly gathering. As the snow came down, she approached Henry Mitton at Sexsmith Secondary.  He teaches Math and Outdoor Education and he volunteered to lead cross-country ski excursions. The school even offered up rent-free gear.

Older children were not forgotten. Graffiti that used to appear on local grain bins and town buildings now appears on big boards put up at the local skate park. Every now and then, the town paints the boards white. They don’t stay that way for long.

Asked about the future, Melody states emphatically that it will involve, “Doing the same thing that we are doing now, just more.” Asked about the present, she says, “I think Sexsmith is a really fabulous community.  It’s a great community full of really great people and the volunteer spirit is definitely alive.”