Planting seeds to grow community

From left: Terri Schwarz, Gloria Anderson, Bob Anderson

Community building is important to Terri Schwarz. As a client of Calgary Housing in the community of Mount Pleasant in Calgary’s NW quadrant, Terri believed that more could be done to bring her neighbours and others in the surrounding community together. Since moving in, she noticed that she rarely exchanged conversations with her neighbours in the building or along the street and she believed that all that was required was an introduction to help break the ice.

Terri came to the Calgary Foundation seeking funding through the Stepping Stones granting program to create a gathering opportunity on her building’s green-space. A Stepping Stone grant is small and ranges from $100 to $600 to encourage active citizenship by helping residents undertake, small, creative projects that benefit the local community. Stepping Stones is generously supported by First Calgary Financial. Applications are accepted from individual organizers, neighbourhood groups and charitable organizations.

Terri was granted a Stepping Stones grant for her simple idea: build a community garden and host a “garden day” each spring. She kicked-off the project with help from her neighbours from across the street Gloria and Bob Anderson. “We beautified the gardens at the building, but the really major thing was bringing people together, and boy did that work! Some awesome people live here, people who will really pitch-in, people from all walks of life. People came from different parts of the neighbourhood who had nothing in common except love of gardening, and they got along like a house on fire—they had such a great time. People have become friends since our first garden day. Last year, after garden day, I heard people say hello to each other, and now I hear them greet each other by name—a big difference. It’s helped Calgary Housing staff too to see the humanity of the people who live here,” said Terri.

“A woman just moved here after huge life changes, including divorce and having to start kidney dialysis. She told me that she never thought she would live in a place with such beautiful gardens and such nice people—her smile makes me so happy. There is so much more positive energy here now, such pride in where we live.”

Stepping Stones supports projects that:

  • Encourage Calgarians to become more involved in their local neighbourhoods and communities
  • Build on participants' interests, concerns and talents
  • Welcome and involve a diversity of people and groups
  • Take people's ideas into action
  • Demonstrate and develop local leadership
  • Create new opportunities