Community connection: How neighbours are supporting each other while social distancing

Community halls across the city may be closed, but many leagues are still active as they mobilize to support people in their neighborhoods.

From virtual yoga classes to errands, people are stepping up to help during pandemic

The Ritchie Community League is closed until further notice, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Supplied by Cecilia Oteiza Ayres)

Halls across the city may be closed, but many community leagues are still active as they mobilize to support people in their neighbourhoods. 

As per public health measures, gatherings of 50 or more people are not allowed in Alberta, so community leagues are finding alternate ways to connect, like putting shamrocks in windows for kids to hunt down on St. Patrick's Day. 

"We are back at home and feeling lonely ... like we're the only ones going through this, and it's not the case," says Cecilia Oteiza Ayres, president of the Ritchie community league.  

"I feel like neighbours should be there in the good times to have a backyard barbecue, but also in the tougher times when we need help."

Many community leagues are publicizing where members can access support from the government or elsewhere. They also started sharing resources about how to keep kids entertained during class cancellations.

The Westmount community league has created the Coronavirus Coping Initiative.

They're asking residents over the age of 65 or who have compromised immune systems to fill out an online form, which will allow them to receive help with errands from young and healthy neighbours. 

And Horse Hill community league in northeast Edmonton is promoting a free online soccer training session from a soccer academy. 

'Love our neighbour'

Community leagues typically connect with local schools, businesses and places of faith, and that hasn't changed. 

Pastor James Lavoy of Rio Terrace Community Moravian Church says they are working with their local community league to use the church space in creative ways while services are suspended. 

One of the ideas is virtual yoga classes. 

"The church has a long relationship with the neighborhood," Lavoy says. "We've been part of the community since the neighborhood was built in the '60s.

"We just have a strong passion to love our neighbour. That's our job as people of faith. And so we want to do that in tangible ways so that people can feel loved and appreciated and valued, even as we have to spend time apart from one another."

With many community leagues expected to lose income because of the pandemic, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues is working on a plan to support them.

"Loss of rental revenue is going to be really huge for leagues and program revenue, so we're really going to have to look at this in the next few days as to what support we can put in place," says executive director Laura Cunningham-Shpeley. 

A list of cancellations and closures across the city is available through this resource

With files from Madeleine Cummings