Ritchie Community League launches hyper-local subscription service

The Ritchie Community League is looking to offset the financial impact of the pandemic with a new approach to being part of the neighbourhood — a subscription service.

League hopes to support local businesses and encourage community engagement

Restrictions on large gatherings mean the Ritchie Community League has been unable to rent its hall, one of its biggest sources of revenue. (Submitted by Ritchie Community League)

The Ritchie Community League is looking to offset the financial impact of the pandemic with a new approach to being part of the south Edmonton neighbourhood — a subscription service.

The year-long initiative launched Monday with six tiers, all named after trees. The Poplar tier — the cheapest at $7 a month — gets you a community league membership and discount card for local businesses, some clothing swag and a thank-you package, including an enamel pin and some stickers.

Community engagement director Seghan MacDonald said COVID-19 has had a major impact on community leagues, businesses and residents. 

"This is a new and hopefully unique way of allowing us to raise revenue, but also kind of fostering some community engagement, encouraging community members to shop local and support the local businesses," MacDonald said in an interview for CBC's Radio Active.

"Because I think everybody's really feeling the pinch with COVID."

Hall rentals, the league's largest source of revenue, have been put on hold due to gathering restrictions. The hall is also aging and funding is needed for repairs and upgrades.

"We also aren't really able to provide the usual events and programming that we normally do," MacDonald said. "But the needs of our community really haven't disappeared and, if anything, they've increased."

MacDonald said the league has had to get creative with its programming to avoid typical mass gathering events. This January it launched a mental health movement initiative to encourage physical activity and has been doing work with the new temporary homeless shelter.

One of the league's long-term goals is to renovate its aging hall or build a new one in its place. (Submitted by Ritchie Community League)

Perks from "The Crew" subscription initiative will stack up the higher you go. The top tier — Crabapple, at $200 a month — includes everything from the previous memberships. Mugs, event admissions, a beer of the month, local coffee tasting, a chef's table experience are just some of the added incentives aimed to get people to sign up.

The Crabapple tier also includes a free hall rental. MacDonald said the league hopes that with the summer bringing warmer weather and the COVID-19 vaccine, more people will be able to take advantage of the building as well as future community tours.

"We're going to have to get creative and if things really don't work out in 2021, we will just supplement them with some other ideas," MacDonald said.

Subscriptions are not limited to residents of the neighbourhood and can be cancelled at any time.

"This is a learning process for us," MacDonald said. "And obviously, as people learned in 2020, things change really quickly so nobody is locked in."