2018 Faces of Community

We launched the Faces of Community in 2017 as part of our March Community Association Awareness campaign, to highlight the many different faces of community volunteers making a difference in our city’s communities. We often hear that Calgarians don’t realize that their community association is run by volunteers from the community, and so Faces of Community helps tell the story of just some of the more than 20,000 community volunteers in Calgary who are donating their time each and every day to help improve neighbourhood life in Calgary. Nominated by their peers, the twelve 2018 Faces of Community come from community organizations across the city, and all have different and inspiring stories of how they got involved, what they’re proud of, and what motivates them to stay involved. Learn all about them below!

Photos by Kelly Hofer Photography
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Meet the 2018 Faces of Community:

Ali McMillan
Planning Director
Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association
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Ali got involved with the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association three years ago when she moved to Calgary and wanted a way to meet her neighbours and learn more about where she lives. In her role as the Planning Director, Ali gives hours of her time leading the association’s planning committee, learning about and commenting on planning matters that affect the community, and building relationships with local stakeholders. She has also championed a number of community engagement projects like the 4 Avenue Flyover re-imagination and the Passegiata event – an Italian tradition of a slow stroll through the streets. She was extremely proud and happy to see the community come together with one another on both projects. When asked what she would say to someone thinking about getting involved with their community she says, “Be the change you want to see in your community. Every action makes a different in the lives around you.”
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Click here to watch Ali share more of her story.
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Annette Fung
Director
Chinatown Community Association
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Annette has been a Director with the Chinatown Community Association since it was formed in 2016 to provide a voice for residents and protect and preserve the community as an enclave of Calgary’s Chinese culture and history. Additionally, she has been a fixture in Calgary’s Chinatown since she immigrated here from Hong Kong over 50 years ago, as a resident, business owner, and volunteer. She is dedicated to protecting the culture and preserving the rich heritage through both physical improvements and community cultural events like street festivals, night markets, seasonal celebrations, and much more. Annette says it’s important for people to volunteer in their community because community is both about and for the people – its people that make a community – and that is only achieved through getting involved. “Do it! Go for it! It’s the best way to both give to and receive from your community.”
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Click here to watch Annette share more of her story.
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  Bob Lang
President
Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association
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Bob has been an integral part of the Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association for over 35 years. He first got involved because of a proposed development that had immediate impact on him. Through that he learned that the community association was a great way to accomplish many things in the community. He says he has remained involved for so many years because he is still able to contribute to the vitality of the community, enjoys it, and is very proud of where he lives. He says that as devastating as the 2013 floods were in the community, in a way it also brought out our best side. The community rallied together and that spirit has lived on and grown. Bob has played a key role in many exciting initiatives not only in his community but also throughout Calgary. One of the most notable being founding the popular Lilac Festival as a way to showcase and bring awareness to one of the city’s oldest communities. When asked why he thinks it’s important to volunteer in their community Bob says, “You accomplish so much more working together rather than trying to do things alone. Community associations provide a vehicle for many great things that you can be part of!”
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Click here to watch Bob share more of his story.
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  Sabina Isgandarova
Executive Director
Alberta Azerbaijani Cultural Society
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Sabina got involved with the Alberta Azerbaijani Cultural Society (ALACS) over 12 years ago as one of the co-founders. What started as an informal group of five around a table has now grown to a formal organization with over 200 members. The goal was to bring together people who enjoy Azerbaijani culture here in Alberta to showcase and celebrate its rich history, cuisine, entertainment, and more. When asked what she is most proud of she says taking part in Alberta Culture Days in 2016 stands out to her as they got to have a day-long celebration of their culture showcasing foods, exhibitions, music, dancing, and a featured fashion show. Sabina feels that volunteering within your community, whatever that community is to you, is a great way to meet people and learn new skills while also making a positive difference. “Being a part of community development is very rewarding and I would not be the person I am today without it.”
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Click here to watch Sabina share more of her story.
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  Tessa Sakamoto
President
Rocky Ridge/Royal Oak Community Association
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Tessa got involved with her community association over 4 years ago when her daughter wanted to play soccer and the program was at risk of cancellation due to a lack of volunteers. With her background in recreation, she decided to run the program for a season. She now says that at the time she didn’t realize the reach of the community association and the benefits they offered residents, as well as the opportunities it would open up for her. When asked what she is most proud of she puts it simply, “the people.”  She speaks to how passionate and vibrant Rocky Ridge/Royal Oak residents are, with an overwhelming number of them offering their time and services to an Adopt-a-Family program they ran last year to help families who needed a little extra help over the holidays. Tessa says, “in a world where at times there can me more darkness than we’d like, we can be the light. Volunteering with my community association is one of the ways I choose to do that.”
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Click here to watch Tessa share more of her story.
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  Gurmit Bhachu
President
Canyon Meadows Community Association
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When Gurmit moved to Canyon Meadows over seven years ago he wanted to meet other young families in the community, and after receiving the monthly community newsletter he learned when the community association Board of Directors held their meetings, so he decided to go to one and was welcomed with open arms. Seven years later the reason he says he stays involved is because it is thoroughly rewarding in every aspect of his life. “I get to have a voice in matters that affect my community, I get to meet wonderful new people, and I get to have great experiences.” Gurmit is most proud of the fact that Canyon Meadows ranked fairly high in Avenue Magazine’s Calgary’s Best Neighbourhoods 2017. The community association had many conversations on what they could do throughout the community to improve quality of life and maybe make it onto the list, so to receive recognition of their hard work was very rewarding.
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Click here to watch Gurmit share more of his story.
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  Erika Topola
Membership Director
Acadia Community Association
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Erika sought out her community association four years ago when she was pregnant with her third child because she wanted to find something to get involved with close to home. The community association had a vacant Membership Director position so she jumped at the opportunity. Erika works very hard and takes great pride in building community. Her favourite memory to date is both her inspiration and a by-product of her involvement with the community association. During her third year with the association she came home to an invite hand delivered to her by a neighbour to a Winter Solstice block party. The invite brought her to tears as it’s a reminder that small things can actually be big things to bring neighbours together and build community. Erika says, “a little help can go a long way. When you give your time, doing what you love, or simply challenging yourself to do or learn something new, you are growing, and therefore, so is your community.”
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Click here to watch Erika share more of her story.
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  Elise Konoff
Director of Entertainment
North Haven Community Association
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Elise became involved with the North Haven Community Association over 10 years ago when she heard about a Mom and Tot group. She had a six month old child and thought it would be a nice way to get out of the house and meet new people as her family was fairly new to the community. At her first day at this group she was introduced to the community association president who invited her to join the Board of Directors if she was interested. Ten years later she is still on the board and has had a variety of different jobs over the years, ranging from helping with the community newsletter, to looking after the Mom and Tot group, being the preschool liaison, to her current role as the Director of Entertainment. She says, “at every event I organize I get to see happy faces all around, and neighbours socializing and having fun, and that makes it all extremely worthwhile.”
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Click here to watch Elise share more of her story.
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  Carlos Arce-Abrego
Director
Calgary Marlborough Community Association
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Ten years ago Carlos was reading about his neighbourhood’s crime statistics in the monthly community newsletter and decided he wanted to do something to help reduce the statistics, so he attended a meeting at the community association, and soon after joined the Board of Directors. He says that issues arise from time to time that need people to volunteer their time to work on, and by being one of those volunteers he’s able to participate in initiatives that help improve the community and at the same time provide activities for residents of all ages. Carlos says he is most proud of the great diversity of people in his community. “People from different countries, cultures, languages, and religions respecting each other and working together for the betterment of our community makes me very proud.”
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Click here to watch Carlos share more of his story.
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  Karen Begg
Volunteer
Dover Community Association
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Karen got involved with her community association over five years ago when she moved into the community and wanted to learn more about what she had access to and share her passion for placemaking. She has launched a number of initiatives ranging from giving away extra garden vegetables to neighbours in need, to establishing a Little Library that she keeps stocked with books for all ages, as well as non-perishable food items. Karen also hosts an annual Jane’s Walk throughout Dover to showcase the community she loves. A moment with her community association that stands out to her is the first time she attended a meeting. She says, “I felt so welcome. They introduced me to everyone involved, got to know me, and talked about ways we can work together to help the community.”
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Click here to watch Karen share more of her story.
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Susan Gwynn
Development and Action Committee
Martindale Community Association
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When the Martindale Development Action Committee made a call for volunteers two years ago Susan answered the call and attended one of their meetings. She immediately liked the work they were doing in the community and felt it would make a good fit in her life. MDAC works closely with many community partners and organizations to bring community building events and programs to residents.  She is most proud of their Block Ambassador program which aims at introducing themselves to an entire block of neighbours each month. Susan says, “Having a diverse community means that we have to work a little harder to break down barriers, but I see it happening here each and every day.” She loves how walkable Martindale is and how that makes it a stronger and friendlier community, with people able to gather together to get to know each other and share experiences.
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Click here to watch Susan share more of her story.
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Calvin Melrose
Maintenance Director
Palliser/Bayview/Pumphill Community Association
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Calvin has been involved with his community association for over four years after he learned that they needed someone to manage renovation projects. Being retired with experience as a skilled craftsman he volunteered his services as a way to give back to his neighbourhood. His community has a fantastic outdoor skating rink that residents of all ages use, that unfortunately has no place for skaters to put on their skates. Cal took it upon himself to design a “Rink Shack” and has been working with the City of Calgary and fellow residents for input and engagement, as well as companies for support and donations. When asked why he thinks it’s important to volunteer in your community he says, “It’s an excellent way to meet people, it’s good for your health, keeps your mind sharp, and most of all gives you a positive purpose.”
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