January 28, 2015

Home sweet home: The CommunityWise Resource Centre


Most Calgarians would recognize the CommunityWise Resource Centre immediately. It’s the brick and sandstone building tucked next to the Beltline Aquatic & Fitness Centre on 12 Ave. S.W. There are bike racks and trees out front, and a low wall with a colourful mural.

What you may not know is that this cheerful, Georgian Revival building—affectionately called the “Old Y” for its origins as a YWCA—has been a sanctuary for Calgary nonprofits and charities since the 1970s.

Son Edworthy is the Co-Director of CommunityWise along with a small staff that reports to a tenant board of directors, and maintains the building, spearheads fundraising efforts and manages the building’s 100 member organizations, of which 35 are tenants.

Edworthy, who has a degree in urban planning and has been involved with other community-building spaces in Canada, says CommunityWise is extraordinary. “It’s not typical. It’s really special because of the building’s relationship with the city, its heritage, the sense of stewardship and the amazing longevity of the organization, not to mention the diversity of the participants.”

Inside CommunityWise

Unlike most other community spaces, which are typically concentrations of similarly focused organizations, CommunityWise is home to a range of groups with a range of goals, from youth and new immigrant services to social justice, environmental sustainability, arts and culture and LGBTQ advocacy.

The three-storey building, constructed in 1911 as a hostel for women, has an elegant central staircase ringed by several small rooms with high ceilings and sash windows. Some have charming whitewashed fireplaces. There’s a large meeting space on the main floor and, at the back of the building, a tiny coffee shop called KaffeeKlatsch. Meeting rooms, activity areas and indoor and outdoor common spaces are available to members to borrow, as are resources like sound equipment, festival tents, office supplies, a barbecue and a popcorn maker.

Postcard of the old YWCA

Postcard of the old YWCA

A history of collaboration

Nonprofit and grassroots organizations have occupied the building since the YWCA closed in the 1970s. The building was slated for destruction in the 1980s, but its tenants organized; they banded together as a nonprofit organization, and not only saved the building but had it declared a registered historic resource. In 2012, the “Old Y” became CommunityWise. “The “Old Y” has a place in people’s hearts, but it was confusing for people visiting for the first time.” The identity changed helped clarify the building’s identity and sharpen its vision.


Edworthy says the building differs from conventional offices because it was deliberately built with a social purpose. A key aspect of the CommunityWise philosophy is the concept of co-location—having diverse groups exist in the same space. The structure of the space encourages chance encounters, and CommunityWise facilitates intentional encounters too, through social events like the Winter Party and AGM. Edworthy says these encounters can catalyse new approaches and new connections. “Conversations happen all the time and you don’t know where they’re going to go. Skills get traded. People usually come here for one reason, but they bring the other parts of themselves too.”

When BB4CK moved in

Christy Switzer was the chair of the board almost a decade ago, when the move took place. At that time, the BB4CK office was on Stephen Avenue in a building slated for demolition. “It was the second office we lost that way. But we had to be downtown because the kitchen was there and established. We were anticipating another really stressful move, when Bob McInnis [Executive Director of BB4CK at the time] discovered CommunityWise. It was too good to be true. We said, ‘Is there no heat? Is there no water?’ It was so affordable and so beautiful. It felt like a gift—like a luxury.”

November 26, 2014

What is a sandwich?


For each newsletter, Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids asks a Calgarian the question, “What is a sandwich?”

Monika Jones is a Sales Consultant at Chartwell Eau Claire Care Residence, an assisted living facility a couple of blocks south of the Peace Bridge. Since March 2014, four or five of the facility’s residents have gathered twice a week to make sandwiches and pack fruit and veggies through the Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids program. They make and deliver 94 lunches to the Discovering Choices High School outreach program downtown and Crescent Heights High School. This is Jones’s answer to the question, “What is a sandwich?”

“A sandwich is purpose.”

Monika: “I got feedback from Discovering Choices High School outreach program, one of the schools that we help and deliver to. The feedback was that the students can tell that the lunches that we’re bringing— that they’re made with love.

“And that just warmed my heart because in making those sandwiches every week, I know what that means to the residents here. It brings back memories of when they made lunch for their own kids, and for the residents who help with the program—most of them are women—it’s from love. They feel like they’re making a sandwich for their own child.

“For the residents, the lunches give them a sense of purpose. They have the ability to give back to their community, and a good reason to get up in the morning. They feel that they can still participate in things, that they can give back and make a difference.”

November 24, 2014

Lunch Is Love


The holidays are (almost) here. To celebrate, Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids has launched our first-ever holiday gift campaign. We invite you to give a truly thoughtful gift this year—nutritious lunches for hungry children in our city, who would otherwise go without.

The gifts

A BB4CK gift can be large enough for a corporate or family effort, or small enough for a child to make a meaningful contribution—and there are many options in between

• $20 feeds one child for one month.

• $200 feeds one child for a full school year.

• $2,000 feeds all the hungry children in Calgary’s schools for one day.

• $3,000 feeds all the hungry children in an average Calgary school for a year.

The spirit of the season

Right now, many Calgarians are thinking about gifts and exploring meaningful ways to give. We wanted to give people the chance to make an immediate difference in the quality of a local child’s life, and to involve their family and friends in that act.

How it helps

Our goal is simple: No hungry kids in Calgary. Our method is simple too—making and delivering nutritious lunches to children who need them. We believe simple, consistent actions can improve lives, strengthen communities and have lasting social impact. Choose a BB4CK gift this season, and express your love in a way that makes our city just a little bit better. Then, join the conversation on social media: #BrownBag4xmas

Happy holidays from all of us at Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids!

October 21, 2014

Powerful Team Joins Forces to Help Students

Holy Trinity School students Alondra Segovia-Garcia, left, Desmond Rutherford and Kevin Abiles are joined by Calgary Board of Education Chief Supt. David Stevenson, city police Chief Rick Hanson and Calgary Catholic School District Chief Supt. Gary Strother during the launch of the Integrated School Support Project on  Sept. 18, 2014.

There’s strength in numbers — and when those numbers add up to support students and their families, the results can be powerful indeed.

Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids has joined with 16 other community and government organizations in the Integrated School Support Project, or ISSP. Currently being piloted at Patrick Airlie School and Holy Trinity School, both located in the southeast community of Forest Lawn, the ISSP focuses a wide range of resources and people to create a supportive environment — one in which children can succeed both academically and socially, says Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson, one of the prime movers behind the project.

“The only way this could have happened was through the support of many partners,” Hanson says. “The fact that this vast amount of resources has come together so quickly is a testament to how eager people and organizations are to help.”

The ISSP approach brings together nutrition, fitness, mental health, tutoring, a positive police presence and more. For BB4CK — which was already providing lunches in the two schools — it’s a privilege to be part of a team that shares a belief in helping kids be the best they can be.

“As a city we are extremely blessed with groups of people who are willing, when they see a need, to pull together and do something about it,” says BB4CK Community Coordinator Jill Birch. “Our mission is to work with Calgary schools to identify kids who are hungry and find ways to feed them. So you can see why that lines up for us. We really want to be part of a lasting social impact on these kids’ lives, and the lives of those who support them.”

Although BB4CK is just one component of the ISSP, its contribution is key, Hanson says.

“The impact of proper nutrition on a child’s learning is strongly supported by research. BB4CK has been instrumental in bringing attention to the need of proper nutrition in schools. By providing food for those kids who have nothing to eat, they help ensure that a major barrier to success is removed.”

For more information on the ISSP and a full list of partner organizations, click here.



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