By Brenda Duke

I spend the bleak winter months planning gardens, parks, and community events. For the past two years, those plans were dependent on the restrictions from the pandemic. Would we be able to hold in-person events, gather volunteers together, and celebrate community members? It was all up in the air and then….it happened! Restrictions lessened and we were able to meet in-person, exercising appropriate caution and common sense (of course!).

After a two year hiatus, we heard from residents that they wanted The Herald back in publication. Did we have enough content? Were people willing to volunteer? Could we deliver the papers? We decided to start small with 2000 copies and they flew out to the neighbourhood. People joined our team, sent in articles, and purchased ads. Now, just 11 months later, we are financially sustainable, have increased print to 5000 copies, have enough content to print up to 16 pages some months, added a website, and our small team is growing. There is so much news happening in our community and The Herald is definitely the spot to read it.

GALA has always started the year with our annual Easter event held at the Powell Park Clubhouse. For two years, we did it virtually and provided food and gifts to the families in the Gibson, Landsdale, and Keith neighbourhoods. What joy to be able to see the faces of over 40 families gathering to celebrate the holiday while respecting the safety regulations this year!

From there, we jumped right into the Beautiful Alleys Spring Clean-up. This year, almost 400 people came out to keep GALA clean and green! Tons of garbage was removed from our parks, alleys, and streets, and it was a great opportunity to build community momentum and engagement.

The GALA neighbourhood was the recipient of a Placemaker Grant that allowed us to install a beautiful art installation at Powell Park. Kyle Joedecki created an Indigenous-themed mural that has added beauty and history to one of our favourite local parks.

Our efforts continued throughout the summer with projects to install art and beautify our alleys, with a focus on the area’s history and environmental sustainability. Throughout all of these projects, we cared for, maintained, and planted our pollinator gardens from Birch Avenue to Wentworth Street. Support from donations and the Clean and Green grant provided us with hundreds of bulbs and plants to beautify our neighbourhood.

We were especially pleased when we received permission to start a project in the Hospital Zone and begin the Birge Street Meadow. This project will continue into Spring 2023 so we are already planning!

The Gibson and Landsdale neighbourhoods are certainly blessed to have so many parks, alleys, and streets that are continuously being improved, but one of our most valuable assets are the volunteers who take stewardship of their spaces and help make a difference.

So, as I sit and watch the first snow and start to feel the bitter cold, I look forward to supporting your ideas and plans. Let us know what you are dreaming of, and together, we can make it happen.