BY LANA MICHELIN
Central Alberta mayors gathered to pay tribute to a regional project that’s raising awareness of domestic violence, bullying and elder abuse.
Thirteen Central Alberta communities have been sharing ideas through their involvement in the Regional Vision for Non-Violence Coalition, which received the 2016 Inspiration Award from Alberta Human Services.
The Central Alberta communities that were honoured for their collaborative spirit are: Benalto, Bentley, Blackfalds, Bowden, Eckville, Elnora, Delburne, Innisfail, Lacombe, Rimbey, Rocky Mountain House, Stettler and Sylvan Lake.
Sylvan Lake’s Mayor Sean McIntyre, who hosted Tuesday’s celebration, said it’s wonderful that an effort to boost inter-agency communications throughout the region for the benefit of Central Albertans is now getting provincial recognition.
For many years, each of the 13 Red Deer-area centres had forged local partnerships between agencies in their own communities, including family services, police and victims support services, seniors services.
But in 2014, they decided to go bigger and open communications between neighbouring municipalities, for the mutual benefit of all of their residents.
The thinking was that if a program or initiative was successful in one place, it could also work very well in another centre, said Colleen Lewis, Sylvan Lake co-ordinator for the Regional Vision for Non-Violence Coalition.
Public awareness and educational initiatives around preventing family violence, bullying and seniors abuse have been shared at four annual coalition meetings and at monthly working group sessions. This includes the templates for social media, messaging and marketing campaigns, as there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, said Alissa McDonald, chair of the regional coalition.
Mayor Rick Pankiw, of Rimbey, said with so many overlapping areas, it’s great to have a forum where “everybody gets a chance to talk.”
“We can learn from each other,” added McIntyre.
Sandi Hallgren, an Eckville councillor, said her town learned from other municipalities about the benefits of the ParentLink program, so lobbied the province to get funding for it in their community.
For Mayor Leah Nelson, of Elnora, the coalition can be a source of guidance and helpful answers when needed.