Community Champion: Deborah helped revive a flailing community league

Whether she’s on the job or not, Deborah Morrison has dedicated her life to supporting those around her. By day, Morrison is a social worker focused on community development work with M.A.P.S. Alberta Capital Region, an organization that uses social mapping techniques to improve the delivery of local services and programs. By night, she is a relentless volunteer who gives her time and expertise back to the community — most recently in her involvement with the Knottwood Community League. Morrison, who is also a mom to five and grandmother to eight, shares with WE what motivates her to be hyper-involved in the community.

WE: Why do you think it’s important to be involved in your community?
One of my greatest desires in working within my community, both professionally and as a volunteer, is to help create more understanding between all members of the community. I think that will happen when we spend more time together

In the last few years I put my focus back on my community — that is, my neighbourhood — and I joined the Knottwood Community League as the social director and program director. I’m glad to be back in the community. I was on boards of non-profit organizations, which is also a very important role, but as my grandchildren started to get older and participate in the community, I wanted to return to the neighbourhood level. Now I’m back and loving it and realizing there’s a role for all of us.

WE: What work is the Knottwood Community League doing?
We’ve achieved opportunities for neighbours to meet one another, accept one another, celebrate one another and benefit from each others’ skills and abilities.
Last fall we applied for a REACH grant to create a community engagement process. We were concerned that we were seeing fewer people attending our events and the community league board had become weakened, to the point that a discussion arose about whether or not we should close our community league.

WE: What happened next?
There were 10 of us that committed to carrying on and providing leadership. We had funds from the grant to hire a co-ordinator and we engaged residents in discussions. We found that neighbours do want to get to know neighbours and that people are looking for opportunities to participate. It’s not that people are too busy; they just need opportunities that fit with their work schedules and abilities.

We now have a Knottwood tots program that attracts more than 20 parents and 30 children. We started hosting family suppers and every month we have a theme with a different kind of food. Since we’ve made an intentional effort to reach out to more neighbours, participation in our community league has grown in every aspect.

WE: What motivates you to be so involved?
I’ve been a volunteer for more than 30 years as well as a professional social worker and I’ve always felt that every person has something important to give. This experience has taught me that again. It’s reminded me that sometimes we feel overwhelmed with our lives and we think we don’t have time or there’s too much to do and we’re scared to sign up for something. But really, all that is required of us is as much as we can do. Showing up at that meeting two years ago with the Knottwood Community League was such an important moment for me. It’s been a very exciting couple of years.