Jennie Emery benefits from Community Foundation grant

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Cliff Elle, of the CFLSA Board of Directors, hands over a plaque to signify a $15,000 grant for the Jennie Emery playground build to principal Sherrie Nickel (left to right), Kristina Tanaka and Sandra Smith.

Jennie Emery Elementary School has been blessed with community support ¬– the latest a $15,000 grant towards construction of a new playground – and that fact is not lost on staff or students.

“We’re nothing without the community and we are working hard this year to give back,” says Sherrie Nickel, principal of the Coaldale school.

The Palliser school has students visiting the local health centre, taking part in a sock drive for the needy and has written cards to welcome businesses moving into the community.

“That’s important for them to learn that the community gives to us and we want to give back to the community. If our little people can start doing that now, it will become a lifelong commitment,” she says.

Jennie Emery was among 25 organizations which received a total of almost $175,000 in grants from the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta (CFLSA) at a recent awards ceremony. Included in the $15,000 the school received was $5,000 from the Elmer and Ida Wiens Fund for Children with Disabilities. The Coaldale couple had a son with a developmental disability and Ida was a good friend of the long-time teacher after whom the school was named.

The Community Foundation funding went towards the cost of building a new playground at Jennie Emery. Phase 1 of the project cost about $200,000 and saw the replacement of a mostly wooden structure that was torn down several years ago after it fell into a state of disrepair.

Sandra Smith, chair of the playground committee, said it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get the community behind the project.

“Kids are our future and we need to keep them active. This was a great opportunity to build something for the future,” she says.

Nickel says support from the CFLSA’s Community Priorities Fund was much appreciated and also fitting in that the playground is not just there for the students’ use.  The structure, which was completed this fall with the help of some 120 volunteers over a three-day span, will be used in the summer months  – especially with all the sports fields nearby – and also by those in the before and after school program.

Kristina Tanaka, one of the project’s unfaltering fundraisers, says it was also important the new playground is wheelchair accessible so no one is excluded. She was quick to praise those businesses which opened their wallets for the cause or those who stepped up to volunteer their efforts in building the playground, including school staff.

“We had so much help and donations and last-minute people coming to our rescue with our landscaping needs and our drainage issues,” she says. “And the parents are in love with the playground. They keep telling me they love playing on it just as much as their kids.”

Every dollar counts in such a large project, and principal and volunteers were quick to applaud students who raised money from the sale of frozen drinks and ice cream and even homemade lip balm. There were also parents who donated their half of a 50-50 draw at the local demolition derby and another who gave the school money they had received from the Community Foundation for a random acts of kindness recognition.

Phase 2 of the project will see the removal of two other, older playgrounds at Jennie Emery and construction of one replacement structure. Cost is expected in the $150,000 to $200,000 range and Smith said fundraising events for that project will be announced in the new year. If all goes as planned, the build would happen in the early summer or early fall of 2016.

The Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta was established in 1966 and the support it provides worthy community groups comes solely from the interest earned on endowment funds. Grant ceremonies are held twice a year and board president Dennis Hatt noted that two major grant announcements will be made next year to mark the organization’s 50th anniversary. For more information go to

Jennie Emery parents and staff wanted to recognize major sponsors and community supporters of the playground including:  Alberta Recycling, Kasko Cattle, the Play Program, Palliser Regional Schools,  Kinsmen Club of Coaldale, the Town of Coaldale, Perry Produce/Grow the Energy Circle,  Kinette Club of Coaldale, Lafarge Lethbridge, Ground Breakers Construction, DH Fencing, Finning,  Bos Sod, Westech Sanitation, Straitway Rental, NewAge Concrete,  BDI Playdesigns , and Coaldale Backhoe Service.

Jennie Emery serves about 465 students from early learning to Grade 4.