Community Foundation partners with Palliser again

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Barons School staff member Pat Moltzahn shows off the Community Foundation plaque recognizing the successful "Please Let Us Skate" grant application.

With a rich and lifelong involvement with hockey himself, Principal Fred Jack recalls his initial bewilderment when students at Barons School and Carmangay Outreach School voiced a desire to skate.

“At first you’re like, ‘well go skate then,’ ” he said.

In looking into the background of the Low German-speaking Mennonite community that all of his students come from, however, it became apparent leisure activities are not a priority in their homes and can prove costly for large families.

Ice skating is such a quintessentially Canadian experience, many take it for granted.

“But you talk about putting on a boot with a sharp metal blade on the bottom of it and transporting yourself around a frozen ice surface and you realize it is something extremely novel,” said Jack. “And in Mexico, where the overwhelming majority of these people come, that sport isn’t something that’s offered.”

Those students will get to experience that bit of Canadiana next fall, thanks to a $2,000-grant from the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta. The Community Priorities Grant will allow for the purchase of more than 40 pairs of used skates and helmets that students at the two Palliser schools will share.

“We’re certainly very grateful and very appreciative of this wonderful gesture and donation by the Community Foundation,” said Jack, adding students and parents have committed to raising funds to help pay for ice rentals and the cost of getting students to nearby rinks in Claresholm, Picture Butte or Lethbridge.

The “Please Let Us Skate” grant application was among 38 approved for more than $190,000 in funding at the Community Foundation’s spring grant celebration April 15, the first held at its new office.

Coalhurst Elementary School ¬– and the entire community – will benefit from a $10,000-Community Priorities Grant towards the cost of new, inclusive playground equipment. It will replace an existing, wooden playground structure which no longer meets safety code.

The fact the equipment will be accessible to all is important in that the school has a number of students with physical challenges and learning difficulties.

“The whole community believes in inclusiveness and they would want someone in a wheelchair or someone who couldn’t walk very well to have access to the playground,” said Principal Sterling Paiha. “It’s a very important part of the belief system of our community.”

He praised the generosity of the Community Foundation, which came up with the largest single donation other than a pending provincial grant. Given Coalhurst’s limited business base, it is difficult to keep going back to the same sources for money.

“It really speaks to the nature of this foundation that they support a small community like this. It would be very difficult to move forward without this grant,” said Paiha, adding the Friends of Coalhurst Elementary School Society and the school council before them were “heroic” in their fundraising efforts.

The wooden playground out front of the school will be torn down and the new structure will be installed this summer next to a smaller, existing playground in a sheltered area out back. That move will allow a staff parking lot to be constructed in its place and reconfigured pickup and drop-off plans for students by bus and other vehicles.

“We want to be good neighbours and good citizens in the community and consistently parking in front of people’s houses is not necessarily being a good neighbour,” said the principal. “We are also trying to create the safest possible scenario for student pickup and drop-off and the cleanest traffic flow.”

The grants support a wide range of community projects in the areas of basic and special needs, community vitality, and healthy living.

Funding for the grants is provided by the income from endowment funds established at the Community Foundation, which was established in 1966. For more information on the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta go to