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Community Matters

Community Matters - Featuring Your Community!

Wendy Rabel

Hometown girl, Wendy Rabel, is on a mission. Neighbourhood by neighbourhood she'll be exploring the communities that make Edmonton and area the home of so many wonderful families!

North-Central Edmonton

Find C.R.U.D online

This area includes the Alberta Avenue, Cromdale, Delton, Eastwood, Elmwood Park, Parkdale, Spruce Avenue, and Westwood neighbourhoods (from 111 Avenue to Yellowhead Trail and Wayne Gretzky Drive to NAIT).

Who I Met: 

Chris & Michelle Hayduk and their family (including two friendly kids, one cuddly cat, and a very vocal rescue dog). Chris is a long-serving member of the Edmonton Police Service, and Michelle is one of the founding members of Arts on the Ave, a non-profit, community based, grassroots initiative engaged in developing 118th Avenue into a community arts district.

The Hayduks have lived in Parkdale for over seven years. One day about three years ago, Michelle was going to meet her son at the bus stop down the street from their home. She wasn’t expecting to witness a drug deal.  After the incident, frustration led to discussions at home. Both she and Chris strongly believed there had to be a way for community members to take back their streets without confrontation or an increased police presence. 

Chris describes CRUD as an organization that encourages community members to use their public spaces for the reasons they were created. CRUD puts on events such as a weekly dog-walking group (picture 20 people and their dogs walking down the street!) and a park crawl where families gather to enjoy the many green spaces in the area.

Chris, who has a unique perspective on his neighbourhood as a law enforcement officer and resident, says that positive change needs to be community-led.  He speaks passionately about his belief that any community can overcome the problems associated with crime if they connect with each other and have a positive mindset. 

CRUD now has not-for-profit standing with eight board members and has expanded to include a dinner club that hosts monthly meetings at neighbourhood restaurants and cafes. As Chris says, “A strong business community is good for community.” The dinner club has been wildly successful – with up to 47 participants at one event. “It’s amazing the amount of people who don’t know about our fabulous mom and pop restaurants!” 

CRUD has also created the Nice Neighbour Award to encourage community members to interact during the long Alberta winter when there are not as many group activities.  “The transformation has been huge. The impact we are trying to achieve is through small, day-to-day activities that make it uncomfortable for criminal activity. But our focus is on all the positive community interaction that this group creates”. 

What I Discovered:

There have been some noticeable changes to the look of the community as the city has been working on a facelift to 118th Avenue. Add to that a growing and vibrant arts scene and exciting events that have been created by Arts on the Ave: the Carrot Community Arts Coffee House, Community and Family Arts Nights at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, and the “Kaleido” Family Arts Festival.

You can also catch a whiff of freshly baked bread and meet local entrepreneurs at the year-round Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market that showcases local produce and products. 

The Future                            

With all the past negative publicity associated with some of the activity in the area, Chris and Michelle want to dispel the myths.  “The reputation of the area is not deserved. It’s not what people think it is. This is a friendly, engaging place to live and it’s getting better and better all the time!”

CRUD has become a model for other communities who want to see positive changes. Chris has been putting on workshops for other community groups and organizations. “Every community has its unique problems, and we are here to provide the tools for those communities to become safe and connected.”

Want to get connected? You are invited to participate in any of the events happening in the North Central communities! 

Is the community spirit alive and thriving where you’re at? We want to hear about it! Drop us a note at

Wendy Rabel has been an Edmonton-area resident for over three decades, is a Recruitment Consultant at The Headhunters by day and a freelance writer by night.



Old Strathcona

By: Wendy Rabel

Old Strathcona is for Everyone

There is no area of the city more renowned and visited than Old Strathcona. We’ve all been there; whether we are celebrating a milestone with a special dinner, getting a theatre-arts fix at one of the playhouses, basking in the sun on a patio, picking out the perfect token in one of the quirky shops, or rocking out to a live show at one of the district’s amazing live-music venues, Old Strathcona is part of our collective experience in this city.

The most remarkable thing about this community is that it has something for every person of any age – from babes-in-arms to seniors.  It’s mind-boggling how much art, culture, variety, and all-out fun are packed into this area!

The Geography

Old Strathcona is defined by the Old Strathcona Foundation as the area between Saskatchewan Drive and 80th Avenue and 101 Street to 106 Street. This includes the world-famous Whyte Avenue, over 600 businesses, theatres, and live music venues.  If you went to just one a day, it would take you almost two years to visit every coffee shop, restaurant, pub, street vendor, specialty store, art supply shop, bakery, market, and many more stores, services, and stops of interest in this vibrant, historic neighbourhood!


Did you know that Strathcona used to be a city?  First formed around the railroad (you can still view the old rail car), the City of Strathcona was the original home of the University of Alberta when it was founded in 1908.  In 1912, the residents of Strathcona voted to amalgamate with Edmonton – and the rest is history!  In 2012, Old Strathcona will celebrate its 100th anniversary as part of the City of Edmonton. 

The area had a near-miss in the 1970s, though. Many of the old brick buildings were earmarked by the City to be demolished to make way for a freeway through the area to downtown.  The residents banded together and the Old Strathcona Foundation was formed to protect the historic buildings and character of the area.  To this day, the foundation hosts events and works to bring recognition to the area.  In 2007, Old Strathcona became a provincial historic area which encompasses over 30 historic properties, including the Walterdale Playhouse, Western Canada’s oldest amateur theatre group, the Princess Theatre (1915), and the Strathcona Hotel (1891).

Eating & Shopping - What’s not to love?

The Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market is the largest in Edmonton. Open year-round on Saturdays, it now boasts over 130 vendors. You can choose from the freshest local produce, discover the handiwork of local artisans, and enjoy the unique sounds of local musicians busking as you wander the market.

And if your tummy is still rumbling, there are over 100 restaurants, cafes, pubs, and eateries of other sorts to tempt your palate and satisfy any craving! 

Spend the day getting to know Old Strathcona

My day of exploration started with a delicious pastry, fresh and hot from the oven at Bee Bell, Edmonton’s oldest retail bakery. There was a bit of a line up when I arrived and the wafting scent of freshly baked bread make my mouth water as I waited to order my first bite of the day. I strolled with my rapidly-disappearing pastry to Block 1912 where I ordered a fair trade coffee and caught up on some writing on my well-travelled laptop.

I wandered just off Whyte Avenue to one of the classic bookstores in Edmonton. Greenwoods Books is the city’s largest independent bookseller and they have a large children’s book section called Greenwoods’ Small World. Family owned, this store has been around for over 30 years! 

I also needed to look for a hard-to-find vinyl classic (way before iPods and CDs there were vinyl records) so I went into Blackbyrd Myoozik, one of the best places in Edmonton to find rare and local music. 

And I can never walk past the Junque Cellar without taking the stairs into an amazing array of antiques, vintage clothing, and memorabilia! Since the early 90’s, the Junque Cellar has been a hub of retro-enthusiasts and a great place to sell your treasures on consignment.

I also picked up a copy of the New York Times at HUB’s Cigar. Until its original location burned down in 2004, this was the longest operating newsstand in Canada’s history!

It was a sunny afternoon, and I enjoyed a break on the rooftop patio of the Black Dog Freehouse. This establishment was nearly lost to a devastating fire a few years ago, but has recovered and boast Edmonton’s only 2nd level garden setting (the Wooftop!).

I ended my day at Blues on Whyte, visiting with this landmark live-music venue’s General Manger, Michael Purcell. Michael has been a fixture at Blues for over 12 years and he was the perfect guide for my very first visit to this local blues house and the historic Commercial Hotel.  The building has been standing since the early 1900s, and will be celebrating its 100th anniversary along with Old Strathcona next year. Michael says the best part of his job is getting to choose all the live acts that play the club where there is live music seven nights a week, most of whom are from outside the Edmonton area. If you’ve never been out for a night at Blues on Whyte, Michael says that the most important thing to know is that no one is out of place in the venue – everyone is welcome and all walks and stages of life are represented in the crowd of music-lovers.  And, Michael laughs when telling me about “one of the best dance floors in the city. We’ve had to replace that thing a few times over the years!”

As father to a teenage son who loves to play the guitar, Michael’s face lights up when he talks about the legends that have taken the stage over the years. He beams as he talks about the night Canadian band Wide Mouth Mason was signed to a record deal on the spot by Sony at the club. 

The day I spent in Old Strathcona was filled with sights, sounds, and scents that were new and familiar – the bustle of a summer day in this community is always filled with potential. No matter how many times you’ve been to Old Strathcona, the beauty of this community lies in the fact that you can always discover something new.

The Heart of Old Strathcona

Amidst the revelry and artistic expression of Old Strathcona lies a historic building that has come to symbolize the compassion and care of the Edmonton community: The Youth Emergency Shelter Society - Edmonton’s only daytime activity centre for at-risk and homeless youth. Before the centre opened in 2009, there was no reliable, safe place for kids to go. The facility is open during the day, and offers troubled youth between the ages of 15 and 21everything from pool tables and computer access to anger management classes and work skills.

Laurier Heights & The Valley Zoo

By: Wendy Rabel

I spent a warm Sunday afternoon in the home of Joanna Rebel, a dedicated member of the Laurier Heights Community League and resident of the neighbourhood for over 14 years. Joanna and her neighbour, Sheila Butt, regaled me with stories of their memories of the community and how it’s changed over the years.

Sheila is the unofficial historian of the Laurier Heights community – her parents moved to the neighbourhood in 1958. Sheila grew up there, moved away when she was first married, and then came back to raise her family. In fact, her children attended the same school as she did and were even taught by one of the same teachers!

Sheila is passionate about her community and researches a variety of topics – and people – for her regular contributions to the community newsletter.  Past articles include a history of the bridge clubs that were popular in the 1950s – two of which are still meeting regularly – and the story of a long-serving teach at the local school who has educated generations of community members. Sheila is representative of the demographic of this neighbourhood which is home to many of its original residents and their children who are now raising their families there.

I was in awe of the giant trees that lined the streets when I drove into Laurier Heights, many of which were planted years ago by families of children in Grade One. Each child was given a tree to plant and many ended up in the yards of the homes in the neighbourhood – and they now tower over you as you walk down the street.

Laurier Heights also boasts a beautiful park which plays host to a wide variety of activities, including skating, hockey, tennis and play time. And a fixture that features prominently in the park is the original, cinderblock community league building, known affectionately as “The Shack”.  The community league is currently fundraising so that a new building can be constructed.

As the program coordinator for the community league, Joanne has a host of special events to tell me about. On September 17, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues will again celebrate Community League Day – and Laurier Heights is planning an event to commemorate the day.

With everything from soccer to scouts, Laurier Heights offers a ton of exciting and fun activities for kids. And for seniors, there is the Laurier Art Club where artisans get together and share their craft.  And the whole family can participate in block parties that bring the entire community together. The big event each year is the winter carnival which takes place every Family Day Weekend

Family is what binds this community together. Sheila says: “We are so much a family-oriented community with a lot of history and a lot of potential for the future”.

At the heart of the Laurier Heights community is the Valley Zoo (know until recently at the Storyland Valley Zoo). If you’re anything like me, growing up in Edmonton included regular school trips and family visits to the zoo – welcomed each time by a giant replica of Humpty Dumpty. Many members of the Laurier Heights community are active volunteers at the zoo and the sound of the trolley bell is a familiar sound in the air.

It has been years since I’ve been to the zoo. My visit this month included a heart to heart with the man running the show: Dean Treichel has been with the zoo for over 32 years and his love for the zoo, and its inhabitants, is evident - and infectious. Dean is not alone in his passion for this facility – the Valley Zoo has a dedicated staff, many of whom have been with the zoo for decades!

Dean started by showing me a 3D model of the first step on a path to a total overhaul of the zoo as we know it: the Arctic Shores exhibit opens in the spring of 2012 and will be an interactive experience of the arctic habitat, including indoor/outdoor pools, underwater viewing, and a waterfall which the animals control! Kids can explore a real whalebone skeleton in a specially designed playground. This exhibit is slowly taking shape and will be ready for visitors in the spring of 2012!

The values of the Valley Zoo are stewardship, conservation, education and engagement, and each of these values has been woven into each piece of the new design which has many ecofriendly enhancements in addition to exciting improvements to viewing and interacting with the animals. Over the next few years, new exhibits and attractions will be unveiled. The City of Edmonton has contributed $50 million in capital funding towards development and enrichment of the zoo’s facilities and programs. The goal is provide guests with the opportunity to interact with animals and to facilitate world-class education and research.

The most memorable moment of my visit was my meeting with one of the zoo’s most famous residents: Lucy the Elephant is a stunningly beautiful creature and to stand right next to her and to actually touch her was amazing. The zoo’s staff is dedicated to her care: she has a daily exercise regimen and undergoes state-of-the-art cold laser therapy to keep her joints nimble. And she has some of the best vets and scientists in the world looking after her medical needs – in fact, the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta has been enlisted to develop a special diagnostic tool to help treat an ongoing medical issue. She is getting special attention! Lucy also holds a special place in Dean’s heart – he started at the zoo 32 years ago and spent fourr years as her personal keeper before moving into another role at the zoo.

Visitors to the zoo can participate in the new “Get Closer” programs which give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the zoo’s animal inhabitants. You can attend free public drop-in programs that include elephant talks (meet Lucy!), a celebration of Red Panda Day, a sneak-preview of the Arctic Shores exhibit, and a special holiday treats session where participants can make enrichments which the animals at the zoo will get to enjoy!  (insert list of events here)

Have you been to Zoo School? Every year, the Valley Zoo hosts hundreds of Edmonton students attend a week of instruction by a certified teacher at the zoo. The week of instruction is based on regular school curricula, but immerses students in the world of the animals at the zoo. By having students interact with the animals and learn about their own impact on habitats and the environment, the zoo educators hope to inspire the next generation to take care of their world. The new facilities at the zoo will allow Zoo School to double it’s capacity and bring even more students to study at their facility each year.

One of most exciting upcoming developments at the Valley Zoo is the new entrance way that will link the Valley Zoo to Laurier Park. This community space will be a free attraction with places to gather and even a chance to see river otters at play – before the gates to the zoo!

Dean beams with joy as he flips through the giant pages of the plans for the zoo, explaining how everything will come together in the next few years: “This has been in the works since 2000 and when we finally saw the Arctic Shores Exhibit being built, it brought tears to the eyes of our staff”.  The new design is “a call to action for conservation work. We want to be proactive and use education as inspiration”.

The Valley Zoo invites you to experience the new and exciting things ahead. The re-envisioned facility promises to be a point of pride for Edmontonians and Albertans as a destination for families.

Is the community spirit alive and thriving where you’re at? We want to hear about it! Drop us a note at






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