Snapshot of community captured in annual Vital Signs report

By Geoff Smith (@GeoffSmithLNN on Twitter)
October 4, 2018 - 12:32pm Updated: October 5, 2018 - 5:00am

LETHBRIDGE – Efforts towards reconciliation and adult education were highlighted at the launch of the 2018 edition of Vital Signs Thursday, Oct. 4.

The annual report is prepared by the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta, using data from multiple sources to present a snapshot of the region in six categories: Community Connections, Environment, Healthy Communities, Living Standards, Cultural Life, and Lifelong Learning.

Executive director Charleen Davidson explained the organization uses the report to help direct grant funding to areas that need it most.

“Everyone who’s coming to us for funding has a story,” she said in an interview. “So, we can tap into all of that to gain some of the information we need. And we just look at what some of the most pressing issues of the day are and follow those and pursue those.”

The presentation included remarks by Cst. Les Vonkeman, diversity liaison officer for the Lethbridge Police Service, who discussed efforts towards helping Lethbridge meet the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In addition, Jane Brenner of Taber and District Community Adult Learning discussed the group’s efforts, particularly in helping members of the low-German Mennonite community in the area.

The document covers everything from municipal voter turnout to renewable energy, health indicators to food production and a lack of food security, from supervised consumption site numbers to drinking water quality. Efforts at tackling rural crime are mentioned, and so are performing arts venues compared to other Alberta cities, languages, and exam results in different subjects.

“It’s really about taking the pulse in our community. It’s a snapshot of our overall vitality and well-being,” Davidson explained. “We use this work to inform our granting programs, to inform our donors about the causes and charities they’re interested in supporting.”

She said one of the biggest surprises to her was the amount of food production, and how much of Alberta’s livestock production is being exported.

“Yet, we have so many food banks. That contrast right there I find really interesting and closing that gap in the food banks and feeding everyone locally.”

One of the changes to this year’s report is fitting it into the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. 

The Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta is one of 33 such organizations that prepares a Vital Signs document. The foundation awards more than $700,000 in grants each year.

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