You Have To Give Back (with Anna Albert)

By Susan Weisenburger

It is interesting how our childhood experiences tend to define us. A lot of people recall who they were as children and then discover that life unfolding did not stray far from those themes. Anna began her story with such a realization. A highlight of her childhood was being brought up French. She was born in SK but raised in small communities in ON that were distinctively French Catholic OR English Protestant, and never the two shall meet. As a young girl of 8 years Anna became one of the first Catholic girls to join Brownies (a typically Protestant organization). Eventually, her home became a meeting place for her Catholic pals and her new English Protestant friends. Inadvertently, young Anna became the social convener and interpreter for a group of girls who would find friendship and kinship when pushing though these socially constructed boundaries of language and religion. Anna would later discover that navigating social constraints would be her calling as an adult.

When Anna was in high school her family transitioned to AB. Here she met a young man named Bob who needed a little help to get through high school French. Anna graduated in 1972 and tried her hand at a variety of jobs as she and Bob saved money to put themselves through college. The couple maintains you must work for what you want. With each big task in life – including education and home building – they have applied this principal. Anna’s jobs out of high school had mostly to do with administrative work where she had the opportunity to watch and observe human dynamics in the office. This interest in human behaviour led her to register in the Social Work program at Grant MacEwan and then she went on to finish her degree in Social Work from the U of C on the U of A campus.

Anna was happy to move out of the big city when the couple decided to build a home in the Carvel area so Bob could be closer to his work with Trans Alta in SG. Anna loved the Carvel area and acreage living, but the most treasured gift she found was a widowed friend named Josie. Their close and beautiful friendship included Ukrainian cooking and garden lessons as well as wonderful heartfelt conversations. When Josie moved into Whispering Waters Manor in her 90s Anna went back to school to be certified in Gerontology just in case Josie did not adjust well. But in fact she would blossom. At Whispering Waters Anna became known as “The Sunday Lady” as she regularly visited her dear friend, prayed with her, and took her out shopping or to the market. Josie passed four years ago at the age of 101 years and 3 months. Anna really appreciates the service held at the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Carvel each June called “The Blessing of the Graves”. It is a time when special prayers of thanks are given for the lives of those who have come before us recognizing their contribution to who we are today. Anna found many “salt of the earth genuine people” while living in Parkland County. She also deeply appreciated her root cellar, the night sky, the wild animals, and the many birds that would be gifted by the household with over fifty pounds of sunflower seeds during the cold winter months.

In 1999 the couple decided to move off the acreage and into Spruce Grove to simplify new commuting concerns. They found the perfect quiet senior’s complex which offered them some wide open space and more great neighbours. Anna retired from social work two years ago and enjoys exploring new ways to give of herself to her community. She believes in giving back.

One exciting project Anna has discovered recently is “100 Women Who Care” which is “a brilliantly simple way to raise money efficiently and quickly for local charities”. The Tri-Municipal Chapter explains themselves on FaceBook this way –

“100 Women …

1 Hour …

Ten Thousand Dollars …

Local Immediate Impact …

100 Women Who Care Tri Municipal Region is designed to make an immediate, direct and positive effect to the Spruce Grove, Parkland County and Stony Plain Communities by bringing together 100 Women Who Care about local Community causes.

The group meets for one hour and jointly selects a local charity or not-for-profit organization. Your $100 cheque is provided to the selected organization and the group’s commitment turns into a $10,000.00 donation.”

Although Anna was not quite prepared for the rapid rate of growth in terms of traffic problems and accessibility to services she finds much to appreciate about life in Spruce Grove. She loves the trail system and she loves our local kitchen and cookware store – “Gifts and Gadgets”! Culinary experiences have become very important to Anna and if she had one wish she would have an Italian Centre open locally. She would even offer to work one day each weekend for free! She would then provide better transportation opportunities for people to get around a city that has no central core. She believes we need a better bus system that is not just dedicated to peak hours.

Anna’s heart still reaches out to those who may be lonely or struggle as they age. She continues to “give back” by taking her aging friends shopping or even washing their windows. There are a thousand ways to demonstrate to people that their lives and their contributions matter. With all these little acts of kindness we build a solid community that looks out for one another. That little girl in Anna is still gathering her friends and making them feel valued.

This free blog is brought to you by Achieving Community Together, a Tri-region citizen inquiry group. This is your community website to share stories, post community events, and find immediate help. All errors, corrections, and feedback should be directed to content manager, Natasha Rychlik, at info@parklandcc.ca.