It Takes a Village

Arts on the Ave is matching vulnerable families with host families who can provide support to them thanks to $30,000 ECF grant.

Christy Morin founded Arts on the Ave more than two decades ago. She is still doing everything she can to make Edmontonians see the Alberta Avenue community’s value, even in a global pandemic.

When Morin moved into the neighbourhood 27 years ago, she became aware of the large population of artists in the area. She notes that the community has a bit of a bad reputation, which inspired the idea behind Arts on the Ave.

“’How do we bring Edmonton to our doorstep?’ was the question that got us going,” says Morin. “We all agreed, ‘Why don’t we Edify the community through the arts?’”

It wasn’t until Morin sat down to talk with a vice-principal from a school in the area that she realized how needy some of the families living around the avenue are. He collected bottles from restaurants and donated them for spare money to get food for his students. As tears welled up in his eyes, Morin realized that if youth aren’t supported, their creativity isn’t being nourished either.

When COVID-19 hit, the schools in the area closed down. Hundreds of children lost access to wraparound food programs that they rely on for at least one of their daily meals. Arts on the Ave quickly stepped up to provide.

“We decided it’s our job to be here because this is our hood,” says Morin.

With a $30,000 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF), Arts on the Ave created the It Takes a Village project. Vulnerable families get paired with host families that can deliver groceries and provide any other support they may need.

“There is no reason that children should ever have to worry about going hungry,” Nneka Otogbolu, ECF’s Director of Communications and Equity Strategy says. “We are thrilled to be able to support this project and ensure families are receiving nutritious meals during the pandemic.”

Volunteer families are matched with a family for six months, with a $75 two-week grocery allowance to spend. Arts on the Ave hopes to meet their goal of helping 200 families and is currently about a quarter of the way there.

“Edmonton Community Foundation has been a pillar partner for Arts on the Ave for years, and their ability to be able to see the need and respond so quickly has been nothing but amazing,” says Morin.

Morin and her husband have also been hosting a family, and she says that it’s not just about receiving food for these families – it’s about having a complete support system.

“Having that exchange on the doorstep can’t be replaced with anything I’ve ever experienced before,” says Morin. “They see us as part of their family now, and that is so meaningful. Money doesn’t fill that void and having a friendship you would never have ever gotten is a real gift to us.”

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.