Alberta Health Services Toys for Tickets campaign at Chinook Regional Hospital has turned the pain of getting a parking ticket into an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on a child stuck in the hospital over the Christmas season.
Over 100 toys were donated and over 100 parking tickets forgiven this year in keeping with the spirit of the holidays, confirmed Maria Malcolm, a child-life specialist at Chinook Regional Hospital. The toys were accepted in lieu of ticket payment up until Dec. 13, and value of the toys had to be $25 minimum.
“When parking services brought up all of these toys, I was overwhelmed,” she told media representatives Friday morning. “Such generosity from our community is quite amazing to see, and it will certainly make Christmas nicer for the children here at the hospital. It’s not nice to be in hospital any time, but hospital over Christmas is really miserable.”
Malcolm explained the collected toys would be handed out Christmas Eve alongside the special seasonal stockings put together by hospital volunteers for the Operation Christmas Stocking campaign.
“We will use these toys for everyone from birth up to the age of 18,” confirmed Malcolm. “We even have a massive Tyrannosaurus Rex that, of course, we won’t give to a three or four year-old, but I can just see a 15 or 16 year-old enjoying this.”
Woman gives birth on bus
Not many people can say they were born on a bus.
But one boy arrived in the world in the bathroom of an inter-city bus recently in Lethbridge.
Red Arrow Motorcoach says the bus was about to pull out of a stop at the University of Lethbridge when a passenger ran up to the driver and said his wife was in labour in the bathroom.
Red Arrow says the driver was soon on the phone with emergency operators and helped the woman, whose water had broken and whose contractions were only one minute apart.
Paramedics arrived, the baby boy was born and all was well.
The driver, Shawn Coulter, says he had been on the job for less than a month, and it was his first time in such a situation.
Alleged drug house closed
Residents along the 100 block of 15 Street North got an early Christmas present as sheriffs and investigators from Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) office closed down an alleged drug house recently following an eight-month ordeal.
“The SCAN unit received two complaints in May of 2019 of criminal activity occurring out of the property,” said SCAN investigator Robert Pracic, who spearheaded the effort. “The two complainants on file were very vocal about the problems in the neighbourhood and were in distress. And that was supported by a whole community that rallied against the criminal activity occurring at this location.”
Following an investigation, Pracic said his office found merit in the complaints and drafted a warning letter to the house’s owner, who is actually an Ontario resident.
“Initially the owner was not ready to evict or take action based on the evidence SCAN provided to her,” said Pracic, “however, following the warning letter there was a subsequent investigation done into the property to gather more evidence followed by the drafting of the CSO, which is the Community Safety Order.”
The Lethbridge Police Service conducted the follow-up investigation, finally obtaining enough evidence to serve a search warrant on the property in September.
“They executed that search warrant, and during that search did find weapons and drugs on the property,” confirmed Pracic. “Following that, we submitted the CSO application to the courts, and we were successful at obtaining a 71-day closure of the property. The fence will come down in 71 days, but the CSO will continue to be in effect until December of 2020.”
The house was fenced off, the windows were boarded up and the locks were changed.
Cheese factory stages event
The Crystal Springs Cheese Factory, just outside of Lethbridge by Park Lake, opened up their factory recently for the community to learn how cheese products are made and try some fresh-from-the-factory eggnog.
Around Christmas time, fancy cheeses are on almost everyones tables around the holidays, which is why Crystal Springs Cheese decided to have their Christmas on the Farm day, with plenty of activities, tours and tastings throughout the day.
“Today we are doing a Christmas-at-the-Farm event where we have some live cheesemaking, and some eggnog you can get right out of the vat,” says Harvey Beyer, sales and operations manager at Crystal Spring Cheese.
“Christmas and cheese goes well together because people like having fancy cheeses around the holidays, and we love Christmas a lot and we love to celebrate so we thought we would open up and invite people to check out our plant.”
Throughout the day, Crystal Spring Cheese was collecting donations from their entrance fee to donate to Streets Alive Missions in Lethbridge, to help support some of their programming during one of their busiest times of the year.
“Streets Alive is a mission that my brother is very involved with, he volunteers once a week and it is pretty close to him so we decided to raise some funds for Streets Alive,” says Beyer.
City offers tips
They happen year-round. But Lethbridge residents can expect more watermain breaks over the winter — especially during a cold snap.
So it pays to be prepared, officials say.
Leanne Lammertsen, operations manager for the City’s water and wastewater utilities, says crews aim to repair the line and return service within 24 hours of it being reported.
But first, she says, officials attempt to let people know about the unexpected outage.
City of Lethbridge personnel go door-to-door to urge residents to fill pails and other containers before the watermain valves are shut.
When there’s no response, she adds, they leave a notice hanging on the front door handle.
Crews also bring a mobile water supply for people affected by the break. The emergency water supply tanks are heated in winter months, Lammertsen adds.
Watermain breaks occur more often in older parts of the city, she says. And they typically increase as the temperature falls.
Last February was a particularly difficult month, she notes, with its prolonged cold spell.
During 2018, officials say, crews responded to 43 watermain breaks. So far this year — thanks largely to a frigid February — there have been 86 breaks.
The water utility has five crews ready to respond to reports of a break, Lammertsen says. And this year, they have new equipment to make excavation easier in the cold.
When crews are scrambling to keep up, she adds, personnel from other departments can help out.
Grant offers help
It is not a secret that local First Nations have their problems. Problems with substance abuse. Problems with crime. Problems stemming from widespread poverty. But what sometimes goes understated and unacknowledged is the severe impact these circumstances are having on youth in these communities in particular. Many First Nations fear they are at risk of losing their younger generations and are actively seeking some solution to turn the tide.
For many, education is seen as the answer, but the question becomes how does one square the circle in that regard when Indigenous students have the highest dropout rate and the worst educational outcomes at the elementary and secondary school levels in the province?
That’s where the Mastercard Foundation is hoping to step in to help by providing a $15-million grant over the next five years to fund and strengthen the existing collaboration between the peoples of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the University of Lethbridge. The objective of the grant is provide the necessary funding to empower greater youth education and outreach efforts, and improve overall outcomes.
U of L enters agreement
University students from Japan may now earn a degree from the University of Lethbridge.
A new “double degree” agreement has been announced by the U of L and its longtime international partner, Hokkai-Gakuen University in Sapporo.
Students at Hokkai-Gakuen — the first international university to partner with U of L, 38 years ago — can now complete their first two years at their home university and then come to Lethbridge for two years to earn degrees from both institutions.
“We are extremely pleased to be part of this double-degree agreement,” says Mike Mahon, U of L president and vice-chancellor.
“The U of L is proud of its friendship with Hokkai-Gakuen University and our longstanding partnership has benefited so many students and faculty.
“We are excited to provide HGU students with two years of outstanding learning and the opportunity to earn a U of L degree.”
U of L faculty members as well as students have benefited from 38 years of exchanges with Hokkai-Gakuen. More than 70 U of L faculty members have gone to HGU as visiting exchange professors, officials say, and 60 HGU faculty members have visited Lethbridge. As well, nearly 220 U of L students have attended HGU while almost 300 of its students have studied at U of L since 1986.
Avalanche warning issued
Waterton Lakes National Park and the southern Rocky Mountains was included in a new avalanche warning issued Dec. 23.
The weekend’s storms dropped plenty of snow on the mountain ranges, officials report, and it’s now sitting on an weak layer of older snow.
“The danger ratings are going down across the map because naturally running avalanches have slowed down or stopped,” explains Ilya Storm, forecast program supervisor for Avalanche Canada. “However, now many slopes are primed for human-triggered avalanches.
“Distinguishing between slopes that have already slid and those that are at the tipping point will be very difficult,” she says.
“This, combined with clearing weather during a holiday week, has us very concerned for backcountry users.”
That led Avalanche Canada, in partnership with Parks Canada and Alberta’s Kananaskis Country, to issue a special warning for recreational users of backcountry and front-country avalanche terrain. It extends north to Banff, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks as well as west to the Lizard Range and Flathead Valley as well as the Purcell Range west of Cranbrook.
Outdoors officials warn all backcountry users, and anyone entering avalanche terrain, including land outside ski area boundaries, to check their regional avalanche forecasts at http://www.avalanche.ca.