Each year Edmonton’s engineering community comes together, in support of the United Way – Alberta Capital Region, to work on a collaborative community impact project. Staff from Morrison Hershfield regularly participate in this “Day of Caring” event.
The 14th annual Engineering Challenge Day of Caring took place on September 11, 2020. It seems fitting that the benefactor of this year’s project was the Canadian Mental Health Association of Edmonton, specifically CMHA Edmonton’s Northern Arms Residence.
CMHA Edmonton is a non-profit volunteer agency that functions as a community centre promoting mental health. It works in partnership with other community agencies to educate about mental health and illness, to advocate for better conditions in the community, and to help people build strong supports for community life.
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social isolation has shed light on the positive effects community, friendship and the outdoors can have on mental health. Building a community garden and outdoor living space for the tenants of the Northern Arms Residence provides tenants with a much-needed space to come together in a safe way. It also aims to help residents tackle food security, another important step in improving physical and mental health.
Although the pandemic presented some challenges, the 75 volunteers from 17 local engineering firms followed strict COVID-19 safety protocols throughout the day. The yard was transformed from flat grass to a true outdoor living space with raised gardens, a gazebo, seating areas, locker room and shed, outdoor lighting, and landscaping all around.
For MHers Aaron and Marla, it was their first year participating. Aaron was impressed with the amount of work that was accomplished in a single day. Marla commented: “I thought it was a really special event. There was a real sense of working to improve these people’s living space. It was a huge change in just a day. Outdoor spaces are especially important for your mental health, especially during COVID-19.”
The results of the day’s efforts are heartwarming. One woman left for work and saw holes in the ground. She came back to find an oasis living space in her backyard and told organizers how much this space will do for her mental health and wellbeing during this hard time in her life. Other residents were showing off the transformation with pride via facetime and some were already busy watering the sod early in the morning.
Congratulations Aaron and Marla and all Engineering Day of Caring volunteers and sponsors for your efforts to make a difference in the community.
For more photos of the event, visit The United Way Engineering Challenge – Alberta Capital Region photo album on Facebook.