By Rizwana Shaikh, Federation of Calgary Communities
Neighbours in Ranchlands get together on a Sunday every month to share good food and conversation at their potluck dinners.
The dinners were started in February of 2018 by two community volunteers, Melanie Grier and Miranda Christin. It gained steam over the past few months with the June dinner hosting 12 families in the Ranchlands Community Centre. The Ranchlands Community Association (RCA) also donate the hall space and dishes to the potluck dinners.
“Eating is such a good way to bring people together,” said Grier.
She explained that the potluck dinners are designed to be easy on the families attending as well as the volunteers hosting, and people can bring anything to share even “a bag of chips.”
The potlucks start with a “swap shop” where neighbours can bring items from home for others to pick what they like from the pile. After dinner the remaining items are donated to Bow West Community Resource Center. They also provide children’s time, where local babysitters volunteer to take the children and engage them in fun activities so parents can relax and socialize.
Before everyone eats dinner, they participate in a different fun activity, June’s activity had everyone write a few words about what community meant to them. The answers were put into a word search for residents to solve and was then forwarded to RCA.
“We want this to be the initial engagement piece to get people to see the value of their own community,” said Christin.
She said it’s easy to find out the interest of the community when people are engaged in a fun event. Community associations can then develop programs around residents’ interests, which will help grow communities.
“It’s not our potlucks, it’s everyone’s and we want people to know that,” said Christin.
The potluck’s have a “connect box” where people can submit feedback on anything, including the dinner, and the relevant answers are forwarded to RCA.
Both Grier and Christin are developing a plan that they can share with others interested in organizing a community potluck in their neighbourhoods. They believe potlucks help foster a sense of family and community in residents, which is beneficial for everyone.