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It’s natural to think about how others will express their happiness when you get married. After all, bridal showers and gift registries are a custom of the occasion. But what about giving, rather than getting?

For Calgary residents Jamie Solland-Khory and Jamshed Khory, giving was a natural and easy decision to make. “We are passionate about giving,” she says of their donations to a couple of favourite charities in lieu of take-home gifts for guests at their wedding last summer.

“Giving back is part of both of our upbringings. Rather than spending the money on party favours, we wanted to do something that was meaningful to us. We each chose one charity that felt close to our hearts.”

Solland-Khory made a cash donation to the long term care unit at Olds Health Care Centre. Her grandfather had been a patient in the unit, unfortunately passing away shortly before the wedding. Her husband donated to a drop-in centre in Calgary where his father was a volunteer.

 “Donations to any area of health care go a long way in complementing services at local hospitals and enhancing the patient care experience. Without these donations so many comforts and services just would not exist,” says Wayne Krejci, Site Manager at Olds Hospital and Care Centre.

Ashlee Hamblin, a Development Officer at the David Thompson Health Trust in Central Alberta agrees. “Rather than paying a couple of dollars per person for favours just for the sake of giving guests something from the wedding, you can donate that money and make a big impact on the lives of others.”

“Many couples already have plenty of stuff for their home so they request donations for charitable causes instead,” she adds. “Or they donate food hampers to the local food bank in lieu of putting centerpieces on each table at the reception.”

Hamblin says fundraising activities at the wedding can be part of the fun, too. Take the traditional clinking of glasses to get the couple to kiss: instead, guests are encouraged to put money in a donation jar for each kiss. A special ‘toonie bar’ can be set up designating proceeds from the alcohol sales to the charity of choice.

Solland-Khory placed cards on the reception tables letting guests know about their charitable giving, but the intention can be provided on the wedding invitations, as well. A description of the charity will give guests some background, for instance why the charity is close to the hearts of the couple.

Solland-Khory suggests asking your employer about a corporate policy to match charitable donations. In their case, both employers have philanthropic programs in place. Some companies may have a Community Investment Advisor on staff that researches and recommends charitable foundations and causes on behalf of the corporation.

“It’s worth looking into because it increases the overall donation,” Solland-Khory says.“It’s a win-win situation.”

“We have only had positive feedback about this idea: nobody ever complained that they didn’t get some mints to take home!”

Published in Red Deer Advocate Special Sections Wedding Guide February 2015. May not be reprinted without author's permission.



GrandmaLink - Africa

If it’s true it takes a village to raise a child, does it matter that the village is on the other side of the world? When Shirley Schalloner returned to Red Deer from a trip to Africa in 20014, she remained awestricken by the joy of life despite the extreme hardships she had witnessed in the people there. Serendipitously, not long after that trip, Schalloner attended a public lecture delivered by former politician and diplomat Stephen Lewis.

“His passion and his anger on behalf of the grandmothers in Africa is moving, “ Schalloner says. “He describes them as the unsung heroes.” Consequently, she was inspired to start a local organization to help the grandmothers in Africa raising children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

With a scarcity of resources, care of the millions of orphaned children has fallen to these women. In many instances the grandmothers – while grieving the loss of their adult children - are responsible not only for their grandchildren but other bereaved children in the community, as well.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation launched the Grandmother to Grandmother initiative in 2006 as a response to the humanitarian crisis. An A 2006 UNICEF report state that although HIV has reached nearly every part of the world, sub-Saharan Africa has been hit the hardest. The region is home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s people living with HIV. It is also home to over 48 million orphans, 12 million of them parentless as a result of the AIDS epidemic. The report also cites studies linking better outcomes for children who remain close to their biological family, They are more likely to be well cared for and have a greater chance to go to school consistently, regardless of poverty level.

Along with raising awareness of these issues, the campaign builds solidarity between the African grandmothers and their counterparts in over 240 Canadian grandmother groups, including Grammalink-Africa in Red Deer.

Schalloner says the local group has approximately 20 active members, and a volunteer list that numbers 80 people. Different events support the Grammalink -Africa mission: to create awareness of the struggles faced by the African grandmothers and to fundraise for the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmother to Grandmother Campaign in order to bring much needed resources to the African families.

The Fabulous Fabric Sale is one of several Grammalink-Africa events, raising almost $8,000 to date. The donated fabric and yarn are popular with quilters, crafters, and sewers. Schalloner says Grammalink-Africa members were surprised and pleased to discover people involved in other charities put the fabric to good use for their programs. For example, Days for Girls International purchases fabric to make feminine hygiene kits for African girls who are otherwise forced to miss valuable school days each month.

Other fundraisers include a Scrabble Benefit, a Mac & Cheese Lunch held in June and a Chili Lunch that takes place in October. Local ceramics club members make and donate the bowls, which attendees of the unique event get to keep afterward.

Since 2008, over $113,700 has been raised by the Canadian groups to assist with practical and immediate needs such as food, bedding, housing, transportation, and school uniforms and supplies. The Stephen Lewis Foundation works with grassroots groups in Africa to provide HIV awareness, bereavement, and parenting counseling, and to help develop financial sustainability through business skills training and micro-financing projects.

Funds have supported sustainability projects such as the purchase of a brick-making machine for a community in Uganda. Young people learn trades and are building “granny” houses. “They are also learning very practical skills, such as how to build coffins, “ notes Schalloner. In a land ravaged by illness, families want to provide dignified burials for their loved ones.

One of Schalloner’s lasting impressions is of the African peoples’ resilience in the face of challenges. “Sometimes, people point out that we have plenty of problems in our backyard, so why do I involve myself in problems in Africa? I think it’s part of knowing I am a global citizen. I grew up in very fortunate circumstances,“

she says, contrasting her situation to that of many of the African grandmothers. “I have a comfortable life, plenty to eat, public health care and education. I’m able to receive a pension, and I have control over my life. To be born in Canada is like winning the lottery: we have more than enough. There are safety nets here that don’t exist in Africa.”

Pointing out the items created or donated as a result of the Fabulous Fabric sale that provide assistance for local charities and shelters, she says, “We all try to do what we can from our little part of the world.” Having met some of the African grandmothers, the bond of love between them and their grandchildren moves you to be involved.”

Grammalink-Africa volunteer Faye Hughes of Red Deer says empathy for the African women inspired her to become active in the local organization. “They have such strength and courage, “ she says. “As a grandmother I know what it’s like to be concerned about what the grandchildren will have to eat, where they will go to school, and that they have a decent place to live.”

 In 2011, members of Grammalink-Africa and other members of the public learned first-hand the parallels between grandparents in Africa and Alberta.  A visiting grandmother/granddaughter duo visited Red Deer and shared stories of their struggles in the face of the health epidemic in parts of their homeland.

Last year, the Grandma to Grandma Campaign organizers asked Canadian groups to nominate a representative to travel to Africa. The 23 nominees paid for their trip expenses, and also committed to speaking on their return to other groups and organizations about the experience of the African families.

Schalloner says that despite the challenges, the older African women are strong leaders and advocates in their communities. “These women have been disenfranchised; they are grieving for their children that have been lost in the HIV epidemic. Nevertheless, they are advocating for justice, for their rights, and to be allowed to stay on their land with their grandchildren.”

Like grandmothers the world over, they worry about the future for their grandkids. Schalloners says that many of the children have been traumatized by their experiences. While they initially needed food, shelter, and healthcare, they also require education and life skills training. As the caretakers, the grandmothers have an enormous role to play in the future of Africa. “The women may have up to 15 kids living with them. They see it as a venture of the whole community, “ she says.

Schalloner says that the humanitarian, author, and retired senator and general, Romeo Dallaire said it best: “Are the African children less human than ours?"

And Schalloner affirms, “Our mantra is that we will not rest until the African grandmothers can rest."

Published in Red Deer Advocate May 2015. May not be reprinted without author's permissin.



Green Cart Program Will Encourage Reduction of Organics in  Landfills


Do you leave stuff in your fridge way past the expiry date so that you can compost it? Steal your neighbour’s bags of garden clippings, so you can spread it on your flower beds? Crazy, right? In fact, the City of Red Deer wants a lot more residents to get crazy. Not so ridiculous that we waste good food, of course, but rather in the sense that more of us actively embrace the benefits of composting. This month, the City of Red Deer is rolling out the Green Cart Pilot Project, in part to divert residential organics. Other goals of the project are to “trial” various aspects of organics collection, including the use of automated carts and educational materials in order to refine the design of a future citywide program.


Approximately 2 thousand households have been selected to participate in the program. Keran Braich, Waste Diversion Specialist in Environmental Services, says the participants reflect the overall demographic of the full population.


With wheels and lids, the green carts provided by the City will hold kitchen food scraps, including meat or meat products, garden clippings and leaves, soiled paper – think of pizza boxes - and pet waste. Braich says all these items are fine to toss into the cart. Collection days will remain the same as the usual garbage and recycling schedule. Participants in the pilot program are supplied with a limited number of compostable bags in order to make moving food scraps from the kitchen to the cart easier. The City won’t be giving out extra bags beyond the initial supply, but the bags are available at many retail locations.


“This isn’t a new idea, “ says Braich. “In fact, it is part of the 2013 Waste Management Plan adopted by the City, with the goal to reduce our overall waste. We are focusing on reducing the amount of organic matter in our landfill.”


Organic waste – kitchen scraps, garden debris, and the like – accounts for 40 per cent of the volume found in the landfill. Along with addressing problems of volume in landfill sites, diverting the waste helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These seemingly innocent scraps in the trash heap potentially trap and heat the air in the atmosphere. The

greenhouse gas they produce contributes to the problems associated with global warming. “We want to deal with our organic waste better because it has value in terms of the finished compost and has great environmental benefits,” according to Braich.


A contractor will transport the green cart waste to a local facility where it will be made into compost for use on agricultural land from the contents. Soil amendments reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and water: an environment bonus in both instances.


To plan for this program, the Environmental Services Department accessed information from other communities, such Calgary and Airdrie. “We had to consider certain issues that we face in Central Alberta. For example, how the weather will impact the use of the carts. We talked to our counterparts in northern communities about how to operate the carts in the snow,” Braich says.


Environmental Services staff plans to solicit and answer questions from the program participants from before rolling out a citywide program in 2017. “We want to learn as much as we can from the residents so we can be ready to offer the best full-scale program for everyone,” says Braich.


Why a green cart:

Organic matter – kitchen, yard & pet waste – accounts for a whopping 40 per cent of the volume of stuff in our landfill sites. The City of Red Deer has adopted the 2013 Waste Management Master Plan to reduce the overall waste in our community.

What can I put in the green cart?

  • ·      Kitchen scraps including meat
  • ·      Yard clippings, leaves
  • ·      Pet waste & litter box contents, including compostable bags
  • ·      Soiled paper, including pizza boxes
  • ·      No need to separate items or use additional containers

When do I put out my green cart?

Green cart collection will occur on your regular scheduled garbage & recycling pick-up day & location.

Who can use the green carts?

It’s a pilot program at this stage, for 2 thousand pre-selected households, but Environmental Services hopes to offer a city- wide program in spring of 2017.

Where can I get more information?




Published April 2015 Red Deer Advocate. May not be reprinted without author's permission.



            Think of holiday makeup looks, and red lips and lots of gilding might come to mind. After all, it is the season of visions of sugarplums dancing through your head. Yes and no, says Jame McKay, Senior Makeup Artist at M.A.C. Cosmetics at their Toronto Head Office. “There are pastel pinks and gold, but with an edge. The look this winter is like a modern day Marilyn Monroe. The eyeliner gives it a more Bridget Bardot Look.”

            On the runways of Fashion Week in Toronto, New York, London, and Paris, makeup applications referenced the designers' visions: minimalist with graphic accents. Calvin Klein, for instance, showed lots of black and white designs featuring fabrication details that looked almost like holograms. Proenza Schouler sent laser cut black leather detailing down the runway, while tailored looks were presented by Ralph Lauren. Where the clothes were glamourous, the edgy makeup look provided a modern contrast.

            A defining element in this look is eyeliner. There are plenty of options in formulations and textures: gels, pencils, pens, and powders. Mckay suggests using a small angled brush with a powder. Gently pull your eyelid up and away with your other hand to create a taut surface on which to apply the liner, and use feather strokes to push the liner powder down along the lash line. You can achieve the same kind of look using a gel formula that dries to a powder finish. Gels, by the way, have a lot of staying power and are less likely to run or smudge when you are creating a graphic look.

            For that Bridge Bardot effect, flick the liner up and out at the outer edge of the lash line. McKay doesn't advise lining the lower lash line if you have dark circles, as this will only accentuate them and make you look tired. “You can make a check mark or any other shape using a bit of tape as a stencil along the lash line, “ she says. Think Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, or singer-songwriter Adele and you get an idea of the possibility of shapes and sizes of lines.

             For an everyday look you might want to stop the liner at the edge of the outer eyes, perhaps  with a little upward wing, but for a big night out try giving your look a boost with some false lashes. McKay likes to use the M.A.C. Number 7 lashes, from which she cuts a small section of the inner lashes. She applies this one third portion of the false lashes to the outer one third of the actual eyelashes. Add just a touch of shimmer on the lids with iridescent cream shadow or M.A.C. Strobe Cream. Finish off the look with plenty of mascara.

            With all this focus on the eyes, avoid covering your entire face with makeup. Applying a mask of foundation to the entire face is a common mistake made by a lot of older women,  a look that is dated and aging. “Check out the new shades and textures you see in magazines, “ advises McKay. “There are lots of choices now, and you can ask our pros for help. Our staff know the products really well.” Illuminating and shimmer products are now sheerer than previously, and those formulas with very fine particles can be worn by most people. Moisturizer and primer keep things plumped and dewy looking, but if your skin is on the dry side, choose creamy textured or oil based foundation. McKay suggests applying a bit of foundation under the eyes, perhaps around your mouth, to wherever you need to 'spot cover', and then blending it out, and finishing with M.A.C. Fix + Spray.

            Our dry winter climate means all but the oiliest skins can probably skip face powder, but with all the black in our wardrobe at this time of year, bronzer and lip colour can give the face a hit of much needed colour. Just as fashion is having a moment with gold, M.A.C. has some of the prettiest palettes out there. Pink and gold is flattering to just about everyone, says McKay. Natural looking flushed cheeks and radiant skin are the beautiful backdrop to this look.

            While younger women can get away with being more adventurous and creative in playing with eye makeup, everyone can wear bright lip colours. As in fashion, it comes down to individual self expression. McKay points to Nicki Minaj as an example of someone who plays with colour and creates different looks. “Lots of people can do that, “ she says. But if you aren't into channeling the singer, you can experiment with different saturations and textures, from light to neon, frosted to matte. Simply blot the intense colour down somewhat, and apply a gloss over top to complement the strong eye look.

            A trend everyone can get in on is at the tips of our fingers. Nail art is exploding, and at M.A.C. pale mint green nails are framed with a thin black line of polish, referencing those Marilyn-esque eyes winged with black eyeliner. Statement nails are a fun way to experiment with a trend. While makeup and hair looks currently give a nod to the slightly bed-headed bohemian look of icons such as Jane Birken and Bridget Bardot, nails decorated with graphic details give your look an up to date edge.

            The spirit this season is very pretty, modern, but with a little bit of toughness. McKay says it can be as simple as throwing on a few false lashes, adding eye liner and mascara, touching up your face where needed, swiping on some bright pink gloss, and then you're out the door. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a sweet holiday.

First published in Red Deer Advocate December 2012.

May not be re-printed without permission of author.








            It's difficult to believe that the plethora of objects -  the memorabilia, vintage maps, exquisite textiles, the unique artifacts -  carefully selected to illustrate the new permanent Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery exhibit, “Remarkable Red Deer: Stories from the Heart of the Parkland”, are just the tip of the iceberg of an extensive and fascinating collection.

            Thousands of objects, from the exotic to the mundane, are housed behind the scenes. Valerie Miller, Collections Coordinator at the Red Deer MAG explains that while the collection contains fossils that are millions of years old, not everything is unique or rare. Many contemporary objects, including a funky bench made out of skateboards, are also representational of life in Red Deer.

            A prisoner of war uniform held in the MAG collection was donated by a local farmer who had purchased the pants, jacket, and hat as a set at an Army & Navy Surplus Store. Manufactured by the Great Western Garment Co. in Edmonton, and worn by international soldiers detained in Canadian work camps, the uniform is rare and unique because it is a complete set. Consequently, it is a much requested item for loan to other institutions.

            As in the case of the uniform, the MAG receives many donations from the public. “When we receive items, we consider what gaps are currently in the collection, and what we can actually store and care for here. We are somewhat selective in what we can accept, “ says Miller. “The object has to fit with our mandate and help tell the story of what it represents, but we're very pleased when people call us with something they think might have historical significance.”

            “Sometimes we approach people in the community to obtain a specific item if it can help tell the story of life in Red Deer, “ she says. For the new exhibit, staff identified a gap in the collection of objects from the oil and gas industry. They are currently working with community advisors to acquire the appropriate items that will illustrate the narrative of the impact on local life by that sector.

            It isn't all just an exciting treasure hunt, though. Miller acknowledges that sometimes the objects that support a storyline no longer exist. With or without a particular item, a lot of effort and research goes on behind the scenes. The MAG staff collaborates closely with Red Deer Archives staff, the Glenbow Museum archives, and provincial and national archives to research the supporting documentation that provides a context and brings the stories to life.

            For example, the Red Deer Archives supplied a photographic image of Ella Parsons for the new exhibit. The MAG textile collection (the largest in Western Canada) holds the actual clothing Mrs. Parson is wearing in the photograph

            Similarly, researchers and students can arrange to access the holdings, as well as the MAG library, whether they are interested in quilt and clothing patterns, vintage fashion magazines, or in home canning utensils and blacksmithing tools.

            While the MAG houses thousands of items, it is also a repository for just as many stories. “Meeting the people, talking about their experiences, their work, their, life: that's what I love,” says Miller.


Published in Red Deer Advocate Special Sections 2013.

May not be re-printed without permission of author.