North Edmonton residents rush to restock ransacked Green Shack

A break-in led to bare shelves at a north Edmonton neighbourhood’s Green Shack, just one day before the summer program was scheduled to start.

Hundreds of Green Shack programs — funded primarily by the City of Edmonton — provide free, staff-led activities for children between the ages of six and 12. The small shacks in city parks are stuffed with sports equipment, toys and art supplies.

Almost all of the supplies stored in the Athlone neighbourhood’s locked shack vanished after a break-in on Monday night. The theft occurred in a park near 129th Street and 130th Avenue.

“All that was really left in there was some burned paper towel, a couple of broken things and a beach ball,” said Melanie Limb, president of Athlone’s community league.

Edmonton Police Service spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said police received a call about the theft while it was happening at about 10:15 p.m. on Monday night. Sheppard said Wednesday that police were still investigating and have not yet charged anyone.

Community rallies to replace stolen supplies

Residents in Athlone and nearby communities are donating supplies to restock the shack.

Nearby resident Clarice Hursin, whose two young boys enjoy the Green Shack program, donated supplies on Tuesday. (Samuel Martin/CBC)

Clarice Hursin, an Athlone resident with two young boys, asked for support from other community leagues and delivered a batch of supplies she purchased to the shack herself on Tuesday. 

“That shack was the saddest shack I’ve ever seen,” she said.

“This is really the only place where some of these kids get to go when there’s no school,” said Zee Flory, who grew up in the neighbourhood and lives there now. Flory said she was planning to donate supplies on Wednesday night.

Athlone resident Zee Flory said she planned to donate supplies to her neighbourhood’s Green Shack on Wednesday.

City staff dropped off supplies and the manager of the Value Village on Fort Road, near 137th Avenue, offered to replace goods as well.

“The community response has been awesome,” Limb said.

Planning in progress for neighbourhood watch program

To prevent future thefts in the area, some residents are banding together to start a neighbourhood watch program.

“Just yesterday, someone contacted me and said they wanted to head it up,” Limb said.

“Now we just need some people to help out with it and do the walking.”

Riverdale residents want full Green Shack program back

Community members in Riverdale noticed the Green Shack in their neighbourhood disappeared last month.

It’s been replaced by a twice-a-week Pop-Up Play program, a similar city initiative for emerging communities and neighbourhoods with fewer children.

“We absolutely want our Green Shack program back,” said Jodine Chase, a Riverdale resident whose four children have relied on the program over the years.

Chase said her 13-year-old son is so committed to Green Shack he plans to ride the bus to Westmount to attend the program there.

Dee Dee Carr, a supervisor of neighbourhood experiences for the City of Edmonton, said most communities have the normal Green Shack program. 

Factors that affect which communities get full programs include available land, demographics, three years of attendance data, “social vulnerability information” and whether there have been recent community-funded renovation projects in the area, she said.

Communities with the Pop-Up Play program can upgrade to the Green Shack program if they contribute $5,000.

Chase said residents are interested in fundraising to bring the old program back.

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