Fanfare not part of the job for Calgary volunteer in northwest neighbourhood
When 50-year-old Brad Klein talks about Hidden Valley, the word “comfortable” comes to his mind first.
“Comfortable,” because Klein has spent the past 16 years as president of the Hidden Valley Community Association, helping to build an area that “has it all.” That long journey veered onto another path when he stepped down from the role of president earlier this year.
“I like it,” Klein said of his decision. “There’s a lot of free time I have now.”
The association with which Klein served was not only responsible for his northwest community of Hidden Valley, but also neighbouring Hanson Ranch. Both incepted in 1990, the two communities together house approximately 12,000 residents.
In an effort to ensure Hidden Valley and Hanson Ranch both become and stay areas that people would want to call home, Klein spent thousands of hours behind the scenes. He was the one shoveling the rink in -50 degree weather; the one framing, wiring and dry walling Hidden Valley’s make-shift meeting centre and storage area, deemed the “Hidden Hut”; and the one rallying for noise reduction for residents whose homes back onto the major thoroughfares of Country Hills Boulevard and Stoney Trail.
For ex-board member Bruce Ritchie, who served alongside Klein for nearly 15 years, it was that unadvertised time spent in his position as president that defined Klein most.
“Sometimes he won; sometimes he lost. But most residents never even knew he was fighting their battles for them. Brad was never about fanfare. He did things quietly,” Ritchie said.
Hidden Valley’s city recreation coordinator Michelle Saulnier knows the importance of that work. Saulnier has been a vital part of the community, acting as a liaison and city resource for the past three years.
“Those are big shoes to fill, and they are all volunteers. It’s a big thing to be the president of a community association and a huge responsibility,” Saulnier said.
Additional volunteer efforts have been key to the success of the community. Community associations are often run by a handful of volunteers.
“Annually, 20,660 community association volunteers contribute 2.4 million hours of public service,” the Federation of Calgary Communities says of Calgary on their website. That time is equivalent to nearly 275 years of continuous volunteering.
It is the combination of those countless hours and volunteer labours that have allowed the residents of Hidden Valley to “expect a certain standard of our community, its association, and its programs,” Ritchie said.
However, expectations aren’t always necessary, at least not for 19-year-old Pauline Chen, who has lived in the community for 10 years. She has witnessed its growth and understands that creating such a “safe and diverse” community has likely not always been easy.
“I’ve started to noticed a lot of ethnic diversity,” Chen said. “It’s fairly safe as well…. No one really complains. It’s small, everybody knows each other and it makes you feel right at home.”
It was Klein who formed the Hidden Valley Community Association in 1995 in order to help make the area feel more like home, and it was Klein who helped nurture the community through its growing pains in the mid 1990s and early 2000s, Ritchie said. Klein “stuck around for the last decade to ensure all the hard work from years past wasn’t done in vain.”
However, further continuation of that work is not so simple. Community associations have bylaws regarding how a president is elected. Those who aspire to fill the position must be nominated and are voted in during the annual general meeting.
Hidden Valley’s current secretary, Shannon Martel, has stepped up to the plate for now. She has unofficially taken on many of the duties that would normally be fielded to the president. Though her initial involvement was a result of volunteering for her children’s activities, further work has always been with the community’s best interests in mind.
“We want this to be a nice place to live. It’s got a lot of green space, parks, walkways, bikeways and schools,” Martel said of going forward. “We’ve got a small-town feel and we really want to maintain that.”
Meanwhile, Klein had this advice for the person that fills his shoes: ”You’ve got to be a good listener. You have to listen to [people]. Even if you can’t do anything, sometimes all you have to do is listen.”