Funding, lack of volunteers cited
The familiar red and white sign depicting a small boy holding a woman’s hand is disappearing from the windows of Calgary Block Parent homes.
The Calgary Block Parent Association is in the process of shutting down due to financial difficulties and lack of volunteers, said Linda Patterson, president of the Block Parent Program of Canada. It has been active in the city since 1975.
The parent organization is currently collecting and accounting for all the Block Parent signs in the city.
“Calgary was one of the biggest and best programs in this country,” Patterson said.
“We need new blood, we need new interested people in Calgary. Calgary is a large city but it worked. It worked up until about a year ago and for numerous reasons it’s just going to have to close it doors.”
Patterson said the program was successful because for awhile, “it had the staff to keep the files up to date and keep interest in the city.”
According to the Block Parent Program of Canada website, it costs $1,500 to establish a program in a community of 25,000 people. In Calgary however, because of the city’s large size, a paid staff was required. Patterson said the Calgary chapter had up to five paid staff at one time but they have all now been let go. She was unable to disclose financial and budgetary details.
“That’s where the difficulty comes in,” said Lynn Squance, administrator of the Alberta Block Parent Association.
In contrast, Squance said completely volunteer-run programs, like the ones in Okotoks and High River, are flourishing in smaller communities.
“For one of the most successful programs in the country to do this, it’s a shame,” she said.
She added that the program has seen dwindling numbers of volunteers. Squance estimated that the program had 7,000 Block Parent homes in Calgary 15 years ago, compared to around 1,000 today.
Although there won’t be any Block Parent signs in windows around the city, Squance says she will continue going into classrooms. She said spreading the Block Parent message is still important in case children move to another town where the program is still active.
Patterson said she hopes interested Calgarians will come forward to re-establish the program. She said the program could be run completely by volunteers if they had enough people to share the responsibilities.
“They had the right people at one point, very dedicated people that ran the program. I would love nothing more than to see that program restarted,” she said.
Editor's note: This story was updated September 19, 2011"