Alvena Community Centre’s spring fundraiser coming up

Carol Baldwin
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Wakaw Recorder

The Alvena Community Centre is once again holding its spring fundraising evening complete with supper and entertainment. Saturday, June 8th the doors will open for the evening at 5:00 pm with supper being served at 6:00. 

Tickets are only available until June 1st at Alvena Insurance or by contacting Shirley at 306-321-7641 or Shelby at 306-361-6228. In addition to the perogy supper and musical entertainment provided by Ron Charney & Brothers of the Road, there will be a cash bar, 50/50, and numerous raffle prizes. With only 200 tickets available those marking the date on their calendar should enquire about tickets soon. At a price of only $40, the organizers are hoping for a sell-out once again.

The lasting impact of the pandemic is felt in communities like Alvena, where revenue sources such as facility rentals and volunteer-organized Bingos, have never recovered to pre-pandemic levels. The facilities still need to be maintained to ensure that in years to come, they are still there for events such as reunions and other gatherings that bring community members together in fellowship and camaraderie.

With the closing of schools and churches, often the only space left in small hamlets in which to gather is the community hall, but the ongoing expenses of insurance, taxes, and electricity often fall on an ever-dwindling number of volunteers to fundraise for. The latest available census numbers state there are 75 residents in the village, one-quarter of which are children. 

Rose Olfert, professor emerita at the University of Saskatchewan’s Johnson Shoyama School of Public Policy, says the shift in Saskatchewan reflects what has been happening around the world. Bob Patrick, professor, and chair of the Regional and Urban Planning program at the U of S, echoed that in comments to the Star Phoenix in December 2020.

“That’s a trend that’s continuing,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon or change drastically. We’re going to become more and more urban. I think the big question is what will that urban form look like?”

Although the definition of rural has changed over time, rural areas in Canada are now defined as those with fewer than 1,000 people occupying a territory with fewer than 400 people per square kilometre, Saskatchewan still boasts a lot of municipal governments: 775 in total (that does not include hamlets, which are not independently governed). 

Through the first half of the 20th century, Saskatchewan’s shift from rural to urban was gradual, with nearly 70 percent of people living in rural areas as the 1950s began. Then, the urban revolution hit. In 1961, Saskatchewan had the second-lowest urban population at 43 percent, by 2016, the percentage of urban dwellers in Saskatchewan had increased to two-thirds. While all these numbers tell a story, it is not the entire story. “For the people who live in smaller cities or rural areas, they would tell you that the statistics don’t tell you anything about the quality of life,” Olfert says. “Many people are very attached to their rural communities, or their small cities and they are very adamant that they enjoy a very good quality of life.”

That quality of life can facilitate an almost dormancy that can keep smaller communities going for decades, she says, with economic factors coming into play as well. “If you have a house in a tiny community and you’re considering moving to Saskatoon or Regina, it’s not a very attractive proposition because the price you’re going to get for your house in the small village is very different than the price you’re going to have to pay if you move into Saskatoon,” Olfert says. “So, they stay there.”

Despite the shift in population and priorities, it may not be a death knell for small communities like Alvena, which saw a 25 percent growth between the last two census years. The high number of people working from home since the pandemic could herald a rethink of the quality-of-life factor since location matters less than it used to for many people.

As well, the high housing costs in the province’s larger centres could make people look to smaller communities as a money-saving measure. So, maybe there will be a resurgence of rural or semi-rural living as more people find ways to live and work from home. However, an aging population that will want to remain close to health care and other services, may fuel growth in small communities near larger centres, while those further away may suffer a further decline. Ultimately, according to Bob Patrick, the Darwinian theory can perhaps best explain the inevitable trend that will benefit some communities and doom others.

“It’s almost like sort of survival of the fittest,” he said. “Once you have that critical mass, that centre of population and that centre of economic activity, then past that threshold and you are going to be OK, you are going to survive it and you are going to grow. But if you are behind, you are going to lose.”

No small community wants to hear that they may become a statistic in the tale of a forgotten and abandoned rural Saskatchewan, but survival takes a commitment to support not just the town or community that is defined as home, but the neighbouring ones as well. The Alvena Community Centre has been hosting the spring fundraiser for many years and it has always enjoyed the greatest of reviews from those who have attended. As a space for seniors’ programs, community gatherings, and meetings, along with family events, a ticket for its evening of music and socializing will help the Centre to continue serving Alvena and the area into the future.