In light of tragedy, two community members are hoping to improve the lives of others.
John Paul II Collegiate student Allysa Woodrow and Living Faith Chapel pastor Deb McNabb are leading the Better Together project to help form relationships between students and seniors.
Woodrow and McNabb got together after eight suicides took place in the Battlefords early in 2018. Some were Woodrow’s friends, and McNabb officiated five funerals. The ages of the deceased were under the age of 22 or over the age of 55, said McNabb.
“Allysa realized that the losses needed to stop, and one way she believed that the losses would stop is if she could connect those bookend generations together,” McNabb said.
Youth participants are in classes in the Light of Christ and Living Sky School Divisions, and include the midget Barons hockey team. Participating seniors live in Marchildon, Davidson and Ruth Whyte Manors.
Both groups are fitted with t-shirts featuring four different designs, and at Better Together meetings, young people are matched with older people wearing the same shirts.
On Tuesdays in January and February, the groups will get together and talk and carry out activities.
Members of the Better Together campaign, Battlefords' mayors and some councillors gathered at City Hall Tuesday morning for an event that included a North Battleford proclamation and photos. Tuesdays in January and February became “Better Together Tuesdays” in the city.
“Evidence-based research has shown that communities that have connected their kids and teens to the older generation have seen the clear benefits of being together,” Mayor Ryan Bater said, adding those communities have seen decreased loneliness and satisfaction from sharing knowledge and experience.
“We’re hoping the whole city keeps going every Tuesday, because we need it,” McNabb said.
Battleford also issued a proclamation at Monday's town council meeting, where Woodrow and McNabb gave a presentation.
Battleford Mayor Ames Leslie said he's really excited for the campaign and commended Woodrow.
“I don't know if I've ever heard of such a complex and simple approach to something in my life,” Leslie said. “If you think about it, it's so simple, and I don't know why nobody's thought of it sooner.”
Claude Desnoyers, who attended the City Hall event, said he's looking forward to the results of the project.
“In today's society, … granchildren grow up not knowing their grandparents, and vice versa,” Desnoyers said. “I [think Better Together] is an excellent way for us to listen to each other, to share, to encourage each other and try to decrease the loneliness and isolation that people often feel.”
Woodrow applied for funding to carry out the project and received a $1,500 Rising Youth Community Service grant. The funding paid for shirts for program participants.
Woodrow and McNabb hope Better Together decreases loneliness and increases social cohesion. McNabb said she and Woodrow found out 65 per cent of seniors at Ruth Whyte Manor didn’t have contact with a teenager that wasn’t their grandchild.
A concept Woodrow and McNabb looked to for inspiration was ‘old’s cool’ community tours held elsewhere in which seniors toured the kids around their community, sharing stories about what once was and what they still enjoy, while the youth toured the seniors around, informing them of their experiences.
In applying it in the Battlefords, McNabb and Woodrow found former popular Battlefords destinations include Buds and Suds and the drive-in theatre. Youth asked seniors about the Fieldhouse, the skate park and the renovated Capitol Theatre.
At one point, McNabb said, a youth and senior were paired together, and “the only thing in common between [the girl] and the granny she was talking to was they both partied at The Springs.”
“The little granny said, ‘You take me back there.’ [The girl] said to the granny, ‘You know there’s a big steep hill you have to go down to get in there.”
The granny said, “I’m not that old.”
Better Together shirts are gaining popularity, McNabb said, and Battlefords’ mayors and councillors have bought shirts.
Battlefords Better Together Team has a Facebook page, and anyone can purchase the t-shirts at All Out for $22. Designs feature milk and cookies, bacon and eggs, salt and pepper, and ketchup and mustard.