By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Taber and District Community Adult Learning Association (TDCALA) is celebrating its 50th anniversary as an organization this year.
“Back in April, during Volunteer Week, we had a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and we talked about the highlights, a little bit about our history, and we presented some awards to some of our volunteers,” Cindy Slenders, Executive Director for the Taber and District Community Adult Learning Association, said. “It was a very nice evening, and it was actually quite a bit of fun. We had that evening at the Heritage Inn here in Taber and we had about 75 people attend.”
TDCALA was actually organized in 1972, according to their history, and the first continuing education classes, which were conventional German and French, were organized by Jack Herman. Herman did this as part of his job with the Taber School Division.
In 1974, the first council was organized by Jack Herman and Jean Stone and the first coordinator, Toni Townsend, came on board in 1976, and worked part-time out of her home. Townsend established a council of volunteer representatives that came from Alberta Agriculture, Town of Taber Parks and Recreation, and the School Board. Townsend also planned courses including macrame, quilting, and conversational French, and coordinated council business.
At that point, the office for TDCALA was located in the Town Administration Office and was meeting monthly. In 1980, Anne Wilson came on as the second coordinator and worked part-time out of the Taber School Division offices. More courses came about, including computer and parenting.
In December 1984, Marg Wickstrom, Parks and Recreation Director, took over coordinating council business and in August 1985, Jane Brenner came on as part-time council coordinator. In 1992, the position of coordinating council business became a full-time role.
The Association, according to the history, has provided many services including: in 1987, the Taber and District Volunteer Adult Literacy Program came into existence, as did the Taber Campus for Lethbridge Community College. The Taber Campus for Lethbridge Community College only lasted until 2003. The Industry Canada Community Access Program ran from 1998 to 2003. The Family Literacy Program began in 1996 and is still running. The Career Resource Centre ran from 1999 to 2011. The Community Kitchen ran from 2001 to 2003. The ESL Drop-In Centre began in 2007 and is still active. The Citizenship Learning Program began in 2011 and is still running. The Families Learning Together ESL Program ran from 1995 to 2020, the Work Foundations ESL Program started in 2009 and is still running, and the Newcomers Services and Outreach Program began in 2017 and is still currently running.
Other services the association provides are Seniors Programs, Employment Assistance, a Youth Employment Program, supports for employers, women’s conferences, farming conferences, palliative care conferences, employment conferences, technology and resiliency workshops, job fairs, general courses, GED courses, Adult Education courses, First Aid and Mental Health First Aid, babysitting courses, online work skills development, safety, and they also provide a vibrant learning catalogue of course information that is available twice a year.
“Our service region is from the Canada/U.S. border all the way to north of Vauxhall,” Slenders said. “We service the county of Warner and the M.D. of Taber and the municipalities within that. We are a grant funded organization. We are a not-for-profit organization. Our evolution has basically been based on the community needs and the grants that we’re able to find and secure in order to address those community needs. And that’s been how we’ve evolved over the last 50 years.”
Slenders says that in addition to current programming, TDCALA will be holding a job fair in September and is also currently doing a community needs assessment via a link on Facebook. Those who fill out the survey, Slender says, will be able to put their name into a draw for a gift card. The survey can be accessed at the following link: https://uleth.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_26vM48OUUoruucC?fbclid=IwAR2qreObGJ50PpY_E0zHxNsCe6e_Ut2MEapnBtntsNfByuOWOYkMHxubd7s
“It’s really important that we know about the needs of the community, and what is the community seeing as a need, so that when we’re writing our grants, we can say that people in our communities have said whatever their need is,” Slenders said. “When people tell us that there’s a need, we do our best to address that need.”
Slenders says anyone who wants more information about the Taber and District Community Adult Learning Association can visit the facility at 5011 49 Avenue, Taber, Alberta (in the Taber Provincial Building), call 403-223-1169, or visit the website: http://taberadultlearning.com/.