The red bench nestled under the elms in front of Kim Buehler’s Holyrood home has become a community gathering place.
Young children often hop up onto its rugged boards. Elderly neighbours stop to take a rest.
She even caught a glimpse of a young father and his children opening birthday gifts on the bench, one sunny afternoon this spring.
Similar benches, many adorned with painted flowers and light-hearted messages such as “grow old with me,” now adorn the south-end neighbourhood.
It’s part of a community project Buehler, executive director of the Southeast Edmonton Seniors Association, has been spearheading with a $2,500 grant from the city’s Age Friendly Edmonton Innovation Fund.
She wanted to make the community more walkable for many of its senior residents.
“I’m amazed at how often that bench is used,” Buehler said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.
“And it just goes to prove that when you make a community senior friendly, you actually make it all-age friendly.”
With assistance from the Holyrood Community League, Buehler will be adding 20 benches to neighbourhood streets in the coming months.
‘Word gets out’
The benches will be adopted out to various households willing to paint and maintain them on the boulevards in front of their properties.
Any homeowner who wants can make a request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The senior association wood shop, where seniors carve wood and refurbish old furniture, will build the benches.
Buehler thought it would take a month to construct them all, but lead builder Harvey Norstrom and his team had them sanded and assembled in half that time.
“It doesn’t take long to build them,” Norstrom said. “We got everybody working on different stages and after we got going, it kept me busy just cutting them out.
“We build five a day and we start at nine in the morning. We’re usually all cleaned up by three o’clock in the afternoon, and that’s with coffee break and lunch break,” Norstrom said. “We’ve built 14 and now we have orders for more this morning.
“Word gets out.”
And much to Harvey’s delight, the benches have become hot commodities. There’s already a waiting list. But even after the grant money runs out and his quota is met, Harvey will happily keep building.
He takes pride in helping his neighbours enjoy the neighbourhood.
“There’s a lot of senior people around here, and they walk around. Wnd when we put a bench out for them to rest, they can sit and watch the birds for a while.
“It’s really went over good … Everybody seems to like ’em and want one.”