Vicky Schankula 1947-2016


This past week I learned about Vicky and the one simple tradition that brought neighbours together:  One of life’s most gracious and delightful people, Victoria Fairbanks Schankula, found Cornbread Suppers early on, and took joy in the weekly gatherings. She came to Cornbread Supper faithfully, bringing beautiful food, laughter, a camera for her “picture of the day,” a lovely British accent, a commitment to helping clean up, and a constant interest in each other person in the room.

When Vicky entered the house on Monday nights carrying a particular large round plate, children (and a few adults) trailed her to the dessert table to see what she had brought. The favorites: lemon bars, brownies and her mother’s most unusual, delicious carrot cake.

When illness prevented Vicky from returning to Cornbread Supper, one of the youngest members of the Cornbread Community asked, “Where is Vicky? Why doesn’t she come any more?” This young child spoke for the many regulars who enjoyed Vicky’s beautiful spirit, and missed her vivid presence.

We will always miss Vicky at Cornbread Suppers. There is never enough purple now in the house on Monday nights.

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resized_20161007_114011For Thanksgiving weekend we harvested the garden together with neighbours.  Not because we wanted to be neighbourly, but out of necessity – the weather.  This did lead to a neat bartering system.  Today the trade will be red beets and some meat from the last hunting trip in exchange for freshly roasted coffee.  Last week our Thai neighbours loaded us up with cilantro for a beer (not really a trade, but we needed something to drink while discussing our gardens).  The barter is not the point either.  All in all, it seems that the gardening and bartering are a means in which we enjoy the love of others, more than the gifts themselves.  This is what we are ultimately thankful for, which is why we are just glad that those who love, simply show up.  The rest is just bonus!

And so I am thankful for those neighbours who garden together, who share their gifts and goods, encourage on a weekly basis, and are simply present.

Celebrating Coffee

20160929_195007Last night we celebrated National coffee day with our Good Neighbour Coffee.  The facility that now stands on our yard started with a small roaster and some raw beans we brought in from our friends in Honduras.  We roasted for neighbours and  named our little company after them.  The stories from our neighbourhood and others adorn the backs of each bag in order to spread the the good news of what neighbours can do in their neighbourhoods.  The beautiful evening featured a few of the coffee farmers from Honduras and our new roasting equipment and expanding facility, which is now a total of 500 square feet.  Arturo, one of the farmers, spoke to us about the benefits of buying and drinking their coffee versus the coffee of Starbucks or Timmies.  “Each cup of our coffee changes the lives of us in Honduras, so each cup changes our communities” Arturo said.  He spoke about the difference this has all made over  the last 5 years.  “This is about being responsible with our community and our environment” he said.  “We are driven by honour and blessing.  We are proud of the coffee we grow.”  This was an encouragement for the cafe and shop owners who were also in attendance last night.  But I was very encouraged by the remarks of our neighbours as they met Arturo, heard him speak and drank his coffee.  They appreciated the words of blessing that came from the Honduran coffee growers themselves.  This was a beautiful night!   -Rick


Lexington Close

Despite the rain, we had 45 people attend our 3rd annual block party here in Lexington Close, on Saturday night.

We have a total of 54 individuals living in 17 homes on our street.  We have the typical mix from families with young children or teenagers, alongside empty nesters and seniors.  We had a couple families that the parents chose to stay home but the children came for the food and games.  We also had 5 individuals visiting at 2 different homes so it was good to see them come out as well.  Thankfully our neighbours next door keep a very tidy garage which is where we set up when the heavens opened.  The winner of the annual game is presented with a prize and also responsible to plan and organize the game for the following year.

We had two families move into our close in recent months so it was a good way for them to meet their neighbours and to put names to faces.

Since we started hosting our annual block party 3 years ago, we have watched people come out of their comfort zones and socialize with those around them. Its not uncommon to see neighbours help each other out in time of need.  Our family has been intentional in asking for assistance when it comes to running out of icing sugar or eggs for example, needing a specialized tool or needing another body to assist in lifting something.  In turn, neighbours ask us to assist them and the favour is returned but more importantly, relationships are built.   One of the statements that we heard over and over last night was: “we really have great neighbours” which was followed by nods and smiles.

Honestly, our neighbourhood rocks and the people on our street are the best!




On The Road with Good Neighbour Coffee

This past Friday night I had been invited by the City of St. Albert to roast coffee downtown and share the Good Neighbour Coffee stories that I place on the back of the retail packages.  First of all its an honour to be asked, then to find they closed the street down, created space for live music and invited the mayor to speak.  His message was about the value of neighbouring in today`s individualistic society.  He highlighted the fact that their city exceeded 130 block parties this year, compared to 10 five years earlier.  And then I began to meet and greet a line of people who were very interested in the full story of those represented on the back of the coffee bags.  Most people love the custom live roasting, but they also fell in love with the true stories that represent what our neighbourhoods can do!  A few submitted stories from their neighbourhoods for future coffee bags (coming soon).  And throughout the evening,  the message of good coffee was trumped by the message of loving our neighbours and neighbourhoods.  – Beautiful!

On The Road

Thanks for the opportunity!


A Counterintuitive but Practical Way to Love Your Neighbours

A Counterintuitive but Practical Way to Love Your Neighbours
Developing relationships of trust with our neighbours takes considerable time, but we are seeing the fruit of our labour. For example, when some of our neighbours go away on vacation, they will often ask us to check their houses while they’re away. This isn’t a glamorous job my any means, but it reveals some trust, and it gets us into a neighbour’s home. I would have never thought of this as a way to love my neighbours, but after doing it a few times, I believe it is, as it allows them to go away with a measure of peace. And we also ask them to check our home when we’re away, so we can continue to build our relationship. I’m thankful for such counterintuitive but practical ways to love our neighbours.
submitted by a Neighbourhood Life participant from Lacombe

Keep it Simple

They came from one end of the block to the other. It was a good, old-fashion, block party on Thursday night. “What was so neat was that I met so many new people,” said one participant. And there were countless number of kids. One parent remarked that her nine-year old was worried there wouldn’t be anyone to play with. “There was never any need to have worried about that,” she said. A basketball hoop, a trampoline, several badminton racquets, skateboards, a football, lawn games and food kept kids and adults entertained for the evening. Rick Abma and Neighborhood Life provided the commercial barbeque, while families brought their own steak, hot dogs and hamburgers. Salads and desserts were also provided for this potluck meal. In the end there was great fellowship and excellent food as many folks chatted the evening away and got to know each other from various areas on the block. The event was so successful that organizers are looking to having another block party soon.

Submitted by a resident of Lacombe.

Coming Soon – Book Release!

The past 3 years have led to the writing of this, soon-to-be-released, book.  Filled with experiences and stories from various practitioners, this ‘recipe book’ increases the imagination of the person who desires to invest in their local neighbourhood as a response to God’s command to love our neighbours.  Various neighbourhoods have collaborated to add seasoning and flavour as we are challenged to be salt and light as participants in the Kingdom of God.  Darkness will be chased away by the light!


Making Your Front Lawn A Place Of Grace

Inspired by the concept, in my previous neighborhood, my wife and I decided to invest in a seating area – not in the back yard, but in the front yard. It became a place where I’d go to sit in the morning or evening to have a cup of coffee, read a book, etc. Because it was in the front yard, neighbors would say hi and come and have a seat. Many wonderful conversation happened there, and in a small way, I think we enriched the sense of community in our neighborhood by contributing that space. I’ve done something similar where I live now … putting a simple bench out front that says, “Feel free to stop by and chat.”

This article from Mustard Seed Associates does a wonderful job of helping you imagine how your front yard can become a place of hospitality, connection, friendliness, and grace.

It’s a simple thing, but simple things add up, you know?


The Neighbourhood Mower

One of the ways we are seeking to connect with our neighbours is through lawn mowing. My twelve year old‎ son has a small mowing business. He calls himself “The Neighbourhood Mower.” So, every spring he goes around the neighbourhood with his business flyer, offering to mow people’s grass. Not too many take him up on his offer, but regardless, it allows us to connect with our neighbours in a practical way. I go with him on his rounds, and strike up a conversation about things other than mowing. And then usually those conversations continue and are deepened if that neighbour becomes a client. Building relationships with neighbours isn’t the only reason we mow grass. My son appreciates the money, and I appreciate the work experience it is giving him. But one of the blessed results of this sort of small business activity is the opportunity to form relationships with your neighbours. How are you serving your neighbours?

  • Neighbourhood Life participant