Calgary Bowness Montgomery

Bowness Montgomery Early Childhood Coalition

The Bowness Montgomery coalition has addressed the issue of sustainable funding by partnering with an established community group that shares its goals. The coalition has joined forces with Ready 4 Learning, which provides programs and supports for families with children aged 0-5. Ready 4 Learning is run by Calgary Family Services and the United Way of Calgary.

Community at a glance

Coalition coordinator Iris Spurrell
​The Bowness Montgomery ECD community is located on the western edge of Calgary near Highway 1. It encompasses Bowness and Montgomery, which were separate towns until the 1960s, and Greenwood Village, a large mobile home park. The Bow River and the highway separate the three ‘communities’ from the rest of the city.
There is some diversity in housing and income levels, but small homes and rental accommodations are most typical. All three communities have a higher percentage of low-income households than the rest of Calgary (25 per cent in Bowness compared to 14 per cent in Calgary) and of lone-parent families. Greenwood Village has the highest rate of lone-parent families at 52 per cent  versus Calgary’s 24 per cent average.

EDI baseline results

According to EDI baseline data, a large percentage of young children are experiencing difficulty or great difficulty in communication skills and general knowledge (40 per cent) and language and thinking skills (32 per cent). The number of children who are experiencing difficulty or great difficulty in one or more areas of development is 34 per cent.


  • The community has a strong network of agencies and service providers, thanks in part to an early literacy project that started in 2002. That project morphed into Ready 4 Learning, a community-based partnership between Calgary Family Services and the United Way of Calgary that provides programs and supports, and educates parents, child-care workers and the community about early child development and school readiness.
  • Community residents and service providers (including school nurses, principals, teachers, literacy specialists, occupational therapists, social workers and preschool teachers) were  involved in the coalition right from the start. The coalition officially has about 45 members, but between six and 20 turn out for meetings. Members are kept in the loop through minutes and updates distributed by e-mail.
  • A network of early childhood service providers in the community (i.e. the Parent Link Center, the Bowness Library,  various daycares and preschools, health nurses) meet each month to improve their understanding of what they are doing in the community.  This enables them to work more closely together and refer parents to appropriate services and resources. 


  • The community has many resources but these are being mostly used by residents from outside the community. Based on information collected by the Parent Link Centre, the Bowness Library and other service providers, participants registered for programs and services tend to live in surrounding communities, not Bowness-Montgomery.
  • The population in Bowness-Montgomery is fairly transient, which makes it difficult to reach them and link them to services in the community.
  • The poverty rate is high.

Coalition action

  • Indoor play space: A permanent, indoor play space for children aged 3-5 was established at the Bowness Community Centre. The community centre donated space. A neighborhood grant from the Calgary Foundation covered the cost of the equipment and coalition members, such as occupational therapists and preschool teachers, provided expertise about the best equipment to buy. Since its opening in October 2013, the play space has become so popular that the Bowness Community Association is now looking into purchasing additional equipment for children under three.
  • One-on-one recruitment: When the project first started, the coalition coordinator met one on one with dozens of residents over coffee. She had a list of six questions for each person to find out what skills and assets they had and their contacts in the community. This helped her get the word out about the coalition, get a good sense of the skills and assets that were available in the community and recruit a diverse membership.
  • Community resource directory: A community directory listed resources for young children was posted online in March 2013 and hard copies were distributed to local schools, preschools, day cares and other service providers. The directory is available online through the Ready 4 Learning website ( 
  • Free libraries: Community members were encouraged to build “Little Free Libraries” on their front lawns to promote literacy and language development.  The “Little Free Library” is a “take a book, return a book” concept that has neighbours sharing their favorite books. Two Little Free Libraries, one in Bowness and one in Montgomery, are up and running. The coalition expects that more residents will build them over the summer of 2014. A number of coalition members have offered to donate children’s books, which tend to go quickly, to keep the Little Free Libraries restocked.
  • Baby-sitting co-op: Plans are being developed for a baby-sitting co-op for stay-at-home moms or moms who work part time. Participating moms will collect points by babysitting other children and spend them when they need babysitting services.

"The literature makes clear that when service providers and residents work together, service providers have a natural tendency to take over. We would like residents to be involved as much as possible. To achieve long-term sustainable change in a community, residents have to do the work, own it and lead it."
Iris Spurell, coalition coordinator

Contact Coalition

Iris Spurrell - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 403-875-1278

Posted: May 1, 2014