To support independence, quality of life and community participation for those with and affected by epilepsy.
The Epilepsy Association of Calgary is a charitable social service agency established to address community, individual and family needs related to epilepsy.
On December 5th of 2005, the Epilepsy Association of Calgary (EAC) marked its 50th year as an incorporated organization - Canada’s oldest incorporated epilepsy organization. In commemorating this anniversary, we had a chance to review some of our agency’s best “moments” in time—moments that deserve revisiting.
The EAC was incorporated under the Provincial Societies Act under the name, “The Calgary Epilepsy League” on December 5th, 1955, with the stated objects:
- To ensure for persons suffering from epileptic disorders the fullest physical, emotional, social, vocational and economic usefulness of which they are capable.
- To engage in or support research, public education, self-education, recreational activities, programs of assistance, fund-raising, or any other undertakings which may further the objects of the League, and to do all such other things as are incidental to the attainment of the object (sic) of the League.
Of course, our history began some months before this, when a group of individuals personally affected by epilepsy began meeting to share their concerns and receive encouragement from one another. Six people signed the documents which incorporated the association as a Society. They were electrician R.A. Edge, student Dan. G. Middlestad, part-time office clerk and housewife Mrs. Lilliane Voching, and housewives Mrs. Muriel Wright, Mrs. J.R. Talbot and Mrs. Violet Taylor. A statement of revenue and expenses for the first year of operation reflects a total income of $93.29 raised almost entirely by monthly member dues, with a small portion raised by literature sales. Back to Top
Our Roots - The Epilepsy League
W.D. Taylor became the first President of the Calgary Epilepsy League, a position he held until 1965, at which point he became the first Executive Director. It is unclear how Mr. Taylor’s life was affected by epilepsy. His wife is listed as a founding member, and in notes from a presentation he gave in 1975, he referred to himself as a “Charter Member”. What we do know is that he provided a dedicated, passionate voice to the cause of epilepsy in a voluntary role for 10 years during his term as President and relentlessly pursued a vision of centre that would provide housing, social support, employment opportunities, recreation, and education for those affected by epilepsy and the greater community. At points during his tenure, Mr. Taylor reportedly even welcomed persons with epilepsy lacking adequate family and financial means into his own home.
The media was helpful in informing the community about the Calgary Epilepsy League, and documents show requests for epilepsy information and assistance in forming other epilepsy organizations came from across Canada and the United States. To reflect a broader geographical mandate than initially realized, the Calgary Epilepsy League changed its name to the “Western Canada Epilepsy League” in 1957. In 1958, a branch office of the League was established in Edmonton and plans were underway to establish branches in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, AB.Back to Top
Grand Trunk Cottage School Becomes League’s Home
Mr. Taylor’s dream was partially realized with the lease of the Grand Trunk Cottage School in 1959, located on 5th Avenue N.W., just off 24th Street (now Crowchild Trail). Between 1910 and 1912, 17 “Cottage Schools” were erected in the city as temporary schools to house students while more permanent buildings were constructed. While many of these buildings were later destroyed, some were converted for other uses, including a home for epilepsy meetings, a residence, and a sheltered workshop. The building leased by the Epilepsy League is still standing and until recently, housed the Maritime Reunion Association.
In 1959, the League was granted permission to establish a residence for 12 people with epilepsy as part of its programming. Here are a few of the House Rules established in support of the residence:
- Use the “Golden Rule”. Try to be happy and to contribute to the happiness of others. Learn and be ready to help each other at all times, day or night. Men or women can do much to help others of their own sex. Christian charity, pure and simple, must prevail here.
- No fraternizing between sexes will be permitted in the dormitories.
- 7:15 a.m. is the daily rising time.
- Breakfast is served between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m., no exceptions. Always sit in the same place unless advised otherwise. Be quiet during meals.
- Bed-time is at 10:30 p.m. Everyone must be in by this time…
Programs and services during this period included:
- Educational programs for all interested in an effort “to acquaint them with the problems of epileptics and epilepsy itself”.
- The sub-contracting of laundry services, cabinet making and wood-working, sewing, assembly, and duplicating through a sheltered workshop, for which participants, unable to obtain employment, received a small wage.
- To assist participants who showed promise, the opportunity to gain jobs in private industry.
- To provide a residence for those without parents, adequate housing, or the sufficient means.
- The provision healthcare services (i.e. medication access/adequate medical treatment)
- The provision of “safe and adequate” recreational activities including on-site recreation grounds, indoor games, motion picture facilities, and lectures.
- In 1961, the League received a city permit, allowing it to grow its own food in a garden and green house that was erected on a vacant lot by the cottage.
- Both residents and non-residents of the facility could participate in the programs.
An application to join the “Volunteer Bureau” was completed in 1959. Today, the Volunteer Bureau is known as Volunteer Calgary. EAC maintains a membership with Volunteer Calgary to this day.
In 1960, there was a movement in the community to start a “United Fund”. The belief was that one fundraising campaign on behalf of many would be more effective and reduce the number of charitable requests being made by charities – thereby reducing annoyance to donors. The initiative had the support of the Calgary Labour Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the citizens of Calgary. The Western Canada Epilepsy League joined this effort and the first United Fund Campaign was launched in the fall of 1962. CKXL radio, which many will remember as a popular AM radio station in the 60’s and 70’s was a media sponsor, running Public Service Announcements about the charities. The following is the script of one such ad for the League:The Western Canada Epilepsy League, resident and rehabilitation facilities for epileptics in Western Canada. Clean, comfortable accommodation with board for twelve, training and work activity is provided for those unemployed or unemployable. Both sexes are included.Back to Top
First United Fund Campaign Raises Over $862K
The first United Fund Campaign raised over $862,000—a remarkable achievement. The second and third campaigns each raised over 1 million dollars! A total of 28 agencies, including the Western Canada Epilepsy League benefited from that first campaign. The League’s allocation was $13,000.
The United Fund, now known as the United Way of Calgary has grown dramatically over the years, now raising over $50 million annually. The first campaign slogan, “One Gift Works Many Wonders” is as relevant today as it was then, and EAC is fortunate to have forged a relationship with the United Way that has endured for more than 50 years.Back to Top
A Cultural Shift
The dream for a permanent home originated with EAC’s first President and Executive Director, Dan Taylor. He envisioned a building that would be able to house a residence for persons with epilepsy, as well as other association programs. A great many difficulties were experienced in maintaining the Grand Trunk Cottage School as a residence, and failing grades from the City building and fire inspectors heightened these difficulties.
Mr. Taylor embarked on a quest to obtain funds to erect a new building. Unfortunately, he had little success. Even as he was seeking provincial and community support to house the centre and expanded residence, the community philosophy around rehabilitation was beginning to change. A 1961 paper produced by the “Rehabilitation Services of Calgary” reflects this shift and urged service providers to avoid: “…segregation because of the emphasis on disability…disability is not necessarily a good measure of compatibility…A further danger of segregation likes in the tendency to build up in a patient the feeling the his particular disability is the worst of all possible calamities. Viewing at first hand the handicaps of others tends to dispel attitudes of self-pity, bitterness and over dependency and to reduce social isolation.”
This philosophy was soon embraced by the League, and although Mr. Taylor and the boards of that time were unable to realize their vision of an expanded residence in order to address the real life challenges that existed then, the birth of an idea for a permanent home for EAC persisted.
New licensing requirements enacted by the Province of Alberta, meant that the residence eventually had to be shut down in the mid-1960’s, although programs and social activities were still run from the Cottage School. Although the facility was dilapidated, the League was able to lease the land and the building from the city for only $1.00 per year—which helped keep operating costs very low. Back to Top
The Birth of a New Era...and a New Building
Although at first glance, this reporting of how EAC’s building came about may seem unremarkable, it is an amazing and inspiring story that unfolded over many years, involved countless volunteers and volunteer hours, and culminated in the completion of a building.
It was not until 1978, that the League established a partnership with the Calgary Jaycees in an effort to secure funding for a new building. There is nothing in historical documents that outlines how this partnership came about, but it was certainly a significant one for EAC! The Jaycees and EAC formed a joint committee to carry the project forward. Earlier that year, the Jaycees held a television auction and pledged the proceeds of approximately $14,500 to EAC for a building (with interest, this grew to $17,000 by the time the funds were spent). A start – but a long way off of the projected costs of some $400,000 that would be required.
Prior to the partnership with the Jaycees, the association had developed a “New Premises Proposal” – Phase I of the project. Consideration was given to building on the Grand Trunk Cottage School site, or for a building to buy and renovate. Since the land was leased from the city, the Jaycees advised against the first option.
Phase II of the project thus became finding an appropriate site on which to construct a building. The New Premises Proposal had determined that any potential site needed to be near a bus route, have space for parking, and able to accommodate a 4,500 square foot building of one or two stories. It was not long before the City of Calgary recommended a vacant site at 40th Avenue and 4th Street N.W. that met all of these criteria.
On November 3, 1980, City Council agreed to sell EAC the proposed site at 40th Avenue N.W., which allowed the project to move into Phase III – Funding of the Building. During this time, the Jaycees made an application to the Alberta 75th Anniversary Committee and were granted $378,500 towards the project! The Board of Directors of the Epilepsy Association of Calgary raised an additional $18,000. With the grant, the proceeds of the Jaycees auction, and the proceeds of EAC’s own campaign, a dream existing for approximately 20 years was on the brink of realization! In 1980 EAC celebrated its Silver Anniversary. The prospect of a new home provided a reason for hope and celebration at the official anniversary event held in May of 1980.
With the funds in place and a site secured, Swinton Architects were commissioned to design the building – a two storey, wood frame structure comprising 4,500 square feet – a design intended to meet current and future program needs. Nedco Construction was hired to construct the building.
In addition to the Jaycees/EAC joint committee, which oversaw the project, a second committee of EAC volunteers was formed to oversee construction. The official sod turning was held on May 27, 1981. Guests included Mayor Ralph Klein and Nomi Whalen (who chaired Calgary’s 75th Anniversary Committee on behalf of the province, and who made funding recommendations to the Province for local projects), as well as members of the Jaycees/EAC joint committee and EAC Board members. On December 3, 1981, the Epilepsy Association of Calgary moved into its new building – our home ever since.
It is interesting that though the journey was a long, often difficult one, some very wise decisions were made. For example – in 50 years, EAC has never paid rent!
In the short term, it might have been easy to look for rental space; however, there is no evidence that this was ever considered as an option. Over the long term, it most certainly would not have been the best course of action—however, for many small organizations operating day to day, it is nothing short of amazing that EAC held so steadfast to its goal of a building over so many years! Back to Top
The EAC Today
We are fortunate to be among the few charities that actually own the building in which they are located. Not to mention, in over 50 years, EAC has only had two addresses! Many similar organizations have had to make several moves – which can create confusion and add extra expense. EAC truly has been blessed with people who had big dreams and the fortitude to find a way to make them happen!
Although Dan Taylor’s initial vision for EAC has changed over time, a seed was planted, nourished and developed into the lovely building the EAC calls home today,"Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
– Margaret Mead
We are forever indebted to the following individuals. Without them, the dream for a permanent home might never have been realized. Additionally, once completed, many volunteers helped move, furnish and complete the landscaping. Back to Top
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|Joint EAC/Jaycees Committee
||EAC Construction Oversight
- Ben Shykora, EAC & Jaycees - Chair
- Sheldon Quinn, EAC
- Fred Kreuger, EAC
- John Rouse, EAC
- Ben Shykora, EAC
- Barry Steffen, Jaycees
- Donna Munroe
- Reig Pierie
- Sheldon Quinn
- Ben Shykora
- John Rouse
- Bonnie Kaplan
- George Waite
- Don Mathieu
- William Omery
- Roy Swanberg
- John Costello
- R.A. Hayes
- Blaine Clarke
- Gary Dvorkin
- Sam Darwish
- Leigh Spicer
These are the names of individuals recorded in the documents that remain at EAC. There were no doubt others. Our continued thanks to all who were involved in such an historic moment for EAC! The two plaques placed in the building to commemorate this monumental achievement read as follows:
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|In cooperation with the Alberta 75th Anniversary Civic Committee of the City of Calgary, the Calgary Junior Chamber of Commerce dedicates this building to the Epilepsy Association of Calgary in 1980.
||This project is dedicated to the people of the Province of Alberta who have worked with enthusiasm and pride to make possible the celebration of Alberta’s 75th Anniversary. It is made possible in whole or in part through a gift from the Alberta 75th Anniversary Civic Committee of the City of Calgary in 1980.