Looking for Your McMurray Magazine? We've created something even bigger and here to check it out!

Looking for our original content? Welcome back to our original site!




(0 votes)

Synergy Success Story

“I HAVE A STORY THAT DESERVES TO BE TOLD,” said Diane Zundel, chair of the sponsoring committee for the 868 YMM Rotary Northstar Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. She works behind the scenes with a team that handles the financial end of the squadron, doing volunteer screening and recruitment, handling housing, and running a number of different events. They deal with the details leaving the officers to focus on the program.

One of the organizations displaced by the closure of the Wood Buffalo Community Village, the Air Cadets connected with the Fort McMurray Boys and Girls Club to see if there was a potential fit for their operations at the downtown location on Riedel Street.

“We were between a rock and hard place,” said Zundel. “Our unique set of requirements really limited our options. Not only do we need office and storage space, we require a large gymnasium-type facility to accommodate drills and marching. We quickly realized that we might have to split things up, that finding a spot that would meet all our requirements may not be possible.”

Howard Rensler, executive director of the Fort McMurray Boys and Girls Club doesn’t exactly remember who contacted who, but he definitely recalls the process of trying to make it work.

“When I first heard that these agencies were being displaced from the Wood Buffalo Community Village, I immediately began wondering if there was something we could do to help,” said Rensler.

“Being involved in Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo and Convergence YMM has taught me to look for opportunities to synergize.”

As talks proceeded, it became clear that not only was there a way to find room for the Air Cadets and meet all their needs, there was immediate and significant alignment.

“Meeting their needs has required a bit of triage,” said Rensler. “We had accumulated a lot of stuff over 30 years of being in operation. For this partnership to work we had to be more efficient about space. We threw things out, compressed other stuff, moved some offices, and managed to make it work.”

For the Air Cadets, being embedded at the Fort McMurray Boys and Girls Club provides a perfect solution to their programming and administrative needs. They could not be happier.

“Two social profits are working together to meet our space needs, financial needs and serve the youth in this community,” said Zundel. Rensler agrees.

“We’ve been able to accommodate the items on their wish list,” he said. “Also, the Boys and Girls Club gets immediate and continuous exposure with their kids. It underscores this address as being a place for youth.”

This social profit success story began with the intention of exploring the possibility of co-existing together, and became real with a practical re-think of space, scheduling and a lot of effort.

“This has benefitted a valuable social profit organization and it’s benefited us an organization,” said Rensler. “It forced us to work out the mechanics, and deal with a few minor inconveniences, but none of our programs have been affected. There is no question that this is great situation for all concerned.”

The Royal Canadian Air Cadets Squadron #868 officially began paying rent July 1, but had been slowly moving in throughout June. When both group reviewed the history, they discovered that the squadron used to operate out of the Boys and Girls Club many years ago. So, in that sense, this social profit success tale is also a story of coming home.

Russell Thomas writes a regular blog at and can be followed on Twitter @rvthomas67.


Russell is a 19 year resident of Wood Buffalo, a community builder, facilitator, social media practitioner, actor, director and artist. He began his Middle Age Bulge blog as a way of capturing his journey to wellness. It has morphed into a daily journal about all aspects of life in the north. Russell works with The United Way of Fort McMurray and co-owns Birdsong Connections with his wife Heather.