Building Capacity with Toy Lending in Sunalta

Most people are familiar with the concept of libraries, but it may surprise some to learn the lending approach can be applied to more than just books!

Using a little bit of creativity and a lot of volunteer energy, Calgary now has its very own Toy Lending Library. Based out of the Sunalta Community Hall, the idea of a local Toy Lending Library was born from the passion of two Sunalta residents. After bringing the idea to Jenn Balderston, Executive Director of the Sunalta Community Association, and Silvia Ross, Community Social Worker for Sunalta, they eventually connected the idea to Calgary’s Community Hubs Initiative, a partnership between United Way of Calgary and Area, the City of Calgary, and the Rotary Club of Calgary.

This initiative is part of the Enough for All Campaign and aims to build strong and inclusive communities in our city. Through this connection, the Toy Lending Library was able to secure funding from a private donor and has received phenomenal support from United Way practicum student Mallory Nelson and Mickey Ikuta, Community Hubs animator.

Having just launched in February, Jenn is quick to point out the project has been almost completely resident-led and resident-promoted so far. Volunteers Angie, Liz, Ruchi, Betty, along with Program and Facility Manager Mune and board member Kim, have been guiding the creation and implementation of the project.

Everything from the logo and policies to the promotion and inventory process has been spearheaded by these changemakers seeking to increase the capacity of their city. Using work parties as a method to complete all the tasks, the Toy Lending Library has already become a hub of community connection, with resident’s coming together under a common cause.

The Toy Lending Library’s primary focus is to serve the Sunalta Community, but also the Calgary community, with associate memberships available to anyone residing outside the neighbourhood. Beyond simply providing the opportunity for children to engage with new toys and educational items, the program also tackles issues like poverty reduction through the promotion of shared resources, lack of storage space experienced in multi-family residences, and even combats social isolation parents or families may face in largely rental-based communities.

The unique service is being couched within the existing Sun Tots program that already runs weekly. Jenn says this is intended to provide the opportunity for parents and families to meet other Sunalta residents during their visits to the Toy Lending Library, while giving the project plenty of exposure to user groups coming through for the play program.

The new lending library is also building the capacity of residents by being completely driven by their ideas and skills. It removes barriers and increases involvement, which can help individuals grow their skillsets while allowing new ideas to flourish and the community to become closer. The library has been creating new opportunities – Ruchi found out about the Toy Library through her Women’s Sewing Collective. This group of residents produced the bags the Toy Lending Library uses, and after learning about this project Ruchi became a dedicated volunteer.

Beyond individual residents, the entire community is backing this new endeavor, with local businesses pitching in as well.

Sentry Box, who already lends the Community Association board games for Family Games Nights, provided a generous discount for new supplies. Scholar’s Choice has agreed to a permanent discount on supplies and also gave input on what would be useful to include in the library. Enmax also showed their support by donating a $500 gift card volunteers were able to use to buy supplies for the Toy Lending Library, and the team at Inn from the Cold made a generous donation of toys.

The Sunalta Community Toy Library is open Tuesdays from 10:00am to 12:00pm and Thursdays from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Sunalta Community Hall located at 1627 10th Avenue SW. Memberships are open to all Calgarians, and can be paid for with volunteer hours (four hours will purchase an individual membership, for instance.) Items on loan include musical instruments, blow up castles, costumes, art supplies, along with traditional toys.

It is worth noting that it is not just for children! Adults are welcome to use the new toy lending library to borrow board games, seasonal items, outdoor and sports equipment, and even gaming consoles like the Nintendo Switch.

Take Action

Become a member (associate memberships are available for those residing outside of the Sunalta community)

Interested in volunteering? Check out current opportunities or email the toy library directly at

Keep up to date with Sunalta Community Association’s fantastic projects by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Check out the Events Calendar for other events and activities at the Sunalta Community Hall