Carla Stolte admitted she was at a low point in her faith life when she began getting involved in the life of her neighborhood. “I found myself coming away from Sunday morning services struggling with the question ‘so what?’” she said. “When I started to connect with my neighbors, that question answered itself.”
She said that her response to God’s love has been to be a great neighbor and let God do the rest. “By showing hospitality to and loving my neighbors, my own faith has been revitalized and renewed,” she added.
When she learned that an Edmonton magazine had recognized her as one of the city’s Top 40 Under 40 for both encouraging creativity in youth and for leadership in her neighborhood, she was quick to point out that she is driven by a biblical mandate. “Much of the work that I have done in my neighborhood has been driven by a calling to ‘love my neighbor’ and has been done in consultation with (pastor) Karen Wilk of Neighbourhood Life/Home Missions.”
Every year, Edmonton’s Avenue magazine recognizes the city’s most exceptional young leaders with its Top 40 Under 40 list. “Top 40s are the best and brightest in the city,” states Avenue’s website. “They give back to the community and elevate the city through their work, whether it be in their career or volunteer work. They inspire us through everything they do.”
For the past several years, Stolte has been president of Westmount Community League, the neighborhood in which she lives. Putting in about 10 hours a week apart from her teaching job, Stolte can be found helping in the community garden, canvassing for new street lamps, shoveling snow for a neighbor, and introducing neighbors to one another, among other things.
“God has placed me here,” said Stolte, “in this very secular neighborhood where there are few churches or Christian organizations.” So sure is she that neighborhood life is the work God has called her to that Stolte has started online studies through the University of Victoria toward a Masters in Community Development.
Meanwhile, in the past year at the “high-needs” school where she teaches, Stolte oversaw an initiative called the Penny Project, which blended her passion for the arts, her students, and community. Her students used the now-defunct Canadian coins to create sculptures that represented what community meant to them. The project was sponsored by a local mall, which held a gala and auctioned off the sculptures, donating the nearly $13,000 raised to low-income families so children could attend full-day kindergarten classes.
Stolte, who has three young children, is a member of Edmonton’s Centrepointe Christian Reformed Church.