Located just a few hours south of Calgary, and close enough to the Rocky Mountains to feel the warm chinook winds blowing in from the west, Lethbridge can feel like a breath of fresh air for many of the people who call it home.
Things move at a slower pace in this city of nearly 88,000 people, where residents are always quick to lend a hand or welcome a new neighbour.
Peter Portlock nominated Lethbridge as one of Canada's great communities for its kind, trusting people, its beautiful landscapes and its welcoming attitude toward religion.
"This is a city where people actually go to church on Sundays," writes Mr. Portlock, the chief executive officer of Lethbridge Family Services – and a part-time organist. Rather than proselytizing, he adds, there is a "grounding in faith" that's clear from the way people interact with and respect each other.
It took less than a year for Emmalina Milner, a 20-year-old college student from Calgary, to feel at home, something she attributes to the city's small-town feel. "I like how you can just bump into people you know walking down the street," she says.
Ms. Milner works part-time at The Penny Coffee House, a downtown fixture known for its tasty pasta salad, fresh sandwiches and the vibrant local artwork on its walls. Students often arrive in the afternoon, and are still there – huddled over a laptop or a stack of notebooks – at closing time. And with the U.S. border just over 100 kilometres away, there's always a steady stream of American travellers stopping for coffee on their way to Calgary.
Kelly Stickel moved to Lethbridge three months ago to become pastor of Victory Church. He says he felt instantly welcomed – not just by his parishioners, but also by those from the dozens of other churches in the neighbourhood as well.
"There's no sense of competition here," he says. "Instead, you get the sense of a very strong community, where all the churches are working on the same thing."
Mayor Rajko Dodic says the town's community feel inspires many residents to become volunteers. "We could not offer the amenities we do without them," he says.
Those amenities include more than 140 parks, trails and sports fields, as well as the city's lush urban forest, which helps it stand out from the flat prairie landscape around it. The city's annual dragon boat festival, held every summer on Henderson Lake, attracts teams from across the province, and next year, Lethbridge will play host to the women's world curling championship.
Mr. Dodic moved to Lethbridge from Yugoslavia with his family when he was five and, except for a few years away for law school, has lived there since: "We've never thought of Lethbridge as anything but our home. And it's a great home."