About Aboriginal Homelessness

Aboriginal people make up just over 5% of Edmonton’s population but in 2012, 46% of homeless people were Aboriginal. Produced by Coty Savard, this video provides insight into the challenges faced by Aboriginal people who have no home to go to.

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by | August 26, 2014 · 9:17 am

CEO Stakeholder Report (August)

Periodically, I write a special stakeholder report that provides information about what’s happening at Bissell Centre and some of the things we are working on. I believe our donors, volunteers, funders, suppliers, and other stakeholders deserve to hear from me more than just once a year in an annual report. This report features our work to end homelessness. If you have any questions or comments please click the comments button and share them. Or write me at mholmgren@bissellcentre.org


Click the Cover or HERE

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The Generosity Continues! – Additional Fire Relief Support


Last week, we received a cheque for $15,000 from FIRMA Foreign Exchange to support our fire relief efforts. This generous gift will help with the restoration of our Thrift Shoppe, which supplies affordable clothing to low-income families, provides free clothing for the homeless, and generates revenue that supports and strengthens our life-changing programs.


Learn more about FIRMA here: https://www.firmafx.com/ca-en/

This yet another example of Philanthropy in our community! Read our new blog series, Anyone Can Be A Philanthropist! for more inspiring stories.

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by | August 18, 2014 · 11:25 am

Anyone Can Be A Philanthropist!


Note: Sometimes we use the words “charity” and “philanthropy” interchangeably, and sometimes that makes sense. Some tell us that charity is about providing for the immediate needs of others while “philanthropy” is more about addressing the root causes of such needs.  My view is that both are more powerful when they work together. So when I use the word, “philanthropy” I am including “charity” as a fundamental part of the former.

Most often when the media mention a philanthropist, they are referencing a person or a family of considerable wealth who are using their good fortune to help address social problems.  While it is true that a billionaire can have more impact than I can, I believe anyone can be a philanthropist and that is what this series is about.

Wikipedia tells us that philanthropy“ was first coined as an adjective by the playwright Aeschylus in Prometheus Bound (5th century BC), to describe Prometheus’ character as “humanity loving” (philanthropos tropos).” Along the same lines, the ancient Greeks saw philanthropy  as the “love of what it is to be human” and that this love “is the essential nature and purpose of humanity, culture and civilization.” That’s a pretty lofty order, so to speak, but sometimes it is helpful to go back to the origins of the words we use so often to describe so many things.

It follows then (at least for me) that philanthropy is about acting on that love of humanity. And that is something each and every one of us can do and I suggest (in keeping with the wisdom of the ancient Greeks) is what each of us is called upon to do. Philanthropy is not reserved for the wealthy or those in positions of stature or power.

I remember standing with colleagues and other onlookers as we watched our second Thrift Shoppe fire burn the building to the ground. All kinds of thoughts and emotions went through my mind. How would this impact those who depend on us? Why is this happening to us, again? What can I do to ensure our staff are okay and how will I keep them employed? What will all of this cost? How will we ever replace the contents?


These two girls sold iced tea on the weekend to support our #RestoreBissell fire relief campaign. Young Philanthropists acting because they care about people.

As I stood there, the community was already acting. While fire fighters did their jobs, all kinds of people were already on Twitter and Face Book organizing clothing drives. We didn’t ask them to; they just responded because they cared and wanted to do something to help. I believe all of them acted out of kindness and concern but also saw themselves as having a responsibility to act. I think their actions reflect a love of humanity, although each of them may describe it in their own words differently. I believe everyone who helped, no matter to what degree, were engaged in philanthropy.

A while back we reported here on our blog that École Joseph Moreau’s “Comité ESPOIR” (Hope Committee) had undertaken fundraising efforts for the third year in a row to support those less fortunate community.  This small group of Junior High students came down to Bissell Centre to learn more about the challenges faced by our participants and they raised more $750 in their support of Bissell Centre. These children – these leaders of tomorrow – are all philanthropists.

In May we posted on Face Book about some amazing women at St. Paul’s United Church who got together and made 50 beautiful quilts that Bissell Centre could give out to mothers on Mother’s Day and also as home-warming gifts for participants of our Homeless to Homes program. What motivated them to do that? I have to believe it was out of love for other human beings and I am sure an expression of their faith.

People from all walks of life phone us up about volunteering at Bissell Centre. Each year thousands donate and together they represent all age groups and people from all walks of life. More than 15,000 donate clothing and household items. Employee groups help out with painting or cleaning up the grounds. Businesses large and small give to us in so many ways.

When Servus Credit Union heard about the fire, one of their staff phoned me and said they wanted to help.After a couple of conversations they decided to provide matching funding to our #restorebissell campaign. Servus involved their employees in this who helped promote the campaign and when the campaign was over, they contributed $15,000. They just did this. We didn’t ask them to. Another example of philanthropy!

I have no doubt that all of these amazing people don’t just limit their acts of kindness to Bissell Centre. My guess is they help address needs and work to solve community problems in other ways too. I am grateful to all of them for everything they do.

Anyone can be a philanthropist. I have a feeling you might be one, too.

Mark Holmgren, CEO


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by | August 12, 2014 · 7:29 pm

We smashed our goal of $25,000 for #RestoreBissell Fire Relief fundraiser!

#RestoreBissell Thank You Pic


Together, we raised $33,720!! That’s $8,720 over and above our $25,000 goal. We are so grateful!

A special thank you to Lift Interactive for creating the #RestoreBissell micro-site, and Servus Credit Union for their generous $15,000 matching donation. And last, but most certainly not least, our community of supporters and advocates. You tweeted, you blogged, you Instagram’d—and you donated.

Thank you so very much!


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by | August 8, 2014 · 3:26 pm

We are almost at our goal of $25,000 for #RestoreBissell Fire Relief Fundraiser

Please Give #RestoreBissellThank you to everyone for continuing to support our #RestoreBissell fire relief fundraiser. We are only $5,500 away from our goal of $25,000 that will help us to re-open the doors to our Thrift Shoppe in late October after it was damaged by fire. 

Servus Credit Union will match your donation up to $15,000 and your continued support could potentially help us exceed our goal! The fundraiser ends on Friday, August 8th.

Please donate online at restorebissell.org and help spread the word using hashtag #RestoreBissell.

For more information, please contact:

Devin Komarniski
Acting Manager of Marketing & Communications

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by | August 5, 2014 · 1:36 pm