BUY BISSELL CENTRE’S HISTORY BOOK!
If you are interested in reading about our 100 year history, you can order it online and we will mail it to you. We are only charging our cost in publishing it and mailing it.
The Early Years
Bissell Centre began as a Methodist mission in 1910, founded by the Reverend William Pike and his wife Florence. They worked from a storefront office on the Northwest corner of 96th Street and 103A Avenue, where the Police Station now stands. Programs originally offered included a Sunday School, social groups, and a Ukrainian Sunday Service to help Ukrainian immigrants settle into their new community. A Ukrainian newspaper was produced, English classes were provided, and a reading room was also available.
In 1919, the Pike Mission decided to work co-operatively with a newly-founded Presbyterian Mission called the McQueen Institute. After the United Church was formed in 1925, this co-operative effort was officially sanctioned and became know as the All People’s Mission. The Mission operated a Camp, a Young People’s Group, Children’s Programs, and a Women’s Auxiliary. It also ran church services in the Institute and at nearby churches, as well. The programs of the Mission were funded partially by The Red Feather Appeal, a predecessor of the United Way.
Throughout the 1920′s the needs of the people changed, and the All People’s Mission responded by offering new services. Funded jointly by the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches (and later the United Church), youth programs, a kindergarten, a mothers’ group, summer schools and a summer camp began operation. And, as services expanded, so did the number of people using the Mission’s services.
Depression and Wartime
When the Great Depression hit in the 1930′s, All People’s Mission began to focus its services to support people living on a low income. They provided mats for sleeping on, meal services, and help with clothing. Saturday night concerts were held every week. At the same time, the old blacksmith’s shop that housed the All People’s Mission was demolished to make way for a new brick building on the Northeast corner of 96 Street and 103 A Avenue. This new building was made possible through a legacy from Torrence E. Bissell. The building was named the Bissell Institute in honour of him. The boards from the old blacksmith’s shop were used to build cabins at Moonlight Bay Centre on Lake Wabamun, the site used by Bissell Centre for its “fresh air camps” since the 1920′s.
The church continued to be a major part of Bissell Institute with services being held every Sunday. An active Young People’s Group organized many activities for the Institute and the people who used its services. The Japanese Congregation, made up of people who had been forced to leave their homes on the West coast during the war, also met at the Bissell Institute during this time.
During the 1950s and 60s, the community surrounding the Institute began to change. People living on low income moved to the inner city as many middle- and upper class families moved to suburban communities. Services at Bissell Institute adapted once again, and more services became available to help people meet their basic needs.
In the early 1970′s, Bissell Institute became known as Bissell Centre. Seeing a need in the community, the Centre began to offer services for families. They opened a daycare to give parents the opportunity to tend to other tasks while their children were cared for. The number of people making use of the Centre continued to increase, and by the 1980s it had outgrown its building. In 1989 the Centre moved to a renovated warehouse a few blocks north (to its current location at 10527 96 Street).
There were growing demands for our services between 1989 and 2003. More people came to use existing services and many new initiatives were started. In 2005, construction began on Bissell Centre West which now houses the Drop-In, adult programs, mental health support, employment programs and our housing program.