A story about a devoted dad


Bryn MacDonald, a proud father, went from making $1,000 a day to an average of $1,000 a month, but he couldn’t be happier. When his daughter was born, he made the choice to work for himself as a graphic and website designer over working for a large corporation overseas. He explains, “She is my first child and I want to be the best parent I can be for her. I want to see her grow up and have stability.” He saw how important family values were in Asia and wanted to give his daughter the same caring and supportive environment to thrive in.

Since 2009, he has been spending his days working at home, while spending quality time with his daughter.  When he needs a break, he brings his daughter to Bissell Centre’s Child Care centre. He drops her off twice a week at the day care so that he can have some time to relax and take naps.  He is also taking the parenting courses offered by Bissell so that he can learn to be a better parent. 

Bryn lives in the area, but it is not the only reason he enjoys coming to Bissell.  “The staff are so nice. They really do care about the children. It is obvious by how they treat the children,” he tells me.  And over the years, he has become good friends with some of the staff. They are so supportive and caring and are great role models for his daughter.

It is obvious that he is happy with where he is at right now. He doesn’t care about the money he could have made overseas. He is making ends meet, but he has a close relationship with his daughter and that is priceless.

Written by Guest Blogger Karen Lee.

Clothing our Community with our Closet and Yours!

Q & A with Mandy, Community Closet Worker
So what do you do at Bissell?
I work in the Community Closet. I do paperwork, sort donations and organize the closet to keep it tidy.

What is the Community Closet?
The Community Closet, located in the basement of Bissell Centre, is a program where low income/no income clients can receive free clothes and household items on a referral basis. We work with 22 other agencies across the city, i.e the John Howard Society, women shelters, H.I.V Edmonton and more. Once a client gets referred, they get a voucher to use at the Community Closet. They will have up to 2 weeks to fill it. This service can be accessed once every three months.  It is open Monday to Friday from 12:30-4:30pm. Clients can drop by anytime with their vouchers.

How many years have you been with Bissell?
I’ve been here for 11 years, ever since the Community Closet program started.

What do you like most about working here?
It is rewarding and I get to help people. It is as simple as that.

How many clients do you see on a daily basis?
It varies, but we average about 28 clients a day.

Where can people drop off their donations?
You can drop off your clothes and other household items at the Bissell Thrift Shoppe on 8818 118 Avenue or our South Side Donation Centre at 5120 – 122 Street or you can drop them off directly at Bissell Centre (10527 96 Street), if you prefer. We are always short on Men’s clothes. So if you have any, please drop them off!

Marilyn, a new Community Closet client

Marilyn is one of the many clients who access the Community Closet at Bissell. She is waiting outside the doors patiently with her voucher in her hands. She came here today looking for a change of clothes. It is her first time here. She has been on the streets for some time now in the same clothes and only came here because some people on the street told her about his place. Marilyn didn’t ever think she would be in her current situation.  She always had her own place. She didn’t have to worry about where she would be sleeping each night. Now due to some unfortunate circumstances, she is homeless. Tonight, she will be staying in a shelter. Her future is uncertain. The only thing that she is certain about is that she will get some clean clothes to wear from Bissell Centre’s Community Closet.

To find out more about this program, please contact the Community Closet at 780-423-2285, ext. 118 or view the Community Closet webpage.

Story written by Guest Blogger Karen Lee.

The Homeless Memorial

By Mattie Cuvilier, Bissell Centre Adult Support Worker  
This year I became a member of the board for Edmonton’s Annual Homeless Memorial. I had been to the event in the past and have worked with Edmonton’s homeless population for the last five years as a staff member at Bissell Centre and Youth Emergency Shelter (now called Youth Empowerment and Support Services). I desired to be a member of the board to pay my respects to those I had known that had past this past year, to meet fellow advocates for homeless rights, and be involved in a meaningful undertaking.

The Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness funded this event that was chaired by John Acheson and Marian Enow (of the Edmonton Public Library) and also had members from Boyle Street Community Services, George Spady, Mustard Seed, Hope Mission and others. The memorial was held May 11th and for the first time the memorial took place outside so that it could culminate around the newly erected homeless memorial statue and also to simulate the lives of our fallen brothers and sisters whom had to spend much of the last number of years braving the elements.

Music was provided in the form of a ceremonial Aboriginal drummer and a Scottish bagpiper and also featured poignant speeches from Gary Moostoos (of Boyle Street Community Services) and John Acheson.  Approximately 200 people came to mourn the approximate 43 individuals who passed away this year. The event itself ran smoothly and was a success.  It was covered by local media and will hopefully bring more awareness to the life threatening danger that our cities homeless face on the streets in one of Canada`s coldest, most dangerous, and conservative cities. 

To watch a video of the memorial click here.

A Man I Met In The Drop-In – Part Two

By Guest Blogger, Karen Lee
James, a regular in Bissell Centre’s Drop-In, tells me that he is grateful for places like Bissell.  For the past three months, he has been homeless.  At night he sleeps in shelters, but he doesn’t like it.  He has multiple health problems, including epilepsy and is prone to seizures, for which he needs to take medication, but he isn’t allowed to take them in the shelters.  In addition to having three major seizures in the last year, James is also diabetic and has high blood pressure.  And if you can believe it, he has problems with his eyesight also… he has double vision.

James is scared and emotionally distraught.  He doesn’t feel safe in the inner city. He has seen numerous acts of violence and an act of suicide on the streets.  He feels he has no support outside of Bissell.  He lost contact with his friends and family and feels alone and hopeless.  

James, like many homeless people, has been coming to Bissell daily for meals and a warm safe place to stay during the day.  Today he feels especially thankful – he is able to get his laundry done and was given a change of clothes and can finally get out of the ones he’s been walking around in for the last few weeks.

As my conversation with him comes to an end, he has tears in his eyes and starts weeping.  I tell him that his days ahead will get better.  And I really do hope that’s the case.

Introduction to Social Enterprising

As you may know, Bissell Centre has been operating a social enterprise for many, many years; it is called the Bissell Centre Thrift Shoppe and last year its revenues funded itself, its southside donations centre, and our Community Closet which gives away clothing to thousands of people each year.
Bissell Centre is exploring other social enterprise opportunities and options – from small scale social businesses to rather large ones, and I will be reporting on all of our social enterprise activity over the next 12 months.

At this point I want to share with our visitors an excellent Introduction to Social Enterprising that was researched and written by our 2011 board intern, Uno Okon, who came to us from the University of Alberta Non Profit Board Development Program.

The report identifies various definitions of terms that are helpful, the why’s of social enterprise, implications to non profits, as well as provides some case studies. Please feel free to down load it and share it with others.

Click Here: Social Enterprise Report

Better Access to Better Food

In 2005, a small group of agencies providing meals and food supplied in Edmonton’s inner city established the T5H Network to discuss ways to better address food insecurity and effectively use food resources. They chose the title T5H because the postal code encompassed four neighborhoods in the inner city:  Boyle, McCauley, Queen Mary Heights and Central MacDougall.

The group met periodically from 2005-2010 to share information about each of their activities and discuss different approaches to improve food security. In 2006, for example, the group released a paper Living without Food, which was published by the Bissell Centre.

In 2007, several T5H network members attended a workshop on “social analysis systems” (SAS2), a set of methods designed to assist collaborative approaches to complex social issues.  After the workshop, Peter Faid, from Community Services Consulting Ltd, facilitated a number of conversations to explore how SAS2 might be used by to explore how to improve access to nutritious food for vulnerable residents in the inner city.

The ebb and flow of the leadership of the T5H network meant that the idea for the project was put on hold. In late 2010, Bissell Center secured resources from Family and Community Support Services program of the City of Edmonton to support the inquiry.  Jane Hirst, then interim Executive Director of Bissell Center, asked Mark Cabaj, with the support of Peter Faid and Jim Klingle, to facilitate an SAS2 guided inquiry entitled Better Access to Better Food in the T5H neighborhoods. 

The project has continued, with numerous meetings and considerable research undertaken. At this writing the City of Edmonton funded project has come to an end and the work and findings to date are represented in a “Final Report.” There are quotes around “final report” because we are continuing on without funding in place. Mark Cabaj has agreed to provide some volunteer facilitation and Peter Faid and Jim Klingle will lend a hand no doubt when asked! Bissell Centre has agreed to serve as project administrator. Part of that work includes creating and managing a wiki site (located here) at which all the proceedings are documented and which can be used to solicit more involvement from area organizations and groups.

I encourage you to take a look at the report and share it with others. If you want to join us in work, you can send your interest to me personally at mholmgren@bissellcentre.org

Celebrating Our Success! Bissellebration 2012

Every year, we gather to celebrate another year of service, to share our success, and thank our generous supporters in the community.  We call this event, “Bissellebration”, our annual Gala and Auction.
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260 of Bissell Centre’s closest supporters, sponsors, staff and volunteers shared this experience on May 5 at Sutton Place Hotel.  In addition to media and special guests in attendance, we were honoured by the presence of the Lieutenant Governor, His Honour, Col. (Ret’d) The Honourable Donald S. Ethell.  We would also like to thank Eileen Bell of 630 CHED for emceeing the event, as well as Mark Scholz for acting as our auctioneer.

Bissellebration is not just about celebrating.  It is also about ensuring that we have the funding and assistance to continue and expand the services that we provide to people in need.

I am pleased to share that funds raised through the event totaled over $80,000, including $20,000 for children. 

Bissell Centre would like to thank this year’s sponsors:

  • Servus Credit Union
  • WorleyParsons
  • PCL Construction
  • Boardwalk Rental Communities
  • Capital Power

Thank you to everyone who attended and made Bissellebration 2012 such a successful endeavour.  We invite you to join us next year for Bissellebration 2013!