Bissell Centre CEO Resigns To Work On National Poverty Reduction

I am taking my drive to end poverty and homelessness to a National level by accepting the opportunity to lead the Vibrant Communities initiative for the Tamarack Institute. This initiative entails working with 100 cities across Canada on poverty reduction initiatives. For more information about my new work, visit HERE. 

I was not looking for another job. This opportunity was presented to me. Unfortunately to pursue it I have had to resign as the CEO of Bissell Centre. I have to tell you that this was the most difficult career decision I have made.

I am proud of what Bissell Centre has accomplished under my leadership but truth be told, all of the good things that have happened over the past five years are because of the incredible spirit and hard work of our staff, volunteers, and board members. It is our people that drive us to help those who are often forgotten or, worse, viewed as problems (rather than as human beings).

Over the past five years the Bissell Centre has grown its services to end poverty and homelessness. In achieving this we have put people to work, supported those who are mentally-ill, victims of crime, suffering from trauma and who need help to change their lives for the better.

There is a saying we have about our organization which is: we don’t give up on people. That’s our stance, that’s our attitude about our work and it’s our people who deliver on that each and every day, and I have to say I have been proud and blessed to be a part of such a fine group of caring people.

Because of our people, we now have a goal to house 500 homeless people per year. Five years ago, our goal was 80 per year. In addition in the past 12 months we have prevented the eviction of another 300 people – half of whom were children.

Because of our people, we provide 14,000 job placements per year. Five years ago it was less than 10,000 and we have developed plans to dramatically increase that work in 2016.

Because of our people, Bissell Centre has set a course to transform its drop in centre into a larger centre for healing, reconciliation, and change which will allow us to not only provide sanctuary from the street but also work with street-involved people in ways that help them increase their literacy skills, find jobs, address mental health challenges, and become productive members of the community.

It’s our people who take care of thousands of children each year in our free, accredited day care centre, providing them with meals, early childhood learning opportunities, and most of all love.

It’s our people who weathered not one but two devastating Thrift Shoppe fires and who ensured that even while we were closed, we were able to provide free clothing to those who needed it.

There is so much more I could mention, but I want to make sure all of you realize that Bissell Centre is not about the leader, is not about one person. Bissell Centre is about the 130 people who come to work each day to be of service and who are committed to making positive change in our participants’ lives.

I can tell you I have been attentive to surrounding myself with stellar leaders and managers as well. From day one, I knew there would come a day when I would leave Bissell Centre and frankly I wanted to make sure the agency didn’t skip a beat when I stepped down. I am confident that I have been successful. Gary St. Amand who is in charge of all of our programs (and has been for three years) has agreed to serve as Interim CEO and to work with board and staff to execute our business plan. He will do a stand up job and will receive the support of his leadership team along the way.

Sometimes when a CEO steps down, people wonder what it will mean. They wonder sometimes if the agency will have a hard time. While I want to think I will be missed at least a little, the truth is that the work will continue to the same standards of quality tomorrow as today.

I will continue to be a leadership donor to Bissell Centre, and I ask that all of you who currently support us or who have been thinking of doing so, to not hesitate because of my departure. I have every confidence that things will only continue to get better. Bissell Centre will continue on its journey to do more and do what we do better. That’s what Bissell Centre is about.

Please continue to support and care for us!

Thank you

Mark Holmgren