One Big Family: Bissell Participants Share what Family Means to Them

Most people who visit Bissell Centre can immediately tell that the people we help have a special bond with one another. Carol, who performs once a month in our Drop-in Centre with her Aboriginal women’s drumming circle notes “They treat each other like brothers and sisters, moms and dads.” Diane, a long-time volunteer, also senses a special connection among the people here. “When I don’t come, I miss the people in the Drop-in Centre. They’re always stopping us and talking to us,” she says. “It’s like a family.”

The phrase “like a family” is often used by staff, volunteers, and especially by the participants themselves. But around Bissell, the word family does not always refer to people who are related by blood.

In honour of Family Day, we asked our participants about their understanding of the word “family.” Here are their answers.

Q: What does the word “family” mean to you?

“Family means being close and loving to your children, wife, or husband, and making sure that their needs are met.” – Candace

“Family is unity. It’s love. It’s not feeling lonely in this world.” – Dina

“Family is my world. My girls keep me strong and show me the value of life.” – Krystal

“I would say family is like a team. They know each other very well, they can depend on each other. These are the people whom you can depend on, and you can rely on them in any situation.” – Shalini

Q: How has being at Bissell Centre shaped your sense of family?

“Bissell Centre made me feel that I have another family outside my own… It gives me a sense of belonging.” – Billy

“Bissell Centre strengthens us as a family. [It] helps us build a better future.” – Davina

“My son and daughter have had an amazing experience [at the daycare]… My children see you all as family. I see so much good here.” – Angela

“Bissell Centre has given us a sense of belonging, tradition, and foundation to start from. The staff has encouraged us to grow and always gives us something to look forward to.” – Kayla

“I don’t know what I would have done without all of the staff [at Bissell]. Look! Now I am sitting in my own home. I consider ALL of the staff to be my family.” – Judy

“Bissell Centre is a big support for immigrants like us. We are a low-income family, and Bissell has given lots of resources, like clothing, diapers, and toys for the kids.” – Shalini

We’ve watched our family at Bissell Centre grow and change for over 100 years thanks to your support. Thank you for helping us assist families of all kinds in our community.

Happy Family Day, from our family to yours!

Join Diane! Become a Volunteer Hairdresser!

Haircuts are a luxury that many people in our community can’t afford. That’s why we’ve offered a free haircutting service for over 26 years at Bissell’s Drop-in Centre. Every Tuesday, participants can sign up to receive free haircuts and beard trimmings thanks to a group of volunteers who keep the program running.

Some clients visit the hairdresser to get themselves cleaned up before a job interview or housing appointment, but Diane, a long-term hairdressing volunteer, says participants request haircuts for all kinds of reasons. “One fellow came in with long, long hair and a big beard,” she recalls. “He told us, ‘Take it all off!'” She explained that the client hadn’t seen his daughter in two and a half years and that he wanted to “look nice” for her high school graduation tomorrow.

Diane has been cutting hair at Bissell Centre for over six years. “When I don’t come, I miss the people in the Drop-in Centre,” she says. “We know a lot of them. When we walk through the Drop-in, they’re always stopping us and talking to us. It’s like a family.” Diane says that her clients always appreciate the work that she does. “They come in and a lot of them don’t feel that good about themselves. But once they have a nice haircut, and they’ve spent a little bit of time talking with the ladies – when you show them their face in the mirror, it’s the difference between night and day. Their eyes have life.”

With a few volunteers moving away and a few others retiring soon, Diane hopes that some fresh faces will start to come by the haircutting centre. “Come and see,” she urges anyone thinking about volunteering. “Spend time with us! Come here and just take a look at what’s going on – take a look at the smiles and the happy faces that go out of here. You’re not making any kind of commitment if you just come by and visit.”

As for Diane, she knows that she’ll continue to cut hair for her clients at Bissell Centre for as long as she is able. “It makes me feel good,” she says, “knowing that I’ve in some way helped somebody feel a lot better about themselves. More people should try and volunteer.”

We’re recruiting haircutting volunteers!