Our Volunteers: Inspired to Give!

More than 1,200 people volunteer with Bissell Centre every year. They contribute over 15,000 hours of time in total! So much of what we do is only possible because of these wonderful, generous people. That’s why we are celebrating National Volunteer Week this week!

We will be honouring over 100 volunteers this week during our celebratory lunches and appreciation activities. It’s a privilege to show them how much we love them!

Below are a few quotes from some of our amazing volunteers about why they are inspired to work with us:
 

“This is a chance to give back to the community in any way I can!” – Xavier

 

“I volunteer to participate in and improve my community as I was homeless in my youth. I now want to help provide opportunities for others’ successes” – Mike

 

“As a volunteer, I am empowered to do so much and because of that I have a real sense of purpose!” – Yovella

 

“You really become part of the team and staff are so friendly!”

 

“I love the welcoming environment, you always feel accepted at Bissell Centre” – Ivy

 

“I volunteer to be involved with a diverse and beautiful community of people.” – Jessica

 

“Bissell Centre helped me realize I wanted to work with children as a career and gave me insight to my life’s purpose.” – Shannon

 

“It always feels like time well-spent, I feel purposeful.”

 

“I volunteer to give back to a community that was there for me. To also put smiles on the faces of others.” – Constance

 

“Volunteering at Bissell Centre has allowed me to learn new skills, meet new people, and enhance core leadership qualities.”

 

Join our Volunteer Community!

 

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!

 

It’s Time to Recognize and Thank our Volunteers!

National Volunteer Week (NVW) runs from April 12th -18th and is a time to recognize, celebrate, and thank Canada’s 13.3 million volunteers. Bissell Centre relies on 1,200 of volunteers each year who graciously support our many programs that help people in poverty.

This is the 12th consecutive year for the NVW campaign and we encourage people to get out and participate in volunteer appreciation activities during this week!

For more information on how to volunteer at Bissell Centre, please visit: http://www.bissellcentre.org/volunteer.

All Sides of the Coin – Part 3: My Role of Employee

Bissell Centre employee, Sissy Thiessen, shares her story of assuming the various positions of volunteer, program participant and employee within Bissell. This is the final part of a three-part series.
By: Sissy Thiessen

All Sides of the Coin – Part 3: My Role of Employee

To my surprise, my journey with Bissell Centre did not end after my time volunteering and participating in the summer of 2009. Three years after entering the doors of the Robert Tegler Friendship Room for the first time, I finally returned to Bissell. But this time, not as a volunteer or participant.

Ever since the day a speaker from Bissell came to my high school, a seed was planted in my mind that made me want to be within the centre. Even after I volunteered and moved on to spend three years in another city being a University student, active volunteer and employee, I still found myself thinking about coming back to Bissell. Upon returning home to Edmonton after my studies, I decided I wanted to work at Bissell Centre.

On my first attempt, I had applied for a position within Bissell’s Homeless to Homes program, a program aimed at providing clients in need with stable housing and access to income supports. I was unsuccessful, but had learned more about the amazing support Bissell provides to inner city Edmontonians. I also felt like I put my name on a list and that someday, someone would recognize my drive, passion and eagerness to work for an organization that directly assists people. And I was right. 

In October 2012, I applied for and accepted a position within Employment Services, which assists participants looking to enter or re-enter the workforce. Manager, Mark Bubel, said my passion and writing skills were apparent in my letter of intent and after interviewing me, was gracious enough to take a chance on me. I was given an opportunity to prove to myself, as well as the organization, why I kept feeling the need to return.

I started my position as an Employment Support Worker on a relief basis at the end of October, and have gained a multitude of knowledge, experience and transferable skills since commencing employment. I have learned the inner workings of a non-profit organization, how to provide someone with the skills required to succeed in life and the workforce, conflict resolution and most importantly, I have learned how to empower someone. I have had the opportunity to work within a well organized social service agency that directly works toward eliminating poverty in our community.

Through my time spent in Employment Services, I have also gained valuable skills to assist me on my own career path. I came to help others and by the graciousness of this organization and its leaders, I have also been helped in return. I was even granted the opportunity to utilize my education in Journalism and work within Marketing and Communications a few hours a week.

At the time being, I have been offered a permanent, full-time position in a project-support role for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services (FASS). This program works to enhance our community’s understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), how to prevent it, as well as supports individuals and families affected by FASD. I am so thankful for all the opportunities Bissell has provided me with thus far, which have exemplified what it means to be genuinely compassionate, empathetic and courageous. These experiences have also taught me one of the most important lessons I think can be taught- the true power of the human spirit in the face of the most challenging obstacles. My life has been given new direction and meaning, and I am grateful my path has lead me back to Bissell Centre. I look forward to my future within this organization, as well as the continued generosity and lessons that accompany it.

All Sides of the Coin – Part 2 “Participant”

Bissell Centre employee Sissy Thiessen shares her story of assuming the various positions of volunteer, program participant and employee within Bissell. This is a three-part series that will be published separately.
By: Sissy Thiessen

PART 2: Me as a Participant of Bissell Centre

The next phase I entered in my journey at Bissell was on the other side of the table- as a program participant. While I was still a volunteer, the manager of Food Services offered me an opportunity to participate in a First Aid Course as part of a women’s program that was running at the time. It was a full day course, offering a certificate in Standard First Aid, as well as infant-level CPR c. Realizing an opportunity for professional development when I see one, I jumped at the offer. There were about 10 of us, all appearing to be of First Nations descent. Some were with child, others said they had to make stressful arrangements to coordinate child care for the day.  Read More…

All Sides of the Coin – My 3 roles at Bissell Centre

Bissell Centre employee Sissy Thiessen shares her story of assuming the various positions of volunteer, program participant and employee within Bissell. This is a three-part series that will be published separately.
By: Sissy ThiessenSissy headshot

PART ONE:  Volunteering at Bissell Centre

I was sitting in Social Studies class in high school when I first heard about Bissell Centre. An employee from the centre came to talk about what the organization does for Edmontonians in need, and what it means to truly give back to your community. For the life of me, I cannot remember who the person was or what they did at Bissell, but the message of hope in their words is one that has stayed with me since I first heard them in 2005. I remember feeling so impacted by the warm heartedness and compassion I was hearing about. I was so amazed at how an organization could do so much for so many- how much help was really out there. And how much need for these services there really was.

It wasn’t until 2009 that I finally got around to volunteering for Bissell Centre. I had recently watched a movie called “Yes Man,” starring Jim Carrey, a movie about staring fear and apprehensions right in the face and saying “Yes” to any opportunity that comes your way. Giving what you have and going along for the ride. In the movie, Jim’s character volunteered serving soup to the homeless. And just like my mother will tell you, if I see something I want to do being done, I will find a way to do it. So, my mind was made up. I was going to serve soup to the homeless. Read More…

Seeking New Volunteer Board Members

Bissell Centre’s Board of Governors is seeking new volunteer Board members. Governors must be or become members of Bissell Centre.Responsibilities of a Board Member: 

  • Attend monthly Board meetings
  • Have a commitment to and understand Bissell Centre’s vision and mission.
  • Alignment with Bissell Centre’s Strategic Touchstone and the work we do.
  • Be aware of/attend Bissell Centre events and represent Bissell Centre in the community.
  • Work cooperatively within a group.

Becoming a Board Member:
Bissell Centre welcomes everyone, but is especially looking for those with skills/experience/contacts in the following areas:

  • Social Enterprise
  • Mental Health/Addictions
  • Finance/Accounting
  • Links to Aboriginal Community

The Board currently has two committees: Audit & Finance Committee, and Human Resources, Governance & Nominating Committee.
If you are interested in becoming a candidate for our Board of Governors or for more information, please click here to see the entire Board of Governors Recruitment Notice

Love watching people win? Volunteer for Bissell Centre’s Yellowhead Casino FUNdraiser and everyone wins!


Help support our vision to eliminate poverty by volunteering at our Casino FUNdraiser and watch people win while raising money to help others!!  With your help we will raise more than $70,000 to support our work with the people that need it most! 

Bissell Centre has an opportunity for a group of select people to volunteer for an eight hour shift on Thursday July 19th or Friday July 20th at our casino fundraiser at Yellowhead Casino. The money raised that night will go towards running our programs and services and will help those ready to make significant changes in their lives by getting off the streets, finding employment, conquering addictions and more! 

To volunteer please contact Amanda Almeida, Volunteer and Events Manager, by phone at 780.423.2285 ext. 134, or email at aalmeida@bissellcentre.org.

More information on our News and Events page!

Meg Bernard – We All Need A Place Where Hope Finds Help

Every day at Bissell Centre, we are grateful for the inspiring support we receive from volunteers. Meg Bernard became acquainted with Bissell Centre while volunteering for the Grade 9 Leadership Class at Riverbend Junior High – with whom we have formed a long standing and successful partnership.

What makes Meg’s story so compelling is the dedication that she shows to her family and her community.  She creates the space to volunteer despite the time demands of a young family affected by autism, spinal complications, tourette’s, OCD and herself – Parkinson’s disease.  It is her drive and enthusiasm for a better future that motivates her to volunteer.

“When I see ‘Where Hope Finds Help’ it brings to mind the difficult times in my life when I have been clinging to hope and needed the help of others to come out on the other side.  I have lived a comfortable life, but there are many times when I have needed help, kindness, forgiveness, love, and someone to lean on.  When I look at the participants at Bissell Centre, I can see myself in them.  We all need a place where our hope finds help.

I believe in Bissell Centre’s mission to ‘empower people to move from poverty to prosperity’.  If I can use the gifts and talents that I have been blessed with to help empower the participants of Bissell Centre then I feel that I have made a worthwhile contribution to the community and have made a genuine difference in the world.”

Meg has made a remarkable difference in her community.  In addition to her work with Riverbend Junior High, she provides entertainment at Bissell Centre events and plays a key role in the fundraising efforts for our upcoming Bissellebration Gala on May 5.

“I have been blessed with a great life and God gave me gifts and talents that I can use to help others.  My goal is to use these gifts to help others find the same joy, safety, security and happiness that I am fortunate enough to have.  I am grateful to have a place like Bissell Centre to help me on my journey to achieve these goals.  I look forward to a long relationship with Bissell Centre.”

Spotlight: Fraser Williamson

Fraser Williamson began volunteering with Bissell Centre just over two years ago. During this time, he has shared more than 800 hours of his life with our staff and community. Fraser first started volunteering in Drop-In as he settled into retirement. When the new housing program – Homeless to Homes (H2H) – was created a year ago Fraser transferred his volunteerism to this area.

Fraser’s work with H2H is hands-on and incredibly beneficial. He has created manuals and brochures for the H2H participants to capture information that used to be communicated verbally. He created Voter Information Packages for our participants during the last civic election. He brings a lot of value to the team, going above and beyond all the staffs’ expectations.

One of the H2H staff comments, “He is a good and wonderful person. He is kind and demonstrates a lot of empathy to the participants, always smiling and so humble. He’s definitely a keeper.” And another remarks, “Fraser is a great guy, he has made my life 100 times easier. We embrace him as a member of our team and we are really happy to have him.”

Many thanks to Fraser and all of our volunteers for truly making a difference!