Bissell Centre Voted Best Non-Profit in Edmonton

BOE-2013_webIn the recent annual readership poll undertaken by Vue Weekly, Bissell Centre was voted the best non-profit in Edmonton.
Each year for the past 18 years Vue asks Edmontonians to identify those organizations, individuals, businesses, venues, and locations that they believe are the best in Edmonton.

We are proud to receive such recognition and also celebrate with the two organizations that were runners up: iHuman Youth Society and the Edmonton Humane Society.

To see all of the Best of Edmonton Winners, click HERE.

Let’s End Poverty in the Alberta Capital Region

120,000 people in the Alberta Capital Region live in poverty – 37,000 of them are children. It’s time for a change.
Sign this statement of support to join United Way, its partners and community members as we work together to Create Pathways Out of Poverty.

Bissell Centre’s mission and vision are aligned with United Way’s Pathways Out of Poverty.


Watch United Way’s video on Pathways Out of Poverty.


Volunteers Needed For Riverbend Harvest Days

Riverbend Gardens has been an amazing experience for participants of Bissell Centres recreation programming. Throughout the summer, many of our program participants have gained some amazing gardening skills and had the chance to build community in a healthy, productive way.
Riverbend Gardens

Now that summer is drawing to a close, it’s harvest time at Riverbend Gardens! The food harvested supporters a host of local agencies to meet the nutrition needs of those who struggle with food security. For Bissell Centre, the harvested vegetables will help ensure we can provide healthy meals to the kids in our daycare, nutritious food for the mom’s who participate in our Collective Kitchen, and bag lunches to those working through our Casual Labour Program.

We need 20 volunteers to help this Saturday, September 21st and next Saturday, September 28th. You get to spend the day outside with a team of fantastic Bissell Centre volunteers at the beautiful Riverbend Gardens while helping people move from poverty to prosperity.

You can volunteer for one shift, both days, or multiple shifts.

Shifts: 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM or 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Transportation will be provided if needed.

Please contact Rylan Kafara at 780-860-6154 or [email protected] to help out!

24/7 MAP on APTN

Yesterday, APTN aired a great segment about our 24/7 Mobile Assistance Program  (MAP).
The story profiles a young single mother who had moved to Edmonton to try to find a better life, but found herself living on the streets. Thanks to the MAP team she now has a safe place for her and her family to call home, access to support services, and a new chance at life.


24/7 MAP is  supported by  REACH Edmonton  and  Homeward Trust.

CEO Update on the Thrift Shoppe Fire

First off, everyone at Bissell Centre is grateful for the many organizations and individuals who approached us to ask how they can help us recover from this devastating fire.  Offers of warehouse space for clothing donations, groups offering to do clothing drives, and helpful ideas and suggestions about where we might relocate a temporary Thrift Shoppe are among the many offers of support we are receiving.
The latest update on damages now sets total damages, including the cost of contents, at $650,000 and that number may increase as further inspections take place. I have shared some pictures at the end of this posting that show the significant damage to the store. I am hopeful the costs do not escalate much higher or we might be faced with tearing the building down and starting from scratch.

I have been working with our lead team and other staff to take immediate action to find an alternative location for the Thrift Shoppe, given that we now understand it could take up to six months to bring the store back into operations.  My goal is to have a relocation plan in place within a week and an alternative donations centre identified within days, but I will keep you posted.

To be clear, Bissell Centre is not inclined to wait. The Thrift Shoppe and the free clothing service its revenues fund help up to 6,000 low income people each month and we are committed to re-opening as soon as possible. We are working on a plan as well to deploy as many Thrift Shoppe staff as possible to the recovery. That said, some of our staff will face layoffs; we are working with the insurance company to see if some of those staff could be hired to help with the restorative work they will be coordinating.

We have excellent insurance but we know from past experiences with major flooding that not all costs are recoverable through insurance, so I am working with our CFO and will be consulting with the board about the impact of this disaster on our already tight budget.

I am grateful for such an amazing staff. Two of my lead team members returned early from vacations to step up and help lead our recovery. Staff are working long hours to get us back up and running.

For those who wish to donate clothing to us, you can still do so at our Southside Donations Centre at  5120 122 Street from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday to Saturday. Phone: 780.423.2377.  Because of a recent flood in our basement at our main office, we are not able to handle clothing donations, but we will have identified another location for donations in the very near future, so please come back for updates.

Financial donations will help as well to lessen the blow of continued staffing that can no longer be covered by Thrift Shoppe revenues.

Donations can be made by clicking HERE.

At the very end of this secure online form  you can designate your gift to Thrift Shoppe Recovery by stating so in the comment box.

Thank you!

Mark Holmgren, CEO

Thrift Shoppe Fire Monday Night

Sometime Monday evening between 6:15 and 7:00 pm a fire broke out in the sorting area in the back of our Thrift Shoppe. Although we are awaiting the final word on the cause of the fire, I was informed by the inspector on site that he did not suspect arson. The fire took place after closing. No staff were in the building, no one was hurt, and the fire did not spread to neighbouring structures.
Structural damage to the back part of the building, including the roof above the sorting area, has rendered that area of the building unsafe. The roof had to be punched through to address hot spots. As well, the smoke damage is intensive and it is too early to know if any of the clothing stock can be salvaged.


The Fire Department’s rough estimate is $350,000 in total damages including the cost of  stock, but we won’t know the final amount for sure for a few days. Our insurance company has been contacted and we will be meeting with them onsite as soon as possible Tuesday.  

Tuesday morning the lead team and others will be meeting to plan a course of action.

It is our intent to find a location at which we can still receive clothing donations so that part of the Thrift Shoppe’s operation is not disrupted. We will be taking action on that first thing Tuesday. I ask the community and our supporters to hang on for a few days to find out if we can set up an alternative clothing drop off location. In the meantime we will still receive clothing donations at our South Side Donations Centre at  5120 – 122 Street, Edmonton,  Phone: 780.432.2377. The South Side Donations Centre is open  Monday – Saturday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.

I imagine it will take three to four months to get the Thrift Shoppe fully operational, but I will know within a week or so if  we might be able to open up the front end of the store earlier than that or if opening a smaller version of the Thrift Shoppe somewhere else temporarily is an option.

Our goal is to get back up and running and soon as possible. Each month 5,500 to 6,000 low income people shop at our Thrift Shoppe for low cost clothing and household items. They depend on our store to help them manage their household income and maximize what money they have to purchase needed items.  Approximately 1,000 donations of clothing and household items are brought to the Thrift Shoppe each month to support not only the Thrift Shoppe but also our free clothing outlet which helps several thousand people each year as well. I am concerned about the impact this will have on those community members who rely on us.

I am also concerned about on our Thrift Shoppe employees. I will be meeting with Bissell’s HR and Finance team to assess what we will lose in store revenues, though I estimate it at $70,000 per month and we will determine the extent of any lay-offs we may have to undertake. It is my hope we can re-deploy some of our staff to recovery operations, but it is too early to know any details about that.

The loss of revenue along with costs that will not be covered by insurance will have significant impact on our current budget, so I will be also working with the lead team and Bissell Centre’s Board of Governors to identify any strategies that may mitigate some of the impact on our bottom line for this fiscal year as well as to our Thrift Shoppe employees.

Please note: the fire will negatively impact our ability to assist with Homeward Trust’s clothing drive for Homeless Connect. We are in discussions with Homeward Trust and will announce alternative efforts to help out with that clothing drive as soon as possible.

Mark Holmgren, CEO

Media Release – Thrift Shoppe Fire Monday Night


Bissell Centre Thrift Shoppe Fire Monday Night

EDMONTON, AB Sept 3rd, 2013 – Between 6:15 and 7:00 pm Monday evening a fire broke out in the back of our Thrift Shoppe at 8818 118 Ave. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the fire didn’t spread to neighbouring structures. Arson is not suspected as the cause of the fire.

There is structural and smoke damage to the building and it is currently considered unsafe. The total cost of damages won’t be known for a few days, but preliminary estimates are between $350,000 and $500,000 including loss of inventory.

We are estimating that the Thrift Shoppe will be un-operational for 3 – 4 months and we estimate a loss in revenue of about $70,000 per month. Bissell Centre is looking for an alternate location to continue receiving clothing donations.

The Thrift Shoppe serves 5,000 to 6,000 low income people a month who utilize this valuable resource to purchase affordable clothing, household items and children’s toys. The Thrift Shoppe also provides clothing to our free community closet where 20 agencies in Edmonton send clients to receive free clothing on a seasonal basis.

We are concerned about the 15 Thrift Shoppe employees and hope they can partake in clean-up efforts or that we can find temporary employment in other Bissell Centre programs, but it’s too early to know details at this time. We are also concerned about the impact that loss of revenue and costs not covered by insurance will have on our budget.

We are currently working to find an alternate location for donations of clothing and goods and are investigating options for opening a temporary store in the interim, but can’t confirm details at this time.

People can donate to Bissell Centre financially via our website  by phone: 780-425-6594 or in person at Bissell Centre’s main office: 10527 96 Street.

Bissell Centre’s South Side Donation Centre is located at 5120 122 Street and is still in operation from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday to Saturday. Phone: 780.423.2377.

Kristen Clark, Manager of Marketing and Communications, will be available for interviews outside the Bissell Centre Thrift Shoppe TODAY September 3, 2013 at 2:00 PM. C: 780.964.7220 [email protected]


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