It’s what I am feeling. And I must add, I feel grateful often.
I am grateful for each and every one of our 120 plus staff who work so hard to help those who are homeless, hungry, in pain from past and current abuse, and sadly are without the love and support from family and friends that most of us count on. Bissell Centre staff have big hearts and they are committed to making a difference. I am grateful not only for their actions but their ideas about what more Bissell Centre might do to make needed change in our community. I can’t tell you how proud I am to lead this wonderful organization and I am thankful for the leadership they show me.
I am grateful for our incredible community of friends and supporters. I can’t ever hope to mention everyone who contributes to Bissell Centre’s work, but it is inspiring to see young children and teenagers volunteering here, undertaking their own fundraising campaigns, and speaking to other groups about the importance of eliminating poverty. People of all ages and all walks of life are a part of us. People and groups of all faiths are active in our work and support us in so many ways. The same is true of businesses of all sizes.Service clubs, women’s groups, unions, universities and grade schools – it’s a seemingly unending list of people, organizations, and businesses who care, who want to help, who desire a better future for those struggling.
Bissell Centre partners with many funders to deliver contracted services, including several departments of the Alberta Government, Homeward Trust and REACH Edmonton. We also receive grants from the City of Edmonton (FCSS), United Way, Edmonton Community Foundation, and the Stollery Charitable Foundation for ongoing work here at Bissell Centre. I am grateful that these partners believe in our ability to deliver quality services to high standards of effectiveness and efficiency.
I am also grateful that Bissell Centre is not content to just exist off major contracts and grants. Each year we generate 25 to 30% of our revenues through donations from individuals, businesses, unions, service clubs, schools, small foundations and others who help us keep open our drop in centre, feed thousands, give away free clothing, take care of our children in an accredited day care, provide parenting and family support, and deliver services that improve the health and wellness of our community members. It’s riskier to do this, but Bissell Centre’s history is one of partnering with the community, It was the community that gave us birth 103 years ago and has continued to walk with us in our work ever since. Thank you.
I am grateful to the 800 volunteers who give of their time and talents to our mission and work. I tip my hat to my board of governors and thank them for their guidance, intelligence, commitment, and their faith in me as their CEO. We have so many volunteers I have not met them all. They serve meals, staff our free clothing outlets, wrap presents, shovel snow, help with office work, give haircuts, and offer friendship to our participants. They will be there on New Year’s day setting up, cooking, serving,
and cleaning so that Bissell Centre can provide a free turkey meal to more than 1,000 community members. I can’t imagine what things would be like here without our volunteers.
When we experienced the tragedy of our Thrift Shoppe being knocked out of operations by a $900,000 fire, the community responded with clothing drives, donations of thousands of socks, gloves, and caps. Six of our funders stepped up to provide some extra resources. Government and business leaders contacted us to see how they could help. All of this support allowed us to open up a temporary store in time for Christmas. This could not have happened without the community’s care and help.
I am grateful, as well, to the people we serve. Living in poverty, living homeless, living with mental illness, living with the abuse of their past… and still they keep on trying. They line up each day for casual labor jobs. They work with our staff to change their lives and find homes. They try to quit drinking or doing drugs. They sing and play music in our drop in centre, and I am always honored when they shake my hand, give me a smile or a hug. I am grateful for the many people who overcome their obstacles and land good jobs or become addictions free or find the courage to leave abusive situations.
I am grateful for those who love me and care about me, who are there for me when I am sad or frustrated or feeling lost. I am especially grateful for those times they forgive my own shortcomings and continue to walk with me toward a better place.
I am grateful for being able to serve. And to all of you for helping me to do that with my life.
Wishing you peace, hope, and joy.
Mark Holmgren, CEO