CEO UPDATEPlease hold off a bit before bringing us donations of clothing. As usual the incredible Edmonton community is wanting to know how to help us. All of you are amazing and I can tell you, knowing you are with us makes a huge difference! Please just hang tough for another day or two while we develop and begin implementing our recovery plan. We should have an update on that later Monday and more throughout the week. In the meantime please do not bring clothing donations to us downtown or even at our South Side location. We will let you know where you can do that as soon as possible.
Recovery Planning has Started I have already drafted a plan but of course will seek the advice and wisdom of my staff to finish it off Monday morning. Another staff member is spending today connecting with the dozen or so media requests. Other staff are linking with insurance contacts and I have assigned out some work to other staff as well. We are on it and doing the best we can as fast as we can.
Our First Concern: People As is the case with everything we do, our first concern is about people. Recently our Thrift Shoppe won a Bissell Centre Award for Program Excellence. Most of them were involved in our recovery from the last fire and they did amazing work to get us back up and running. I know they are devastated and I will be working with our HR Director and the Store Manager to connect with them and do what we can to help them through this.
Our concerns for those folks who rely on the Thrift Shoppe are front and centre on my mind as well. Those concerns will be addressed in our planning of next steps.
Other Questions There are a lot of questions coming at us. I will attempt to answer some of them here.
Q: Isn’t this the third fire at the Thrift Shoppe? A: No, Our permanent location on 118th Avenue was shutdown by a fire in September 2013. This is the second fire, which took place at our temporary location.
Q: Do you think the two fires are connected somehow or that this latest one was deliberately set? A: I have no reason to see a connection between the two fires. The cause of the latest fire is not known at this time. We are assisting fire investigators with their investigation and they will share with us their findings. I was told we should know by Wednesday at the latest. Any current reasons being shared or speculated about via social media are just that: speculation. For your information the cause of the first fire was not determined, although arson was ruled out.
Q: Will you be opening another temporary store? A: We will be discussing this tomorrow. However, it took two months to locate and restock the temporary store. Our permanent store is scheduled to be open in September. We will be working to attempt to solidify that deadline. If it holds, at this writing, I imagine we will not open another temp location but rather gear up to get into our permanent location instead. This is not the final word, but I am sharing with all of you my current thinking.
Q: How many people rely on the Thrift Shoppe? A: Approximately 5,000 to 6,000 each month.
Q: How much income will be lost because of the fire? A: At this writing, it is too soon to know. I can tell you that our permanent location funded itself and our free clothing services and also generated some funds to invest in other social programs at Bissell Centre. We opened the temporary store to ensure people on low incomes could still access low cost items. We did this even though we knew we would likely operate at a small loss until we could re-open permanently. We have been supplementing the temporary store with general donations.
Q: Does Bissell Centre own the facility that burnt down? A: No, we rented the space from our friends at Native Friendship Centre. They had plans to renovate it and move programming into it in the fall. This fire is devastating to them as well; please think of them as they set out to also recover from this disaster.
Q: What is going to happen to the 13 staff employed at the Thrift Shoppe A: A major component of our recovery plan is to look at how to avoid or minimize layoffs. We will assign some staff to recovery efforts, and I have already asked staff to consider how we might reassign staff to other Bissell Centre work. I will know more this week and share it with the public when I do.
Q: Will the fire threaten Bissell Centre’s financial condition and health? A: The fire will have a negative impact on our budget. To what extend is not yet known. i will be working with my lead team to assess current planned expenditures to see how we might be able to reallocate monies, if and when required, to assist with our recovery. That said, Bissell Centre’s financial condition is healthy. We have no debt and I am confident we have the resiliency to rebound from this, especially because of the great support we receive from our supporters and funders.
Q: Do you need financial donations to help out? A: Before the fire, we were faced with raising close to $2 million this year to supplement other programs that are not fully funded. It is likely we may have to raise that goal, but again, it is too soon for me to speak of this with any certainty at this point. That said, if you are able to contribute financially, please visit our donation page. Please tell us if your donation is to help out with the fire.
Monday night I will be meeting with Bissell Centre’s Board of Governors and will brief them on our plans and seek their counsel as well.
Also please see the previous update on the fire posted yesterday.
Mark Holmgren, CEO