Every year, Tim Horton’s holds its Smile Cookie fundraiser, where each local franchise owner can pick a charity in their community that the proceeds from cookie sales will support. It’s a great way to help raise money for great causes directly in our communities!
This year, a group of Edmonton franchise owners decided to try something different. The group agreed to pool their efforts to make a larger collective impact – ultimately choosing Bissell Centre as their charity of choice.
And just like that, this quickly became one of the largest fundraising campaigns we’ve held – raising more than $400,000 in a single week.
Bissell’s Child and Family Supports
Funds from this spring’s Smile Cookie campaign all went to support our Child and Family Supports Program. Last year, we helped more than 1,600 families find their way out of poverty and emergency situations. These programs make a massive impact that people in Edmonton don’t often see.
“It’s things like connections to free pre-natal care, parental supports, or free access to emergency essentials like diapers and formula,” says Jonathan Mackereth, Development Officer with Bissell Centre.
Mackereth explains that Bissell has run a childcare for more than 50 years, serving families in the downtown core. The centre is fully staffed by Early Childhood Education professionals, providing Early Childhood Development for short- and long-term – serving childcare from newborns to six years old.
“There’s are enough challenges finding quality childcare – finances shouldn’t be one of them,” says Mackereth “Lots of parents even drop-off their kids to access other programs like our Employment Services or Financial Empowerment workshops, making it an essential part of our approach to ending poverty.”
Supporting and Celebrating Together
Learning that 147 Tim’s locations all came together to support Bissell Centre, “caught us a little off guard,” Jonathan jokes. “We knew right away opportunities like this don’t come often. We pooled resources into making sure folks knew that buying a cookie would help a child.”
Team members from Bissell Centre could be found at a few different locations around the city during this campaign. Whether it was celebrating with giant cookie cut-outs by the drive-thru, or putting on hair nets and decorating cookies, the teams stepped up to make the week unforgettable.
By the end of the campaign, more than 300,000 cookies were sold – raising more than $464,000! People didn’t hesitate to add a smile cookie to their regular double-double orders – with some businesses and schools pre-ordering up to 1,500 cookies at a time.
“On the first day, we had a manager come out to see us,” Jonathan recalls. “She said in the first two hours of the morning rush, they sold more than a quarter of the cookies they sold for the entire campaign last year.”
We can’t thank the Edmonton Tim’s franchisees enough for all the support they’ve given us. This will directly impact families and children experiencing houselessness and poverty in Edmonton. Thank you for helping us make Edmonton a little bit more of an equitable place to call home.
This past year brought a lot of positive change and much to be celebrated. Each change has brought us one step closer to our goal of eliminating poverty in our community. Thanks to our incredible supporters, we saw some huge successes and were able to better serve our participants’ needs. Here are 7 of the most notable happenings of 2018.
1) Supporters Raise $78,000 in Winter Walk Fundraiser – Sponsored by DistributionNOW
On February 24th, Edmontonians walked 2, 5 or 10k in the shoes of those experiencing poverty and homelessness for our first year hosting the Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) national fundraising walk. Over 340 walkers and 61 teams came together and walked in freezing temperatures to help us raise over $75,000 for our programs, while local businesses like LOVEPizza and The Nook Café provided warmth and treats for our walkers. #WalkForBissell again on February 23rd during this year’s Coldest Night of the Year.
2) Newly Renovated Community Space Opens
On June 11th, we officially opened the doors of our newly renovated Community Space! Our new space has dramatically improved people’s ability to access services to meet their basic needs, connect to supports, develop skills, and build relationships, all of which are essential to overcoming poverty and homelessness. Our thanks goes out to Inter Pipeline and other amazing supporters that provided the funds for this project. Learn more and watch the video tour here!
3) Over 20,000 Bottles of Water Donated During Heatwave
This past summer in Edmonton brought record high temperatures and relentless heat waves. In response to our social media callout, generous individuals and numerous companies donated over 20,000 bottles of water to keep people on the streets hydrated, in addition to summer clothing and other readily available supplies like hats and sunscreen. Thanks to the support of our community, our participants were able to keep cool and hydrated during the hot, summer days.
4) Funding Received to Continue Eviction Prevention Program
In November, we were thrilled to announce that funding had been renewed for our Community Bridge Program! This program helps our participants prevent imminent eviction and provides interventions and services to ensure the causes of the eviction are effectively addressed to prevent re-occurrence. Thanks to the generosity of our partners ENMAX, Edmonton Community Foundation, and EndPovertyEdmonton, participants like Millie and Wendy will continue to have a safe home to return to at night.
5) Over 9,000 Pairs of Underwear Collected During Annual Drive
In July, we held our 5th annual Drop Your Gonch Underwear Drive. Underwear is one of the most highly requested, yet least donated items for our participants. This year, the local community blew us away with their support. We originally set out with a goal of 5,000 donated pairs, but once the donations started coming in, we increased it to 6,000, then 8,000, and ending up collecting over 9,000 pairs! The underwear donations helped us bring dignity to those experiencing homelessness, and we couldn’t have been more grateful.
6) Initial Funding Received to Expand and Relocate Childcare Centre
After 45 years in operation, our Childcare is expanding to meet the needs of even more families in Edmonton. We will be creating 30 new full-time spots for our accredited childcare services, in addition to the 40 free respite spots already available. Our current facility is too small to accommodate the expansion, so we will be moving to a new location in the heart of the McCauley community. While the initial funding has been secured to move forward with the project, we are still in need of additional funds to complete the renovation. Check out the initial design renderings of the new Centre here. Interested in supporting and learning more? Please contact Kelly Hoskins.
7) Participants get Cooking in New Community Kitchen
In October, we opened the Community Kitchen in our new Community Space. After identifying a lack of basic cooking knowledge as a barrier to keeping newly-housed individuals in their homes, we developed programming that allows participants to build skills, improve health, and foster relationships through cooking classes, workshops and community meals. Our participants have made some delicious meals together, including Ham and Corn Chowder with Bannock, Roasted Chicken with a Pineapple Ginger Glaze, and Shepherd’s Pie. Yum! Learn more about our Community Kitchen here.
We are humbled by the continued support of our amazing community. The work we do at Bissell Centre wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of people like you!
From all of us here at Bissell, THANK YOU for helping empower people to move from poverty to prosperity! We can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring!
Help create more memories like these by joining our family of supporters today. Make a donation.
For many, Back to School shopping is exciting. But for those who are living in poverty, the Back to School season can be an extremely stressful time of the year. Affording the yearly cost of school supplies like backpacks and new clothes is extremely challenging, and sometimes impossible, for many families in Edmonton.
Tracey, mom of Stephen (5) and Ciara (2), knows this reality all too well.
After moving to Edmonton from St. Johns Newfoundland 5 years ago, Tracey was stunned with the expense of living costs and still finds herself struggling to make ends meet.
“We don’t have much to spend outside of living costs. My family uses the food bank every month, and we come to Bissell Centre to get clothes.”
Tracey and her family have been utilizing Bissell Centre’s childcare program for 2 and a half years. “We have been coming to Bissell Centre’s childcare since Stephen was 3 and Ciara was 8 months,” she recounts. “I first heard about Bissell Centre from a friend of mine who told me about the childcare here.” Although she doesn’t have any family in Edmonton, Tracey thinks of Bissell Centre as a support system for her and her family.
“At Bissell Centre, you always have people to take care of your kids that you trust. It feels nice to be able to leave them at daycare to go to a doctor’s appointment and not have to worry.”
During the Back to School season, Bissell Centre’s Family Closet equips families like Tracey’s with clothing, backpacks, and other supplies so that their children can start the school year off with confidence.
Last year, when her son Stephen was going into Kindergarten, Tracey relied heavily on the family closet to get him equipped with new clothes, sneakers, winter boots, a book bag, and other supplies for the school year. “New clothing definitely increased Stephen’s confidence,” she said.
The family closet also supplies Tracey’s family with baby clothes and products, hygiene products such as shampoo and conditioner, and seasonal clothes for the entire family such as winter jackets.
“Kids grow out of clothes really fast. Being a parent is expensive. If the family closet didn’t exist, I don’t know what I’d do.”
With access to childcare, clothing, and other supplies from Bissell Centre, Tracey is able to provide her family with a better life.
Until last year, Lorissa and Corey had never taken their family camping. Raising three small children on a single income, they’d never had the time or the money to make the trip.
But last year, after they were referred to the Summer Family Camps by workers in Bissell Centre’s daycare, they decided to give it a try.
They had already been using a few of Bissell Centre’s other services, including the daycare, Family Closet and Employment Services; but it was their first time accessing the four-day family retreat offered at Bissell’s lakeside property at Moonlight Bay Centre.
“It’s a great place for families to bond and come together and love each other… it’s brought us closer together.” – Lorissa and Corey
Lorissa and Corey with their three kids, Nehemiah, Lily and Kori, spent four days and three nights camping in the lakeside cabins. Bissell Centre volunteers took care of all the campers’ needs, including preparing all the meals and planning fun activities for the children.
“It was the first time the kids had ever played badminton,” said Corey, “and they really loved it.” Nehemiah, Lily and Kori also enjoyed swimming in the lake. “They used to be scared to go into the water by themselves,” said Corey, “but now they’re getting braver.”
What Corey and Lorissa were most grateful for was relief from the stresses of everyday life while they were at camp: they enjoyed the peace and relaxation of being together without having to worry about bills or errands or groceries.
“Having to worry about those little things takes all kinds of time away from the time you could be spending together,” said Lorissa. “When you’re at camp, you have that time to just focus on family.”
“It’s worry-free for those four days,” agreed Corey. And according to Lorissa,” “It was so relaxing and peaceful. I loved it!”
Bissell Centre’s Summer Family Camps are made possible by your donations for families who are struggling.
Please provide families with a life-changing camping experience this summer!
Although most people look forward to the holidays, there are many families in our community who struggle to get through them. For many families, Christmas gifts and turkey dinners are an enormous financial stressor, or maybe even a luxury they cannot afford.
Candice and Jeff, who live on a low income while caring for their eight children, two of whom are adopted, know what it’s like to struggle during the holiday season. They moved to Edmonton from Saskatoon 13 years ago after facing threats of violence from Candice’s ex-partner.
Although relieved to find a safe place to call home, Candice and Jeff were suddenly alone and jobless in an unfamiliar city with five children and a baby on the way.
They worried about bringing another baby into the world without the social support they had enjoyed in Saskatoon. Both had plans to find full time work, but knew that working would be difficult while balancing the needs of their growing family.
Finally, an acquaintance of Candice recommended Bissell Centre’s free Childcare program. “I remember coming here and at first being a little cautious. It was a little bit scary,” said Jeff, recalling his first visit to Bissell Centre. “But they always told us what to do and where to go when we needed help.” Since that first visit 13 years ago, Candice and Jeff say that Bissell Centre staff have become “like family” to them.
Candice says that the resources offered by Bissell Centre were invaluable. Over time, they were able to develop a network of friends after attending various Bissell Centre events, including family barbecues and community outings.
“Everything that you need to get done is here. Whether it’s support services, clothing, childcare – everything is here.”
Both Candice and Jeff are now planning to pursue higher education: Candice for business administration and Jeff for pastoral leadership. Candice began her full time education in October, and hopes to have her diploma completed in two years.
This Christmas, Candice and Jeff are grateful that they will not have to spend the holidays worrying about being able to afford gifts for their children.
Bissell Centre’s annual Festive Giveaway ensures that children in need receive a hot meal as well as toys, candy, and warm winter clothing for the holidays, all donated by caring members of the community.
Candice and Jeff have attended Festive Giveaway many times since they’ve lived in the city, and plan to go again this year. “It’s a loving, caring atmosphere at Festive Giveaway,” said Candice. “You can feel that.”
It means the world to Candice and Jeff to have gifts to give their children, even during hard times. “Just to have that comfort, and to know that you have something for your child,” said Candice. “It’s the best feeling a parent could feel.”
Two hundred families like Candice and Jeff’s are expected to attend this year’s Festive Giveaway at Bissell Centre. Please help make Christmas a joyful season for families in need.
The beginning of a new school year can be exciting, but for some families it can also be a stressful, expensive time of year. Absorbing the yearly cost of new school supplies, like back-to-school clothes, is challenging for some and impossible for others.
Corenda, a mom of five kids between the ages of two and 11, knows this reality all too well. When she moved from Saddle Lake to Edmonton in 2005, she was quickly overwhelmed by how high her living costs were. She was pregnant with her first child at the time, and as her family grew, she found herself struggling just to afford the essentials. “The cost of food and formula was crazy,” she said. “It was very tough.”
She was also dealing with an alcohol addiction and an abusive partner, and she often worried that she would end up living on the street. She lacked social supports most of us take for granted. “I guess I’ve always been kind of isolated,” she admitted. “I was fearful.”
That was when she reached out for help. “It all started off as a mental crisis,” she recounts. “I thought, I need support so I don’t feel so alone.” Corenda found Bissell Centre by searching online for affordable daycare, and discovered our free child care program.
“The staff just opened their arms to us and brought us in. That’s when I started feeling welcome and accepted in our community.”
Three of Corenda’s five children are heading to school in September. All of them use the Family Closet, a clothing donation program at Bissell Centre that offers free clothing to adults and children in need. Corenda is grateful that her kids will have the clothes they need to go back to school. “It’s important to me for them to have what they’re comfortable in and what they’re going to be proud to wear and show off to their friends,” said Corenda. “They’re so confident! They stand taller.”
With access to child care, formula and diapers, and clothes from the Family Closet, Corenda has also found an affordable home for her family and returned to university to finish her Bachelor’s degree. She and her kids now give back to those in need whenever they’re able. In fact, they frequently donate their gently used items back to the Family Closet.
“One year, we used [the Family Closet] because we didn’t have money to buy jackets that year,” she explained. “So now every year, I give my winter jackets back. Some parents don’t even have a dollar to their name. They don’t have nothing to give their kids. So I do my best to give our gently used stuff, too. That way, we kind of share with each other.”
Donate today to help more families like Corenda’s!
Not many people had a longer or colder winter than Davina and Shawn, two Edmontonians who say that Bissell Centre helped them get their lives turned around. Both have struggled with poverty, homelessness, and addiction for much of their adult lives.
Shawn and Davina were married in the summer of 2016, six years after meeting each other for the first time at an AA meeting. Their earliest days together were difficult, as both were living on a low income while trying to overcome their issues with addiction. After they’d been living together for a while, they were overjoyed to discover that Davina was pregnant–but their joy would be short-lived. “We ended up losing the baby,” says Shawn. “That was really hard.” Shawn and Davina suffered a relapse shortly afterward that lasted months. Davina knew that they needed to change their lifestyle if they wanted to make a home for Noah, her two-year-old son from a previous relationship. “We cleaned up,” she says. “We weren’t sure if we were going to make it.” Davina decided to enter a one-year treatment program for her addiction.
Shawn’s and Davina’s health began to improve, and before long, Davina was pregnant again. “But then,” says Shawn, “The cops came knocking on my door one day and arrested me.” Shawn was detained for a past infraction, and ended up serving several months in the penitentiary in Vancouver. “At my worst, I used to do a lot of bad stuff,” he explained. “The past [came] back to haunt me.” Shawn was flown out of Edmonton to serve his sentence, leaving Davina, pregnant and still undergoing treatment, alone. “It was hard,” says Davina. “It was really hard. Being in treatment and writing letters [to Shawn] and being pregnant. And then, not having anywhere to go after treatment.”
Many times, says Davina, living with poverty and addiction has made her feel “like the scum of society.” “I felt like, here’s the normal people, and then here’s me,” she says. “I didn’t really trust. I felt like I was looked down upon, like I was judged.” Bissell Centre was what helped Davina take the first few steps away from her old life. After her daughter was born, Davina brought her to Bissell Centre’s daycare for the first time. “The staff were so supportive,” she says. “I’ve shared my history with [them], and there were no judgements at all. It was open arms. Like, we’re so glad to be able to help you.”
“The staff were so supportive. I’ve shared my history with [Bissell Centre] and there were no judgements at all. It was open arms. Like, we’re so glad to be able to help you.”
The daycare service made a world of difference to Davina and Shawn. “We were able to go to [AA] meetings,” says Davina. “That was huge. And we were able to do counselling, make appointments I got to finish treatment” Shawn cuts in, “We got to put our lives back together.”
The daycare program has even allowed Davina to return to school, where she is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in sociology. “Fatima gives me two days a week so that I can do my schooling during the day,” says Davina. “She gives me extra time if I need to write a paper or study for an exam. And that has helped a lot. I don’t know what I’d do without Fatima.” Shawn adds, “It takes you from a place where you don’t really trust anybody to a place where you can believe in people again.”
Of course, things are still far from perfect for Davina and Shawn and their growing family. Although Shawn is thankful to have a steady source of income, his camp job takes him out of town for weeks at a time, leaving Davina alone much of the time to take care of their children. It will get easier, says Davina, once the kids are old enough to go to school. But for now, Davina and Shawn will have to do what they’ve always done: carry on together.
Easter came early for the children at Bissell Centre’s Childcare Program on Thursday, April 17th with snacks, fruit, and of course, colourful hats! The children and their parents enjoyed good food, music, and fun to celebrate the Easter holiday at Bissell Centre.
Bissell Centre’s Childcare program is an accredited daycare facility supporting 1,400 children every year in a safe, healthy, and enriching environment. A range of activities are offered to assist in developing children’s social, emotional, intellectual and cultural growth. The Early Childhood Development Program is available to all parents and guardians of newborns through six-year-old at no charge once per week.
For more information about Bissell Centre’s Early Childhood Program and other Family Support Services, please visit: bissellcentre.org/programs/child-and-family-resources/
Thank you to EPCOR for providing much needed funding for Bissell Centre’s Early Childhood Development Program and for serving breakfast to the children in our Childcare Facility on Tuesday, March 25th. EPCOR’s Breakfast at Bissell Project will provide $20,000 in funding that will enable us to purchase fresh food, produce, and arts & crafts supplies to ensure healthy eating and positive development for the children in our care.
EPCOR continues to be a strong supporter of Bissell Centre’s vision of eliminating poverty in our community through funding initiatives, volunteering, and providing donations to those who need them most. The Breakfast at Bissell Project is another initiative that aligns with both Bissell Centre’s core values of eliminating poverty and EPCOR’s investment pillars that support food, shelter, safety, and educational programs.
Bissell Centre’s Early Childhood Development Program supports families living in poverty with free temporary childcare for newborns to children upwards to five years of age. This is an accredited centre allowing children to play and learn in a safe, supportive, and educational environment. The program gives parents time to access other Bissell Centre services, look for housing, secure employment, or attend medical appointments. Bissell Centre’s Food Services Program also provides a nutritious breakfast, lunch, and snack every day for the 1,400 children that rely on our childcare facility every year.
For more information about Bissell Centre’s Early Childhood Program and other Family Support Services, please visit: bissellcentre.org/programs/child-and-family-resources/
Yesterday a lovely family came into our Childcare Centre bearing gifts for our children – mini candy canes, a turkey for our Food Services program, and a beautiful Christmas card and typed letter for our Childcare staff. This family came from Russia a year and a half ago, and moved to Edmonton six months ago with little money and no jobs. They had brought their two daughters (ages 4 and 2) to our Childcare when they first arrived to Edmonton. They needed someone to watch their kids so that they could apply for jobs and do interviews. Once they found employment, they needed our services until they could get their kids into an affordable daycare. They came back yesterday with gratitude on their faces, in their hands, and written in their beautiful card.
This is what their letter said:
“Words alone can’t begin to thank you for all the love and care you have given us. We are very grateful to have had your faces to greet us every morning. Without you guys we don’t know how well we would have made it. You helped us in good times and bad and gave us the extra confidence we needed to go on. You were always there to tell us everything will be okay.
We are writing to let you know how much we have appreciated the excellent job you have done over the period while my daughters have been attending your daycare centre. They have really thrived in your centre, thanks to your nurturing and creativity.
Thank you very much for the services your daycare centre has extended to us during the period of crisis. Indeed, it is really your personal care that made us assured of our children, when we were forced to go for some job due to some pressing needs.
Though many services could not be measured in terms of money as compensation, we cannot forget your services and motherly affection to our children when they were with you. Even though it’s difficult to be away from them while we are working, we have peace of mind in knowing that they are in such good hands during those times.
From the bottoms of our hearts, we express our sincere gratitude to your service once again and thank you very much.
WISHING YOU ALL A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND THE HAPPIEST OF NEW YEARS.”
If you’d like to donate to our Childcare program, click here!