Winter Wishes, by Eric Rice

For those of us with a home and a family this Christmas, we might very well be surrounded by more than we can use.   How many times have you received a travel mug that gets buried at the back of a shelf, or a blanket that lives in the closet or a piece of clothing that never gets worn?   For some of Edmonton’s vulnerable, these same items could be the best Christmas present they ever receive.  
If you’re lucky enough to be a person with unusable gifts, it might be time to consider donating them or something of equal value to an organization that will transform your throwaway into a treasure.   One such organization is Bissell Centre in downtown Edmonton.   In operation for more than 100 years, it offers a wide range of programs to those in need including counseling, employment and pre-employment guidance, a drop-in centre, child care, victim and FASD support and recreation programs.  Man with hoodie

For Christmas every year, Bissell Centre puts on special programs to give those who need it most some seasonal cheer.   In the first weeks of December United Churches across Edmonton gather gifts.   Between December 3 and December 18 volunteers and Bissell staff sort the collected gifts into categories for children, men and women.   On December 19th they open their doors for a Festive Giveaway.     Last year they helped over 100 families with Christmas gifts for their homes, so that the tree (if there was a tree) would have something underneath it for Christmas morning, and they hope to do the same this year.          

Another program Bissell offers is Hoodies for the Homeless.   Most of the clothing provided for Bissell’s clients is old – handed down or passed along from someone else.   The Hoodies for the Homeless initiative aims to provide 800 brand new hoodies to the people Bissell Centre serves – an appropriate seasonal gift for those who spend a lot of time outdoors in Edmonton’s cold winters.

Bissell Centre is a non-denominational centre whose vision is to eliminate poverty in their community.   Started in 1910 as an all-peoples’ mission, it has evolved through the years as community needs have changed and they offer help to anyone who needs it, with no questions asked.   “If they’re here and they say they need our help we help them,” says Kristen Clark, Bissell Centre’s Manager of Marketing & Communications.

That kind of non-judgmental philosophy is what Christmas should be all about.  

If you want to help Bissell Centre share the spirit of the season, you can donate a gift or cash or volunteer your time.   For more information you can call 780 423 2285 and ask for Darren, or check out their Giving Guide website at http://bissellcentregivingguide.org

Written By: Eric Rice,  a volunteer writer for Alberta Street News – http://albertastreetnews.org/

Participant’s Artwork Showcased at 4th Annual Edmonton Timeraiser Gala


 Written By Rylan Kafara, Bissell Centre’s Inner City Recreation Coordinator

Anyone who has been in Bissell Centre has probably seen Ceno’s art.   There are pieces displayed in almost every office, some are hanging in the hallways, and others are painted on the walls. If you’ve visited some of the businesses in the area, you may also have noticed the works Ceno has used for barter when he’s hungry.

Recently, one of Ceno’s pieces was submitted to the 4th annual Edmonton Timeraiser. The Timeraiser is a charity gala where local artists’ paintings are selected by a jury of their peers for auction. If chosen, the artist is paid the market value for their work. At the event, the pieces are given to the highest bidder.

Instead of paying money, however, the winner offers volunteer hours. These hours are worked over the course of the year at community agencies of their choice, and then they are given the artwork.

The Timeraiser is about creating connections, and building community. All across Canada, prospective volunteers are paired with the agencies they are best suited to work with, from Vancouver to St. John’s.   Each year the event grows, as more cities host events, more artists are showcased, and more volunteer hours are raised.  

This year, Ceno’s “Spirit of Chief” was showcased at the Timeraiser held on October 13th. So not only was his talent recognized by other Edmonton artists, but he was paid a fair price, and his art gave back to the community through a new volunteer.    

Ceno’s art being featured at the Timeraiser helps remove barriers between the inner city and the wider community. Although he has never had a formal art education, Ceno has been able to nurture his talents at Bissell Centre, and through that support he has achieved something any artist would be proud of.

If you’d like to help community members like Ceno, visit our Giving Guide to see the many ways you can!   Bissell Centre Giving Guide

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Promoting International FASD Awareness Day

On Friday, September 7th at 12:09pm Bissell Centre staff, along with EFAN and many others, performed a Flash mob dance to our song “You Can Choose” from our rap video.    
September 9th was International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day.   We want everyone to know that FASD is 100% preventable if women avoid the use of alcohol during pregnancy.  

Did you know that FASD affects more than 36,000 Albertans who may need services and supports that can cost up to $1.8 million each?

There are 12 FASD Service Networks that offer services and lifetime supports to Albertans with FASD and their caregivers.  

Help make a difference. Register today for the Alberta FASD Conference being held in Edmonton October 22-23 http://bit.ly/QjPG1z

View our new FASD awareness music video
[youtube=”http://youtu.be/t1D7g2NoESE”]

From the creative musical minds of PlanIt Sound – http://www.planitsound.com
Music Performed by Fred Brenton
Video Produced and Directed by Blake McWilliam
Video Director of Photography Mike McLaughlin
Featured Artists – Omar Mouallem (AOK), Manuela Wuthrich and R.J. Cui

Bissell Centre Experiences a Flood…. Of Support!

It has been five weeks since the flood that damaged our Bissell East building, and we are happy to report that the services we provide in the community have remained as steady as ever – thanks to the support of our generous donors, and a little creativity from our staff!

One shining example of this dedication to Bissell programs can be found in our resident cook, Ian Szabo. Despite losing our kitchen facilities to flood damage, Ian has committed to providing healthy lunches to our drop in and child care without interruption. Since the flood, Bissell Centre has had access to a refrigerated food truck (courtesy of PTI  Group Inc.), and our neighbors at the nearby Mustard Seed have been kind enough to share their kitchen facilities with our hardworking chef; every day Ian works hard to transport food back and forth from that kitchen directly to our programs.

When asked about the extra work going into his cooking these days, Ian simply reminds us that for him, “It’s all worth it for the kids”. Thanks to the generosity of our community and Ian’s hard work and creativity in the face of this challenge, we have been able to continue to provide crucial food services to the people in greatest need. Like many who work and volunteer at Bissell, he recognizes the importance of seeing our services provided without interruption so that we can continue to change the face of poverty in our community.  Our thanks goes out to Ian, and to all of you who have kept Bissell Centre thriving in these challenging times!

Inner City BBQ Feeds 1,500 People in Poverty

Bissell Centre staff were pleased to lend a hand at this year’s Inner City BBQ coordinated by the Urban Core Support Network.   Giovanni Caboto Park in Boyle McCauley comes alive every July as locals enjoy a free meal, recreation and entertainment in the outdoors.  
Thanks to cooperative weather, and the efforts of volunteers and donors, the Inner City BBQ fed about 1,500 women, men and children living in poverty – including many Bissell Centre community members.   It is because of our supporters that we are able to contribute to this wonderful event each year.

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Loaded Grocery Truck on its Way This Afternoon!!!

Breaking News: PTI Group  delivering  a loaded  refrigerated grocery truck at 1pm!  Filled with pallets of thousands of snacks, drinks, fruit, grocery bags  and much more needed food items  to our Bissell Centre East  – 10527 96 Street.
The generous and speedy donation comes in response to Wednesday’s call for help after  our  basement flooded  with sewage due to recent storms.  

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY
Information contact: Kristen Clark, kclark@bissellcentre.org; 780.423.2285 ext 142, cell 780-964-7220

| Bissell Press Release Here |

| PTI Group Press Release on their website |

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!

Bissell Centre Supports Inner City Moratorium on Supportive Housing

Recently, I spoke at the City’s Executive Council meeting in favor of a moratorium of non-market housing in a number of inner city neighborhoods.   I did so with some qualifiers which I will mention later, but I want our funders, donors, community members, area residents, and my colleagues from other inner city agencies to understand Bissell Centre’s opinions around this important issue.
The neighborhoods that the proposed moratorium includes are: McCauley, Central McDougall, Queen Mary Park, Alberta Avenue, Eastwood, and Boyle Street. All of these neighborhoods are identified in the proposal as “high stress” neighborhoods because they contain a much higher incidence of non-market housing than do other city neighborhoods. They also are areas of town with high incidence of low income and homelessness and a corresponding higher incidence of human service organizations that address poverty, homelessness, addictions, mental illness, and so forth.

At Bissell Centre, we understand that many community residents of the aforementioned neighborhoods not only have concerns about the degree of non-market housing in their area, but also concerns about the impacts of human service agencies like Bissell Centre and others on the quality of life in their neighborhoods.

The proposed moratorium only addresses non-market housing, which is part of the problem. Often we tend to “singularize” issues and then attempt to address them. Also, it is common for us to aggregate various elements of an issue into a common identifier. In this case, non-market housing is a term that includes a wide range of housing:

  • affordable, independent housing for families and single people,
  • seniors housing in its various forms, and
  • supportive housing.

While the six identified neighborhoods together are home to 20% of non-market housing in the city, it is also true the neighborhoods have an inordinate share of supportive housing – approximately 60% of what exists in the city. It is reasonable to suggest that, at some point, it’s time to rethink our historic practice of locating so much supportive housing in one area of town.

At Bissell Centre we believe that time is now.   We will support the proposed moratorium if it goes forward without amendment, but our preference is that it goes forward with some changes.   We do not believe affordable housing or seniors housing are posing the same challenges or issues to the neighborhoods as are the wide range of supportive housing facilities. That’s not to suggest better collaboration between housing providers and community members concerning these types of housing is not worth exploring, but I am hoping a moratorium does not need to be invoked in these cases.

As well the proposal is to put in place a 10 year moratorium in McCauley and Central McDougall, with five year moratoriums proposed for the other four neighborhoods. Our position is that 10 years is too long a time for the City of Edmonton to not financially support any non-market housing in McCauley and Central McDougall.

We believe this even more strongly if the six communities, Edmonton’s administration, and area human service and housing organizations work together to address the challenges facing these neighborhoods from an overall community development approach. Consultations led by human service or housing agencies are not enough, and I suggest are not really community development consultations. Most of the time, consultations are designed by groups that are trying to convince the community that what they are proposing is good for community.   I am not suggesting such consultations are wrong or somehow deceitful, but it is time for larger scale collaboration around community aspirations and needs than any one organization or even small group of organizations can muster on their own.

For purposes of transparency I should mention that I am a recent resident of McCauley.   While it is hard to separate my residency from my position at Bissell, I am not a resident in favor of the moratorium; however, I believe there are many residents who think otherwise.  As a leader of one of the major human service agencies in the area, I feel obligated to support them.

Such support does not mean we agree with all the positions voiced by community members. That said, I can see how the high incidence of supportive housing for the mentally-ill and those with addictions are a concern even as I declare our firm belief that people with such challenges deserve help and a decent place to live.

I can also understand concerns neighborhood residents have about organizations like Bissell Centre that attract large groups of people to their doors and often frequent the area around the agencies during the day. Such numbers lined up at our door or at the doors of other similar groups do impact our neighbors.   It is also true that the numbers of people who are poor, homeless, and troubled by mental illness or addictions are a community-wide problem or challenge.   Neither the organizations that serve them nor the residents surrounding our facilities own the problems alone.

We know thousands of Edmontonians, as well as many businesses and funders outside the inner city borders, support Bissell Centre’s work and the efforts of the many other organizations that work so hard to help the disadvantaged.  I also believe that the majority of community members and organizations throughout Edmonton do not think that a much smaller group of neighborhoods should carry a disproportionate amount of responsibility for the location of supportive housing and helping institutions.  

So, Bissell Centre’s support of the moratorium, hopefully with some changes, is just part of our belief that there are larger issues and challenges to address. The moratorium by itself won’t solve anything. Working together in new ways just might.

It is worth noting that shelters are not included in the definition of non-market housing. It makes sense that they are not, but from the community’s point of view there is also a very high incidence of shelters in the area, some of which may be pressured to relocate due to redevelopment. Where will they go? How will that be decided? What criteria should be used to establish what shelters need around them to best help those who use their services? And what must the shelters, along with groups like Bissell Centre, do to help ensure not only the safety and well-being of our clients but the safety and well-being of our neighbors?

I certainly don’t have all the answers to these questions, but I do believe small pockets of organizations or small pockets of residents will not resolve them either unless we work together, and in the process of doing so, engage more residents as well as our own clients in building acceptable solutions.

I won’t pretend it was easy to voice our opinion at Executive Council. I heard colleagues I trust and respect speak against the moratorium and their opinions and positions were well articulated and also made sense. None suggested that not having a moratorium would magically fix things, and there were calls for actions that were not being addressed in the moratorium proposal, such as incentivising market housing development that could be accessed by low income people.   Our support of the moratorium does not mean those ideas are not worth exploring. Quite the contrary.

As well, when it comes to an issue as complex as this one, it is not so much about one side being right and the other wrong. Few things in life are that black and white.   But there are times a community requires a catalyst for change. A five year moratorium in the six neighborhoods with respect to supportive housing could serve as such a catalyst.

My sense is that the City of Edmonton will not approve any moratorium. We understand that position, and have no interest in polemic exchanges about any decision made. It’s impossible for civic leaders to appease everyone. But we hope no matter what happens, the discussion and debate, and more so the authentic interest that all involved have in strengthening the community and its neighborhoods, especially the six in question, will motivate new and innovative efforts of working together with area residents as well as with the larger community.

 Mark Holmgren, CEO
Bissell Centre

Fill the Bleachers for Bissell & Boyle: Inner City Recreation Program Fundraiser

Partial proceeds from the following soccer game will go towards our Inner City Recreation program!!!We will receive $5/ticket  if 500 or less are sold.   If we sell more than 500 tickets, we receive $10/ticket!

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. FC Edmonton Soccer Game
Sunday July 15 , 2012 at 2 p.m.
Clarke Field – 11000 Stadium Road, Edmonton, AB

Help us to fill those bleachers, and enjoy some hometown soccer while you  support accessible recreation in our community!  

Get Your Tickets Now

| Find out more about our Inner City Recreation program here |

Follow us @BissellCentre and Follow FC Edmonton @FCEdmontonNow    

Get a New Ringtone and Raise Awareness for FASD

Introducing Bissell Centre’s very first FASD Awareness Ringtone!   Be one of the first to have this modern new ringtone! Just follow the instructions below using the appropriate  links.
Instructions on downloading the new ringtone to your phone

iPhone Users   –   You Can Choose Ringtone

Step 1. Import the M4R song file into iTunes on your computer (save it somewhere and then drag & dop)
Step 2. Synchronize the ringtone file from the Ringtone folder on the left to your iPhone
Step 3. After completing the sync, tap the settings on the iPhone
Step4. Tap Sound –   Tap Ringtone
Step 5. Select the ringtone from Custom. (* Song titles may not be recognized when only written in Roman alphabet)

Blackberry Users –   You Can Choose_BISSELL CENTRE RINGTONE MP3 BLACKBERRY

1. Open the attachments on your Blackberry phone device
2. Save the MP3 attachment by “checking” the box that says “save as ringtone”
3. Set your phone to audible ringtone, and have someone call you to test it out!

Unveiling for the first time – You Can Choose – an FASD Music Video by Bissell Centre, EFAN and PlanIt Sound

Our new music video!

[youtube=”http://youtu.be/t1D7g2NoESE”]

Our new educational video!

[youtube=”http://youtu.be/vHSllqBVA8c”]