Christmas of 2017 was a tough time for my family. Having welcomed our second daughter in September, we were at the pinnacle of sleep deprivation as our youngest went through her three-month sleep regression. As a breastfeeding mom, I would wake every 2-3 hours to feed her, and this went on for weeks. We were so tried that we were barely getting through the every-day chores, let alone getting ready for Christmas.
With Christmas looming and a two-year-old at home, I bought all my gifts online, but had absolutely no time to wrap them. I contemplated buying paper bags to shove the presents in and calling it a day. Then I heard about the partnership between Bissell Centre and Southgate Centre for their gift-wrapping service. Not only would I not have to wrap my own gifts, but I’d also get to spend some time having a coffee while the baby napped in her car seat. It was a no-brainer for me. I went the next day and thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet the wonderful volunteers from Bissell, who cheerfully took my gifts to wrap, labeled them and returned them to me in under an hour. I got to walk the mall, enjoying a hot coffee for the first time in weeks.
I was looking for help during the holidays, and I found out that I was helping others.
Any mom of young children can attest to just how hard it is to get a moment to themselves. Bringing my gifts for wrapping at Southgate gave me some time to myself at such a critical time in my postpartum journey. Most importantly, I was surprised and delighted to learn about the impact that Bissell Centre has on the community, including supporting struggling families and children through their Childcare program, parenting classes, clothing donations and more. In fact, Bissell Centre supports over 600 families across Edmonton each year. I was looking for help during the holidays, and I found out that I was helping others. What a gift!
It was such a pleasant experience that I will be bringing my gifts every year. Life is still busy with a toddler and preschooler running around and I can’t tell you how much I look forward to bringing my gifts to be wrapped by “Bissell Elves” at Southgate Mall. It has become a welcomed holiday tradition for us.
*Submitted and written by local mom and business owner, Jacquie DuVal.
Between November 23th and December 24th, for a minimum donation of $3, have your Christmas gifts wrapped at Southgate Centre by Bissell Elves. All proceeds go to support Bissell Centre’s Childcare meal program.
Being homeless is difficult enough when the weather is fair, but when temperatures drop, it becomes a matter of survival. The threat of serious illness, loss of fingers or toes, or even losing one’s life become serious concerns when temperatures nosedive.
These threats are particularly potent here in Edmonton, where winters are notoriously harsh and wind chills can be extreme.
Edmonton’s homeless are more likely than most to experience dangerous cold-related injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia. They have few spaces to retreat from the cold, nor can they afford proper winter clothing that will protect them from the elements.
We believe every person has the right to have basic human needs satisfied. Our Drop-in support services provides a safe, warm space for people to escape the elements, enjoy a hot meal and access to free, warm winter clothing through our Community Closet.
The winter is especially busy when we distribute jackets, sweaters, scarves, toques, mittens, boots to every person in need who visits.
Helping people take care of their basic needs is only the first, but a necessary step, in helping people access programs that will move them out of poverty.
This would not be possible without our community of supporters who donate time, funds, and resources.
Thanks to our incredible supporters, we were able to implement positive changes and saw huge successes that truly impacted the people we served this year! Here are some of our favourite moments of 2017.
1) Struggling Families Treated to More Summer Camp Experiences
Moonlight Bay Centre, our camp site at Lake Wabamun, has been a place of solace, rest, and rejuvenation for struggling families. Through traditional summer camp activities, kids and adults alike made meaningful connections while enjoying a respite from the stress of city life. This year, we offered six 4-day camps, enabling us to host 143 people, including 51 children.
2) Financial Empowerment Program Launched
In partnership with E4C and the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, Bissell launched its Financial Empowerment Services. This national program strives to improve the financial well-being of people with low incomes through education, coaching, and supports. We are seeing more people filing their taxes than ever before!
3) Bissell’s Expanded Outreach Housing Team Houses More People than Ever
Our Outreach Housing team alone helped 55 people, including 19 children, find permanent homes in October. This was a record number of people supported in a single month! To date, with the assistance of our housing services teams, approximately 345 people have been housed this year, and 318 adults, parents, and children avoided eviction with support from our Community Bridge team.
4) Neighbours Come Together to Commemorate National Indigenous Peoples Day
National Indigenous Peoples Day is held across Canada every year to celebrate and recognize the unique cultural heritage of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Peoples. Many of our friends and neighbours gathered at Bissell to enjoy singing, dancing, drumming from various indigenous backgrounds, along with stew and bannock meals, traditional arts activities, and more!
5) Renovations Commence to Improve Access to Supports
In October, our Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services team launched MedicAlert’s pilot FASD bracelet program at Bissell. The program aims to achieve more equitable treatment for persons living with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder by raising awareness among emergency first responders on how to approach these individuals as identified through their MedicAlert ID.
7) Bissell Donors and Volunteers Bring Joy to People in Need During the Festive Season
Five hundred and ninety three Bissell Elf volunteers helped make this Christmas season especially warm and friendly! Two hundred and fifty heaping plates of turkey, vegetables, stuffing, and salad were served at our Christmas meal, 143 families received gifts through our Festive Giveaway event, and 228 people helped wrap gifts to raise funds for Bissell’s programs and services during our Gift Wrap for Bissell events. Thank you to each and every person who helped bring comfort and joy to the people who lean on Bissell Centre for support over the holidays!
As we look back on 2017, we are reminded that the work that we do at Bissell Centre would never be possible without your support.
THANK YOU, from the bottom of our hearts!
Help create more memories like these by joining our family of supporters today. Make a donation.
With your support this holiday season, we can make a big impact in the lives of people struggling with poverty in our community.
Here are 7 ways you can help!
1. Shop Our Holiday Gift Guide
Choose a meaningful gift from our Holiday Gift Guide to benefit individuals and families in need. Your gift will make a difference in someone’s life.
2. Have Your Gifts Wrapped in Support of Bissell Centre
Between November 24th and December 24th, for a minimum donation of $2, have your Christmas gifts wrapped at Southgate Centre. All proceeds go to support Bissell Centre’s programs and services.
3. Volunteer with Us—Become a Bissell Elf!
We are looking for volunteers to lend a hand this holiday season. As a “Bissell Elf” you will take part sorting donations, wrapping gifts, serving meals, and spreading good cheer alongside enthusiastic Bissell Elf Captains, who will help lead the way.
4. Turn Your Christmas Event into a Fundraiser!
This holiday season, when you host a staff event, church gathering, or dinner party, you can also give to people in need. Find everything you need to host a Bissell Giving Tree Party!
5. Donate Warm Mitts and Boots
During the cold season, items such as gloves, mitts, and boots are critical to the health and safety of our participants. Unfortunately, the demand outweighs what we have to give. Donate gently used mitts and boots to help someone stay warm this winter.
6. Stay Tuned this Giving Tuesday!
Stay tuned for an exciting opportunity to make a huge impact this #GivingTuesday, November 28, 2017!
7. Share and Advocate!
Advocacy in all its forms helps ensure that vulnerable people get the support they need to move from poverty to prosperity. So tell your family, friends, and colleagues about these easy ways to support Bissell Centre this season!
What started as a casual pastime has now become one of Edmonton’s most anticipated yearly clothing drives. From November 1st until Christmas Day, Jasmine and her husband Ryan will spend their evenings and weekends collecting donations of warm winter clothing for #BundleUpYEG, an annual project that Jasmine initiated in 2013.
“I had just finished one job and I was moving into another, and I had this two-week layover period where I had no work to do,” she explains. “I’m not someone who can just do nothing when I’m bored.”
That’s when inspiration struck. After seeing a news story about the need for winter clothing among Edmonton’s homeless population, Jasmine knew how she wanted to spend her free time. Reaching out to her large following on social media, she asked if anyone had unneeded coats, hats, scarves, mittens, or sweaters, which she offered to pick up and drop off at organizations in the community that help homeless people, like Bissell Centre. Jasmine’s instincts were right. People often want to donate but find it difficult or inconvenient. “Time is the biggest thing,”” she suggests. “The world moves very quickly these days; everyone has something to do and somewhere to be.”
But time is not the only obstacle to donating. As Jasmine explains, “You can get caught up on who to donate to and where to go, and that can be very daunting. We try to remove that step for people.” Making it easier for people to donate has been met with more success than Jasmine anticipated; she says that she has been amazed at the generosity of her community. “I think it’s a huge testament to Edmonton and the people who live here,” she says.
The need in our community for warm clothing over the harsh winter months is as urgent as ever. Approximately 2,300 people living in Edmonton are temporarily or chronically homeless, and for them, winter can be deadly without proper clothing. “People on the streets are susceptible to frostbite, hypothermia, and sickness due to overexposure,” says Nichelle Bryant, In-Kind Coordinator at Bissell Centre. “During the winter, we can easily see upwards of 500 people every day accessing our Drop-in Centre, with a high majority of them needing winter clothing to keep them safe and warm overnight.” For places like Bissell Centre, Jasmine’s #BundleUpYEG initiative can mean the difference between having to turn people away or being able to offer warm clothing all winter long.
To date, #BundleUpYEG has donated roughly 370 bags—over 4,000 individual items—of clothing to homeless shelters and supported organizations in the community. This will be the fourth year that Jasmine and Ryan will organize #BundleUpYEG, this time with the goal of collecting 130 bags of clothing. You can help Jasmine reach her goal by contacting her via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), on Twitter (@JasFranklin09), online at bundleupyeg.com, or by dropping your donations off at any of the following locations.
November 1st–December 2nd: 102.3 Now! Radio: Suite 102, 9894-42 Avenue
November 1st–mid-December: Blitz Conditioning: 10575 115 Street
November 25th–December 24th: Kingsway Mall, Giftwrapping Centre: 109 Street & Kingsway
Every year on June 21st, the summer solstice, Canada observes National Aboriginal Day in recognition of Aboriginal culture, honouring its vast richness and diversity. This year marks a special milestone as it is the twentieth anniversary of National Aboriginal Day.
The solstice was selected for this special day because of the significance that it holds for many Indigenous groups as the longest day of the year. Bissell Centre hosts annual celebrations on this day to honour our historic ties to the Aboriginal community and to promote its deep and beautiful culture.
“Aboriginal” is an umbrella term that includes the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples of Canada. A large proportion of the people who access Bissell’s services are of Aboriginal heritage because this population disproportionately struggles with homelessness and poverty. The causes of this phenomenon are complex and rooted in a history of systematic marginalization and discrimination.
Bissell Centre is a tireless advocate for Edmonton’s Aboriginal community, as it has been for many years. Celebrating Aboriginal culture at Bissell Centre is an important part of the work we do in support of the Indigenous community. It allows us to connect more deeply with our participants and offers them a space to celebrate their heritage.
This National Aboriginal Day, we are serving a special meal of stew and bannock at 10:00am, as well as running a number of activities in our Drop-in Centre, including:
Blessing and smudging led by an Elder at 9:30am.
Traditional drumming and dance at 11:00am.
Indigenous art in the afternoon.
We are excited for these activities and hope that our friends in the community can join us to celebrate.
From all of us at Bissell Centre, Happy National Aboriginal Day!
New underwear is one of the most requested items by people who use our services, but one of the least donated. Men and women are often denied their request for undergarments because we simply have none to give.
Women are especially likely to be denied since women’s underwear is less frequently donated than men’s. When possible, they are offered the alternative of wearing men’s underwear, an experience that, apart from being physically uncomfortable, causes embarrassment and a reduced sense of self-worth. Our #DropYourGonch campaign aims to fill this desperate need by stocking our Community Closet full of clean, fresh underwear for participants to use.
We all know that it’s important to change our underwear every day, but some of the reasons why may surprise you. Here is a list of five reasons why clean underwear is critical for a person’s physical and emotional well-being.
Not changing your underwear regularly causes microbes and other bacteria to accumulate and fester, often causing an embarrassing odour and an itchy rash on the skin. To maintain hygiene and cleanliness, fresh underwear is a non-negotiable essential.
Wearing the same underwear for an extended period of time can also have severe consequences for your personal health. The microbes and bacteria mentioned above can cause dangerous infections if they stay in contact with the skin for long periods of time, and the most serious of these can even lead to deadly conditions like kidney failure or bladder cancer. Clean underwear is more than a convenience; it is imperative to one’s health, and can even save lives!
We offer free shower services at our Drop-in Centre, meaning participants who come in can get soap, shampoo, a razor, and other personal hygiene items, enjoy a hot shower, and leave feeling squeaky clean. And what’s the best part about taking a shower? Slipping into that nice, clean, fresh pair of undies when you’re done, of course! Our objective is to be able to provide every participant who uses our shower services with a clean pair of underwear. With your help, we can offer every participant that “just-showered-and-slipped-into-a-fresh-pair-of-undies” feeling, lending at least one small comfort to the people who need it most.
The unpleasant odours and other adverse health effects caused by dirty undergarments can create something of a psychological barrier between the wearer and other people. Inevitably, the individual’s self-esteem and comfort in social interactions may suffer as a result. This impediment can be especially detrimental when it comes to significant interactions, like job interviews – situations that are already stressful enough without any added worries! A clean pair of undies allows the wearer the confidence they need to have successful relationships and social interactions.
A clean pair of underwear can go a long way toward restoring an individual’s sense of dignity. The emotional toll of having to wear the same set of dirty undergarments for days, weeks, or months on end can be debilitating. A clean pair of underwear is more than a physical necessity – it can provide the recipient with a rejuvenated sense of dignity and self-worth. What gift could be more meaningful?
It’s easy to take for granted something as always having clean undergarments to wear every day. But for many people lacking basic life necessities, something so small really can make all the difference.
UPDATE: Because of your help, we collected 2,154 pairs of NEW underwear for the homeless folks in our community. That’s 1,154 above our initial goal of 1,000!
We are excited to host our 2nd Annual #DropYourGonch underwear campaign encouraging the public to donate NEW underwear for homeless people in Edmonton.
The campaign starts Monday, July 20th and wraps up with a main event on Saturday, July 25th at our Thrift Shoppe (8818-118th Avenue) from 10:00am – 4:00pm.
The goal of the campaign is to collect 1,000 pairs of NEW underwear to meet the need through to the end of summer.
Underwear is one of the most asked for clothing items by people in the inner-city community, but one of the least donated.
The campaign also promotes health and hygiene, while boosting self-esteem and confidence, which are crucial for people who are transitioning out of homelessness. People living on the streets may go months without a new pair of underwear, which creates discomfort and a lack of dignity as they struggle to get off the streets.
For more information about drop-off locations, how to donate online, and to learn more about the campaign, please visit our webpage.
ShineFM’s 6th Annual “Turkey Raiser” – Totes for Turkeys Event– is back! 105.9 ShineFM and AM930 The Light partners with Save-on-Foods locations throughout the city and surrounding areas to help local charities raise turkeys and funds to help with their community Thanksgiving dinner. Bissell Centre will also be giving turkeys for low-income families so they can have a joyous thanksgiving at home. You can donate a turkey or gift card in-store for the chosen charities and in return you receive a tote bag. In past years, the stations have raised upwards of 900 turkeys on this one-day event! This year Bissell Centre, along with Edmonton’s Meals on Wheels, will join in this important fundraising endeavour so that hundreds of mouths can be fed this Thanksgiving.
Bissell Centre and Boyle Street Community League are co-hosting a two-day event on Friday, September 26th (6:00pm – 8:30pm) and Saturday, September 27th (12:00pm – 8:45pm) in celebration of Alberta Culture Days 2014. This event takes place at the Boyle Street Community League located at 9538 – 103A Avenue and brings together two community agencies to honour cultural diversity in our city. We encourage you to come and experience the live music, performances, and cultural presentations! Now in its seventh year, Alberta Culture Days is the province’s largest celebration of the arts, heritage, diversity and community spirit with the Boyle Street Community League and Bissell Centre hosting an event for the first time. This annual event is as much about family and community, as it is about cultural vibrancy.
For more information, please contact Amanda Almeida, Manager of Community Participation and Volunteer Services, at email@example.com.