Thankful for Community: James’ Story of Recovery

When people come to Bissell Centre for the first time, it is often to meet the most basic of needs: a hot meal away from the cold.

That’s how it began for James.

Twenty years ago, James ate his first meal at Bissell Centre when he had nowhere else to go. At the time James was homeless and engaging in a criminal lifestyle to get by.

He had been surrounded by substance abuse and violence since he was a child. As a young man his criminal record and addictions kept him on the streets.

“When you’re a user, nobody wants you around,” he said. “It was tough to get a place.” When he did ask for help, James was used to getting pushed away.

That first experience at Bissell Centre was different. James noticed how welcoming the staff and volunteers seemed, how eager they were to help.

“They were everywhere for me. If I need help, it’s there.”

 

To the people who knew him at the time of his first meal at Bissell Centre twenty years ago, James is unrecognizable today. In the past few years, he has undergone an incredible transformation. It has been a long journey to health and recovery, but a worthwhile one.

After hitting a low point in 2012, when he suddenly faced a seven-year prison sentence on drug charges and feared he was throwing his life away, James got serious about getting clean. He served four of the seven years, has been sober for five years, and has been accessing Bissell’s support programs including counselling, employment, and housing services.

After years of hard work and healing, James moved into an apartment: his first permanent home in two decades.

James spends a lot of his time helping others find sobriety and health like he did. You can usually find him outside Bissell Centre chatting with the patrons. “I [tell them] what I’ve been through with the drugs, what it cost me, my time and my life,” he explained. “I try to encourage them to come my way. If they need help, I tell them where to get help.”

Because of support from our community, we will be serving over 600 turkey meals for people in need this Thanksgiving. Many of them may be walking through our doors for the first time. And for some like James, it may mean the beginning of lasting life changes for the better. Holiday meals at Bissell Centre are never just food and drink. They are community, healing, and togetherness.

This Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for our community of supporters, for the hope they inspire, and for the healing they make possible.

Give today to help more people like James this Thanksgiving!

Help provide a Thanksgiving Dinner for our community members this year!

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.

Listen to the event interview  with Bissell Centre on Shine FM and please spread the word on Twitter with hashtag  #totes4turkeys!

Date: Saturday, Oct. 4th

Time: 12:00 – 6:00pm

Save on Foods Locations:

  1. Hampton (6260 199th St. NW)
  2. Calgary Trail (3361 Calgary Trail South)
  3. Summerwood (#10 4005 Cloverbar Rd, Sherwood Park)
  4. Oxford (12903 153 Ave NW)
  5. Stadium (8124 112 Avenue)

If you want to volunteer, please click here or contact Darren Brennan at dbrennan@bissellcentre.org or by phone at 780.423.2285. ext. 129.

For more information about the event, please visit shinefm.com/turkeys.

EPCOR’s Breakfast at Bissell Project – Nourishing Children

EPCOR-Bissell Centre Childcare Event March 25th, 2014
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/  

Food Donations Needed!

Bissell Centre relies on the generous donations from the public to support the programs and services that help house, clothe, and feed the inner-city community. Right now, we are asking you to please donate items to our Food Services Program, which provides  approximately  350 meals per day for the members of our Drop-In Centre, Childcare Program, and Employment Services. One of the basic human needs is food, so please help nourish our community members’ bodies and minds!
Breakfast at Bissell Centre Childcare

We are asking you to please donate what you can from the list of food items below:

  • Coffee & Black Tea
  • Powdered Creamer
  • Sugar
  • Fresh, Frozen or Canned Fruit
  • Fresh, Frozen or Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Meat: Ham, Turkey, Chicken, Fish, Luncheon Meat
  • Frozen Meat: Hamburger, Roast, Chicken, Wieners/Smokies/Sausages
  • Milk & Yogurt
  • Soups of all kinds
  • Canned Chilli & Stews & Pasta Sauce
  • Dried Goods: Pasta, Rice, Cereal, Crackers, Sauces, Gravies, etc.
  • Juice: Powdered, Individual Boxes or Jugs ( NO Kool Aid please)
  • Snacks: Cookies, Granola bars, Chocolate bars

Thank you very much for making a difference in the community and assuring those in need can find their next meal at Bissell Centre.

All donations for the Food Services Program can be dropped off  from Monday-Friday, 8:00am–5:00pm  at:

Bissell Centre EAST Building

10527-96th street

Edmonton, AB T5H 2H6

Contact:  Darren Brennan  780-423-2285 ext. 365,  dbrennan@bissellcentre.org

All Sides of the Coin – My 3 roles at Bissell Centre

Bissell Centre employee Sissy Thiessen shares her story of assuming the various positions of volunteer, program participant and employee within Bissell. This is a three-part series that will be published separately.
By: Sissy ThiessenSissy headshot

PART ONE:   Volunteering at Bissell Centre

I was sitting in Social Studies class in high school when I first heard about Bissell Centre. An employee from the centre came to talk about what the organization does for Edmontonians in need, and what it means to truly give back to your community. For the life of me, I cannot remember who the person was or what they did at Bissell, but the message of hope in their words is one that has stayed with me since I first heard them in 2005. I remember feeling so impacted by the warm heartedness and compassion I was hearing about. I was so amazed at how an organization could do so much for so many- how much help was really out there. And how much need for these services there really was.

It wasn’t until 2009 that I finally got around to volunteering for Bissell Centre. I had recently watched a movie called “Yes Man,” starring Jim Carrey, a movie about staring fear and apprehensions right in the face and saying “Yes” to any opportunity that comes your way. Giving what you have and going along for the ride. In the movie, Jim’s character volunteered serving soup to the homeless. And just like my mother will tell you, if I see something I want to do being done, I will find a way to do it. So, my mind was made up. I was going to serve soup to the homeless. Read More…

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 |

Better Access to Better Food

In 2005, a small group of agencies providing meals and food supplied in Edmonton’s inner city established the T5H Network to discuss ways to better address food insecurity and effectively use food resources. They chose the title T5H because the postal code encompassed four neighborhoods in the inner city:   Boyle, McCauley, Queen Mary Heights and Central MacDougall.

The group met periodically from 2005-2010 to share information about each of their activities and discuss different approaches to improve food security. In 2006, for example, the group released a paper Living without Food, which was published by the Bissell Centre.

In 2007, several T5H network members attended a workshop on “social analysis systems” (SAS2), a set of methods designed to assist collaborative approaches to complex social issues.  After the workshop, Peter Faid, from Community Services Consulting Ltd, facilitated a number of conversations to explore how SAS2 might be used by to explore how to improve access to nutritious food for vulnerable residents in the inner city.

The ebb and flow of the leadership of the T5H network meant that the idea for the project was put on hold. In late 2010, Bissell Center secured resources from Family and Community Support Services program of the City of Edmonton to support the inquiry.   Jane Hirst, then interim Executive Director of Bissell Center, asked Mark Cabaj, with the support of Peter Faid and Jim Klingle, to facilitate an SAS2 guided inquiry entitled Better Access to Better Food in the T5H neighborhoods.  

The project has continued, with numerous meetings and considerable research undertaken. At this writing the City of Edmonton funded project has come to an end and the work and findings to date are represented in a “Final Report.” There are quotes around “final report” because we are continuing on without funding in place. Mark Cabaj has agreed to provide some volunteer facilitation and Peter Faid and Jim Klingle will lend a hand no doubt when asked! Bissell Centre has agreed to serve as project administrator. Part of that work includes creating and managing a wiki site (located here) at which all the proceedings are documented and which can be used to solicit more involvement from area organizations and groups.

I encourage you to take a look at the report and share it with others. If you want to join us in work, you can send your interest to me personally at mholmgren@bissellcentre.org

A Man I Met In The Drop-In – Part One

By Guest Blogger: Karen Lee
Meet Paul – a 52 year old man I met at Bissell Centre’s Drop-In.  Once upon a time Paul was financially comfortable.  He worked for nine years as a journeyman tinsmith making $34 an hour.   He had a place to live and didn’t have to worry about the next meal.   But all that changed when he got into an unfortunate accident at work in 2008, which left him with severely injured hands and an amputated finger.  After six major reconstructive surgeries over the past three years Paul still doesn’t have full usage of his hands, and today he is one of the many homeless people living in the inner city.

Paul blames the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) for his current situation.   Paul is currently receiving $648 a month from them for his accident, which he says will run out in July.  Understandably, he is angry and frustrated.  Paul has been working all of his life but now he isn’t able to afford a place to live.  For about a year Paul has been living on the streets and using inner city organizations like Bissell Centre to just get by on a daily basis.  At Bissell he relies on the Casual Labour Program to make some extra money.

Up until recently Paul was receiving $1,856 per month for the past three years until WCB told him he is ready to return to work.  According to Paul, he is unable to return to work as a tinsmith because he lost the dexterity he once had in his hands.  He estimates that he can only do a third of the work he once did.  He was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) about a year and half ago.

Paul is uncertain about his future.  He doesn’t know if he can recover from his PTSD.  Finding work has been difficult for him, he even tried training for other types of work through Bissell’s Employment Program, but his PTSD makes it challenging for him to remember the skills and information taught to him.

As my meeting with him concludes, I wonder how Paul’s story will end.   He told me he will continue to fight the WCB’s decision to cease his compensation.   I hope it works out for him.  Until then, he will continue his daily visits to Bissell to eat, do laundry, make phone calls, for emotional support and other necessities.

Find out more about Employment Services.

Here’s what you can do.