Bissell Centre employee, Sissy Thiessen, shares her story of assuming the various positions of volunteer, program participant and employee within Bissell. This is the final part of a three-part series.
By: Sissy Thiessen
All Sides of the Coin – Part 3: My Role of Employee
To my surprise, my journey with Bissell Centre did not end after my time volunteering and participating in the summer of 2009. Three years after entering the doors of the Robert Tegler Friendship Room for the first time, I finally returned to Bissell. But this time, not as a volunteer or participant.
Ever since the day a speaker from Bissell came to my high school, a seed was planted in my mind that made me want to be within the centre. Even after I volunteered and moved on to spend three years in another city being a University student, active volunteer and employee, I still found myself thinking about coming back to Bissell. Upon returning home to Edmonton after my studies, I decided I wanted to work at Bissell Centre.
On my first attempt, I had applied for a position within Bissell’s Homeless to Homes program, a program aimed at providing clients in need with stable housing and access to income supports. I was unsuccessful, but had learned more about the amazing support Bissell provides to inner city Edmontonians. I also felt like I put my name on a list and that someday, someone would recognize my drive, passion and eagerness to work for an organization that directly assists people. And I was right.
In October 2012, I applied for and accepted a position within Employment Services, which assists participants looking to enter or re-enter the workforce. Manager, Mark Bubel, said my passion and writing skills were apparent in my letter of intent and after interviewing me, was gracious enough to take a chance on me. I was given an opportunity to prove to myself, as well as the organization, why I kept feeling the need to return.
I started my position as an Employment Support Worker on a relief basis at the end of October, and have gained a multitude of knowledge, experience and transferable skills since commencing employment. I have learned the inner workings of a non-profit organization, how to provide someone with the skills required to succeed in life and the workforce, conflict resolution and most importantly, I have learned how to empower someone. I have had the opportunity to work within a well organized social service agency that directly works toward eliminating poverty in our community.
Through my time spent in Employment Services, I have also gained valuable skills to assist me on my own career path. I came to help others and by the graciousness of this organization and its leaders, I have also been helped in return. I was even granted the opportunity to utilize my education in Journalism and work within Marketing and Communications a few hours a week.
At the time being, I have been offered a permanent, full-time position in a project-support role for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services (FASS). This program works to enhance our community’s understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), how to prevent it, as well as supports individuals and families affected by FASD. I am so thankful for all the opportunities Bissell has provided me with thus far, which have exemplified what it means to be genuinely compassionate, empathetic and courageous. These experiences have also taught me one of the most important lessons I think can be taught- the true power of the human spirit in the face of the most challenging obstacles. My life has been given new direction and meaning, and I am grateful my path has lead me back to Bissell Centre. I look forward to my future within this organization, as well as the continued generosity and lessons that accompany it.
Q & A with Bill – Our Donations Pick-up Driver
How many years have you been with Bissell?
I’ve been with Bissell for 20 years. I’ve been working as the pick-up driver for about 10 years.
At 84 years old, most people your age are retired and yet, you are working full-time. Can you tell me why?
I enjoy working. It keeps me physically and mentally fit. Plus, I love the staff and clients that I work with at Bissell. I enjoy meeting new people. I talk to about 100 different people a day!
What exactly do you do for Bissell Centre?
My job is to drive around town picking up food for the clients. I go to places like Alberta Health Services, Starbucks, the Italian Centre, Walmart, Funky Pickle, Shaw Conference Centre and Cobbs Bakery to collect their food donations and bring it back to Bissell. There is food to be picked up on a daily basis.
How much food do you pick up on a daily basis?
It varies. It can be as much as 600-700 pounds of food, like when I pick up at Capital Health. As astounding as that number may sound, it is not that much food. The food gets used up quickly, since we feed about 150 people daily.
Wow! That’s a lot of heavy lifting! Do you work with a team?
Nope. It’s just me. I do all of the heavy lifting. I don’t mind. I have always enjoyed working with my hands. I don’t have any back problems or anything –just asthma. But it’s manageable with my inhaler.
When is it the busiest time of the year for pick-ups?
I’m usually pretty busy all year round, but I would have to say from mid-November to about mid-January, we get a lot of pick-ups because of all the holiday parties.
In terms of donations, what is the one thing Bissell is always in need of?
Coffee!!! We need more coffee donations. We go through coffee so fast here! We can’t keep up. We are always running low on coffee.
– Interview by Karen Lee, Guest Blogger
If you wish to make a food or other in-kind donation, please contact Barb, In-kind Donations Coordinator, at email@example.com or 780-423-2285 ext. 159.
Message from Bissell Centre’s Board of Governors
Dear Staff, Colleagues and Friends of Bissell Centre:
It is with great pleasure that we announce the selection of Mark Holmgren, Bissell Centre’s current Interim CEO, as the new permanent, full time CEO – effective March 15, 2012. After an extensive search, selection process and valuable input from the Bissell Centre staff, Mark was chosen for his experience in the non-profit sector and proven leadership success.
Mark stepped into the role of Interim CEO only nine months ago and has been successfully leading Bissell Centre through a time of transition with our new vision and mission, as well as a number of organizational changes. Transitions in organizations can be difficult, especially when it involves a change in leadership. We believe that it is because of Mark’s skills and expertise that we were able to make this transition occur smoothly. Mark has proven to be an inclusive and transparent leader who values input from every individual at Bissell Centre and we are confident he will continue to do so in his new role of Chief Executive Officer.
Mark’s experience includes serving as a consultant to many local non-profit organizations as well as governments, holding senior positions with United Way of Alberta Capital Region, and serving as the Executive Director of Operation Friendship. In Mark’s own words, “I am excited and humbled to be given the opportunity to continue to lead the caring and talented group at Bissell Centre. I am passionate about our vision to eliminate poverty in our community and confident in our ability to be innovative as well as provide high quality services to our community members.”
On behalf of the Board of Governors, we feel very fortunate to have Mark as Bissell Centre’s leader and we thank the staff for their important role in helping to select our new CEO.
Board Chair, Bissell Centre
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a prevalent issue in our society that needs to be talked about. Awareness, education, and prevention, are key to eliminating this 100% preventable lifelong brain disability. Through the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum of Services (FASS) at Bissell Centre we offer presentations to various groups wanting to learn more about this invisible disability.
Together we must put forth a clear message that no alcohol is best during pregnancy. As a community I believe it is our responsibility to work together to not only raise awareness but to provide supports to pregnant women struggling with addiction and also to those who are currently living with the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. Even by talking to our friends and families we can help to start these much needed discussions and start to break down the stereotypes, misconceptions, and stigma associated with alcohol, pregnancy, and FASD.
Prior to her current role as FASD Community Educator, Alaina Thursby worked as a Parent Child Advocate with the FASS team at Bissell Centre, providing intensive support to at-risk pregnant women struggling with addiction. Alaina brings this experience to the community education piece and would be happy to share her thoughts on FASD, prevention, and support based on these experiences.
Our FASD community presentations are offered at no cost for Edmonton and surrounding areas and can be tailored to your group. Also, it is expected that the education will take place in a venue supplied by the group requesting the presentation.