Message from the CEO
I am so grateful for the incredible support that amazing donors like you continue to offer during these challenging times.
Thank you to everyone who gave in 2020, especially during the Christmas season. We had hoped to host our annual Christmas meal but for the safety of everyone, it wasn’t possible. Of course, people still had access to meals through various programs, where staff made sure to keep the holiday spirit alive.
With spring on the horizon, we are looking ahead to Easter. We know that these celebrations will also look different than in past years, but there are still ways for you to get involved, such as participating in the annual Coldest Night of The Year event.
If you’d like to find more information on how to support these programs and events, please continue reading this newsletter or visit our website.
Once again, thank you — our work would not be possible without you!
Gary St Amand
CEO, Bissell Centre
There’s No Place Like Home
Keeping Families Safe & Supported
My entire life, I always knew that I wanted to be a mother.
Being a new parent is rewarding, but also exhausting. I was so engrossed in caring for our kids and my work, that I didn’t notice that my husband was always at work or out of the house for different reasons. One day, around the time our youngest daughter turned 4, he left and didn’t come home. He slipped a note under our door saying he was sorry, but he had left us for another family.
How did I not see the fact that my husband had been living a second life this whole time? Not once did I ever expect to be a single mother. How would I manage?
I managed to rally my kids.
I decided to use my savings to move and found work at a small local shop because the pay was good. I was content. My daughters and I were happy building a new life in a new city, and I was able to make ends meet.
But that all changed very quickly when COVID-19 hit. In March of 2020, the shop I worked at decided to close during the first lockdown. Thankfully, I qualified for CERB payments, which enabled me to keep up with rent and put food on the table—just barely.
More than anything, I wanted to give my girls a loving, stable home.
When the city began to open up again, I received the heartbreaking news that the owners of the shop had decided to close the store for good. My heart seized when I realized there was no job waiting for me on the other side of this lockdown.
For weeks, I applied to jobs. But the city was filled with people like me who were searching for employment.
I hit rock bottom when I realized I didn’t even have enough money to make rent. When I learned we were facing eviction, I locked my bedroom door and broke down. I couldn’t bear the thought of my girls seeing me so hopeless.
I searched the internet for support. That was when I first found Bissell Centre’s Community Bridge Program.
The staff made me feel at ease. They reassured me that this situation wasn’t my fault and that I wasn’t alone. I was so relieved when they told me I was eligible for a no-interest loan through the Community Bridge Program.
The next day, I went to Bissell Centre and met with their staff to set up the loan and create a realistic payback plan. The team even helped me negotiate with my landlord, which meant that my family didn’t have to leave our home.
Bissell Centre saved my family and they saved my daughter’s lives. I’m so thankful to them—I don’t know where we’d be without their help.
Stepping Up For Neighbours in Need
Your Gifts Supported Vital Services!
Supporting Families Through Childcare
For many families experiencing poverty, affordable childcare can seem impossibly out of reach. With help from donors like you, Bissell Centre has relocated and expanded our services. Today, we’re able to offer quality childcare to even more parents who can’t afford regular rates.
Take a look inside the new space by watching the video available on our website at https://bissellcentre.org/inside-new-child-care.
COVID-19 Emergency Response Accommodation
This winter, Bissell Centre was proud to partner with the City of Edmonton in collaboration with Boyle Street Community Services, The Mustard Seed, and the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society to provide a warm, safe space for individuals experiencing homelessness.
Starting on October 30th, our staff joined hands with these local organizations to offer 24-hour emergency response accommodation at Tipinawâw in the Edmonton Convention Centre. These services included access to warm beds, food, and clothing distribution—as well as access to health and wellness support, including harm-reduction services.
Cooking Up a Special Meal
Oodle Noodle Makes Thanksgiving Memorable
Thanksgiving was incredibly special for our staff and participants, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our generous community! During the fall, local Asian-fusion restaurant, Oodle Noodle partnered with Bissell Centre to raise money for our holiday meal. And we are so grateful for their amazing staff!
Oodle Noodle hosted this fundraising event for two weeks. Good times were had by all! We even had the pleasure of watching the location’s owner, Jay, learn how to cut an avocado.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to Oodle Noodle, their customers, and to everyone for your significant contributions to our special Thanksgiving meal.
‘Tis The Season to Say Thanks
For Making Christmas Magic Possible!
Thank you to everyone who made our Festive Giveaway such a success this year!
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many of our volunteers were unable to come in to help this year. We missed their smiles, energy, and their commitment to helping people in need in both small and big ways.
This year, our staff stepped up during the Festive Giveaway to fill the enormous shoes of our volunteers. Staff spent hours wrapping carloads of toys with love, ensuring all of the gifts made it into the hands of families throughout Edmonton in time for Christmas.
We’re especially grateful to the various United Churches within the Greater Edmonton area for their amazing contributions. They went above and beyond to support our event.
Thanks to you, children enduring poverty in Edmonton experienced the joy of waking up to presents under their tree on Christmas morning!