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Message From the CEO

Easter was a terrific success, all thanks to your generosity! The thoughtful and encouraging messages you sent in on placemats for our Easter meal inspired our guests.

This summer, Bissell Centre will be asking for your help to collect undergarments for Edmontonians in need during our sixth annual “Drop Your Gonch” event.

Last year, generous donors like yourself raised 9,133 new pairs of underwear for people dealing with poverty in our community. Thank you for your amazing support! With your help, there’s no telling what the limits are this year.

Thank you for making Bissell Centre’s work possible. Your compassionate generosity is nothing short of exceptional.

Gratefully,

Gary St. Amand
CEO, Bissell Centre

Mike’s Story

When Mike first came to Bissell Centre, he’d been living on the street for two years. You might have even seen him on the streets of Edmonton. Perhaps you were the woman who looked Mike in the eyes and said, “You need to get yourself help. There are resources to help you.”

Mike grew up in Edmonton in a family of eight. It wasn’t easy growing up in such a big family. They lived in a cramped three-bedroom house, made smaller because his mother was a hoarder, and his parents fought often.

Mike was similar to his father. He was trusting. He always saw the best in people, giving them the benefit of the doubt. If you asked, he’d give you the shirt from his back.

Once he turned 18, Mike worked and lived on his own, at times allowing his siblings, even his mother, to live with him when they struggled to get by.

Eventually, he made the journey from Edmonton to Calgary. There, he worked for years in the construction industry. Unfortunately, his business partner wasn’t trustworthy—he was underpaying and stealing work from Mike.

During this chaotic time, Mike lost his father, and it was like all the air was sucked from his lungs. The loss was devastating. With his life in shambles, he decided to return home.

Sadly, he didn’t receive the help he’d hoped to find back home. That’s when Mike became homeless for the first time. Each day was a constant struggle. No one believed in him and he certainly didn’t believe in himself.

One day, a kind woman approached him on the street, and encouraged him to seek help. That was a life-changing moment for Mike. He began thinking that things could be different.

Mike found his way to Bissell Centre, where he finally got the help he needed. Scona High School had recently raised $115,000 for Bissell Centre, enabling them to form an Outreach Housing Team. Mike became their first ever participant!

With support from the new team, Mike found an affordable apartment, and got access to mental health services. He also found a rewarding sales job. He was so skilled that he soon won top sales awards and he continues to work there today.

Mike is also now working toward a business degree and is set to graduate at the end of this semester! He dreams of working with wood—he loves building things with his hands.

“Without Bissell Centre, I’d most likely be dead. Most people are on the streets because they don’t believe in themselves and no one believes in them,” Mike says. “Give people a reason to believe in themselves again and see what they do with their lives.”

Donors like you have made it possible for Mike to access Bissell Centre’s Outreach Housing Team, along with other resources. Thanks to your support, Mike has moved from poverty to prosperity.

Thank you for helping Mike and others like him to find affordable housing, and step into a brighter future!

Donors Making a Difference!

Have you heard of Share the Warmth? It’s a charity drive to collect new winter essentials for local charities. And Gordon Smith and his wife Ruby started it all.

Now retired, NAIT Business Instructor Gordon Smith started the campaign back in 1988. At the time, it was called “Sock it to Me Brother.” Gordon heard that people in need, who were accessing a local foot clinic, often came in wearing old pairs of socks practically glued to their feet. Unfortunately, the clinic couldn’t afford to give patients new socks.

Recognizing the need, Gordon began collecting socks for local charitable agencies, including Bissell Centre. As time progressed, Gordon invited colleagues and students at NAIT to get involved too. Each year, the drive was wonderfully successful.

NAIT Academic Staff Association (NASA) has since expanded the initiative to include new toques, gloves and scarves, changing the name to “Share the Warmth.”

It’s been 30 years now, and over 150,000 pairs of socks have been donated to local agencies, all thanks to Gordon, his wife Ruby and everyone else involved. In 2018, Gordon and Ruby retired from the program, but the collection effort continues!

“I’d like to say that Gordon’s and Ruby’s tireless efforts for the disadvantaged people in this city are truly inspiring and the legacy that the Smiths have left us here at NAIT is humbling and appreciated.”—Gordon Cutting, VP Communications, NASA  

Thank you Gordon and Ruby for helping to improve so many lives in Edmonton with your compassion, devotion and service!

Looking Forward to Summer!

With the weather warming up, everyone at Bissell Centre is looking forward to the arrival of summer! On June 21, Bissell Centre will be hosting a special event for National Indigenous Peoples’ Day to celebrate the distinct heritage, rich cultures and exceptional contributions of First Nations peoples.

If you’d like to join the festivities, you’re invited! We’ll be serving bannock bread and running a few activities in our Community Space to commemorate the occasion.

In July, Bissell Centre invites you to participate in our annual “Drop Your Gonch” underwear drive. Many people who are homeless in Edmonton are wearing old, uncomfortable underwear, if they’re wearing any underwear at all.

You can make a difference for people who are homeless in Edmonton by donating new underwear, boxers, briefs and bras. We hope you’ll join us!

Thank you for your outstanding support, helping individuals and families in Edmonton move from poverty to prosperity.