Message from the CEO
There is so much to celebrate as we move on from 2021 and welcome in this new year, whatever it may bring.
I am touched by the incredible show of support over the holiday season. Because of you, hundreds of nourishing meals were served to people who would have otherwise gone hungry. Families in need were able to gather on Christmas morning to open gifts through our Festive Giveaway program.
As you know, the pandemic continues to present added health and safety challenges to our participants, but your generous gifts are making a huge difference every day. Your gifts are providing essential services, housing, and employment support for vulnerable people living throughout Edmonton, thank you.
This newsletter offers just a sample of the amazing things happening at Bissell Centre every day thanks to our faithful and generous supporters. Our work would not be possible without you!
Gary St. Amand
CEO, Bissell Centre
The Heart of All We Do
I’ve been working with Bissell Centre for six years on the Resource Development team. Like any job, the work I do can be tough at points– but at the end of the day, it’s knowing that I’m helping people in our community, in my own small way, that keeps me going.
Last Christmas, I received a note from a couple with a very special connection to Bissell Centre. They had heard their estranged child might be accessing Bissell Centre’s essential services. Although they hadn’t seen their child in several years, they sent a gift to help their loved one, or at least, help others facing similar struggles.
Ever since receiving their heartfelt note, I have felt even more connected to the work we do here at Bissell. Their note reminded me that what we do extends far beyond just helping the people who access our services, but also perhaps brings a little light to parents and others whose loved ones are struggling or experiencing homelessness.
I hope that the letter they wrote inspires you to reflect on the ripple effects of poverty and homelessness. It is such a complex challenge, and how people end up without a home is not at all straightforward.
With permission given, I want to share their note with you today:
My husband and I would like to thank you for your work in the Edmonton community. We have a child who we have not seen for years. We’ve recently learned they may have accessed your services. Thank you for being there for them.
In celebration of Christmas and our beautiful child, we made a donation with the hope that it can assist others who are struggling, in whatever way you think is best. We are blessed that we can share this gift.
Have an amazing day! Your work at Bissell Centre does not go unnoticed, and given the times we are in, compassion has to win.
Loving parents of a child who has been struggling in life
I shared this with our front-line staff in case the parents’ message might find its way to their child. I’ll never really know (I can’t ask, for confidentiality reasons), but I like to think it did.
To my surprise and delight, several front-line workers replied to my email, so grateful to hear these kind words of encouragement. Our outreach staff works hard to help as many people as possible, and too often, they wonder if they’re having an effect. This letter reminded them they are!
I want to pass that sentiment on to you, our amazing community of supporters. The gifts you give are transforming lives and it goes far beyond the people we serve.
Your support reaches families, parents, friends, who want desperately for their loved ones to be okay. You are giving families hope that their beloved children can return home one day. We are so grateful for your generosity.
To the loving parents who took time to share, thank you—your story is a gift to us all.
— Michelle, Bissell Staff
Partnering with Bent Arrow
Update on Cultural Support Services at Bissell
We were thrilled to reopen our Community Space after months of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions back in Spring of 2021. Even more exciting was our new partnership with Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society.
Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society has been serving indigenous children, youth, and families in the Edmonton area since 1994. Their team consists of cultural connectors from different areas of Treaty 6, 7 and 8 (Alberta and Saskatchewan) who work to share teachings from the land and all its creation.
It was an honour to have Bent Arrow offer Cultural Support Services on site. In addition to being a support for people accessing Bissell’s services, Bent Arrow’s team offered training to Bissell Staff that helped bring a deeper understanding of the Indigenous people accessing our services.
Research shows that incorporating traditional knowledge into support programs for people experiencing homelessness has many positive impacts. Not only is it critical to acknowledge the unique experiences of Indigenous people within the homeless population, but also to provide appropriate resources to create community support and a sense of belonging.
Bent Arrow’s team helped address many spiritual and mental health needs and facilitated cultural activities in the Community Space. Their work had a significant positive impact on those we serve, and we are so grateful to everyone at Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society!
Although our formal partnership ended on 31-October, we very much look forward to partnering with Bent Arrow again for National Indigenous Peoples’ Day in June of 2022.
What Inspires You to Give?
Michael Leoppky Shares His Story
When Michael Leoppky was just 17, he and a friend decided to do a clothing drive for Bissell Centre. “My friend came up with the idea. I’ve always had a heart for helping vulnerable people in our city.”
Michael has been supporting Bissell Centre on and off ever since.
When asked what inspires him to give, Michael doesn’t need to think twice about his answer. “People,” he says. “I believe everyone deserves the dignity of having their basic needs met.”
In addition to his financial gifts, Michael has continued to organize annual clothing drives and has also participated in the Coldest Night of the Year Walk. He plans to participate again this year.
“To anyone who is considering supporting Bissell Centre, I’d say, please do! Donate your time, or money, or both. Whatever you can afford will make a huge difference to someone in need!”
Thank you, Michael, for your support!
It Was a Magical Christmas
Thanks to you!
Thank you to everyone who made our Festive Giveaway such a success this year!
Everyone pulled together to help make the holiday season a bit brighter, more joyous, and extra hopeful for families in need.
Hundreds of toys and goodies came in, thanks to so many of you, to ensure children had gifts to open on Christmas morning. Eighty-eight families took part, meaning that your gifts sparked joy and laughter in the hearts of 293 children across the city.
Thank you to the 55 volunteers who came together to organize, wrap and deliver gifts door-to-door. It was a delight to have you join in the fun and goodwill again after so long!
Thank you to everyone who helped create a wonderful season of joy and celebration!