A Message from the CEO
It was a challenging but fruitful summer and I want to personally thank everyone who gave so generously.
Whether people needed affordable housing, childcare, or employment services, it was clear that those we serve are working hard to create a better future for themselves. Thank you for helping them along on their journeys!
Now, colder months are upon us. Freezing temperatures make it a dangerous season for those we serve. Your help is needed to provide shelter, warmth and nourishment.
Please join us in support over these cold months. Your gifts help ensure that everyone in our city makes it through the winter safely. Thank you for your amazing generosity.
Gary St Amand
CEO, Bissell Centre
Finding Space for Healing
My life hasn’t been easy, but I’ve always tried to make the best of it. I’m known to throw myself into my work, full force.
Even though I love working, I struggle to hold down a job because at times I drink too much. For me, it’s a way to cope with pain from past trauma.
When I signed up for Bissell’s Workforce, I thought it was just a place to find work but it’s so much more than that.
Every day is another chance to prove myself. When I’m at Bissell it’s easier to feel a little hope for my future.
When I signed up for Bissell Workforce, I was stoked when I learned I’d be working alongside staff to haul water. They were always so supportive and encouraging, so I figured this could be a lot of fun. With this as my motivation, I was able to stay sober for a full week leading up to the job.
When I showed up, there were massive stacks of pallets of water bottles and more deliveries coming in. As I tend to do, I got straight into it, working as hard as I could.
A staff member saw me working like a madman, and asked how I was doing. “I feel proud of myself for the first time in a long while,” I said. “The hard work makes me remember I’m still here.”
But there was more to the story than that. This job had lifted me out of a time of real darkness.
When I heard about the 215 children’s bodies discovered at a Residential School in Kamloops, it was a blow that I didn’t know how to absorb.
Suddenly, I was drowning in flashbacks and painful memories. I felt sick with grief and my mind was spinning with ‘what ifs’.
You see, I am a survivor of one of the last Residential Schools to close.
Those schools took too much. Our cultures. Our languages. We were isolated from our families and left to suffer horrible abuse as innocent children.
I so desperately want to do better for the sake of all the kids who didn’t make it through the system, but every time more bodies are found, the emotions grab hold too tight.
Some days I have hope. Other days it’s just too much to bear.
When I hang out at Bissell Centre, I can breathe. There are others here who understand. There are other survivors. We’re all dealing with one sort of trauma or another. This is a space for healing.
I’m not sure what the way through all this will look like, I know I have my Bissell Centre family standing ready to lift me up when I fall, to celebrate with me when I succeed, and to love me no matter what happens.
I am so grateful that Bissell exists. Thank you to everyone who makes this place possible.
*Interviewee’s name has been changed to protect their anonymity.
Heat Wave Relief
How the Bissell Workforce Stepped Up
No one was fully prepared for the enduring, record-setting temperatures that we hit this summer. It was the longest stretch of consecutive 30-degree plus weather on record in Edmonton since the 1800s.
Bissell put out an urgent request for bottled water and other supplies. The response was shocking—in total, we received 160,000 bottles of water! Bissell staff members worked as fast as possible to receive, unload and distribute the water, but we needed help.
We were thrilled to hire casual labourers through our own Bissell Workforce program!
Bissell Workforce provides employers with general labourers to job sites across the Greater Edmonton Area. The program oversees approximately 10,000 job placements per year in a variety of industries. These job placements give our participants dignified work experience that supports a safer and more vibrant inner-city community.
Thank you for ensuring the safety and protection of those who were especially vulnerable during the extreme heat!
See Your Gifts at Work!
We are so grateful to everyone who came together to lend a helping hand this summer. Here’s just a glimpse of all the things you made possible.
Remembering Tammy Irwin
A Family Legacy of Compassion
Tammy and Clare Irwin discovered Bissell Centre through volunteer opportunities organized by St. Paul’s United Church. For 25 years, they gave their time, money, and talents to help people struggling with poverty.
Clare served on the Board of Directors while Tammy volunteered on the planning committee. Tammy planned and ran her own fundraiser called “United for Bissell”, raising over $14,000!
After his retirement, Clare volunteered as Bissell Centre’s first Development Officer helping to build relationships we still honour today.
Clare and Tammy believed that charity begins at home, and instilled the importance of community and philanthropy in their own family. To this day, their children continue to support Bissell Centre, and their daughter-in-law Corinna served on the Bissell Board of Directors.
We want to honour the life of Tammy who passed away in December of 2020. Her legacy of love and compassion continues on in her family, in our hearts and in our community.
Thank you, Tammy. We miss you.