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The Christmas Shoes

It was December20151230-145903.jpg 23, and there was still one Christmas wish we hadn’t yet been able to fulfill. One of our youth always dresses up. His everyday attire is a suit, tie, and torn dress shoes that have seen better days. On this young man’s Christmas wish list was a pair of spiffy, black, dress shoes. Size 12. Triple wide. Not the easiest type of shoe to find, and we hadn’t really had time to hunt for them. It was looking like the new shoes just weren’t going to happen.

And then we read a message that Burkhard, a generous Edmontonian, had sent us through Facebook, offering to purchase the steel toe boots that were on another wish list that we had posted a photo of. If the youth had already received boots, Burkhard said he’d be “more than happy to fulfill someone else’s wish.”

We knew that the next day was Christmas Eve, and that most stores don’t carry triple wide shoes, and that the chances of anyone having time to search for something so specific with such short notice was slim – but we passed the Christmas wish on to Burkhard anyways.

And sure enough, to our surprise, we received a message from Burkhard on Christmas Eve day. It said, “I’m on the hunt for the shoes, so far I have not found anywhere that carries triple wide. Any idea where I might find them?”

The search was on. We googled and made phone calls, trying to find a store that was still open and that carried triple wide dress shoes, while Burkhard searched every shoe store in the mall and drove around to other stores as well.

And just after 4PM on Christmas Eve, Burkhard delivered a pair of size 12, black, triple wide, men’s dress to our shelter, making a Christmas wish come true for one youth experiencing homelessness.

It’s a gift that goes far beyond what is inside the box. The thoughtfulness showed the young man that someone cared; that he was important and had value. And we have no doubt his perfect fitting, Christmas shoes will give him a new sense of confidence and take him great places in 2016 as he works towards stability and independence.

 

Thank you Burkhard, and all the amazing Edmontonians that helped make Christmas miracles happen at YESS.

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Without a Home for the Holidays: Camille’s Story

I grew up in BC with my parents. Although we have a loving family, in time, problems arose. Things came to a head when I was having problems at school and asked to enroll in an alternative high school program. My mom refused and was really angry, and things got so bad that I moved to Edmonton to live with my aunt and uncle.

Despite everything, I missed my parents desperately. When Christmas came, I begged to go home for the holidays. My mom thought that our relationship wasn’t ready and said no. The rejection hurt pretty badly. I became bitter, which was difficult for my aunt and uncle, and I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Eventually my aunt and uncle asked me to leave.

When I came to YESS I imagined the other kids being “street kids”—bums and thieves. But the other kids were just like me. I made friends and started to bond with the staff. There were rules to follow and chores to do, but I found that these were teaching me how to be an independent adult.

Being surrounded by supportive, non-judgmental staff changed everything. Within eight months I got a job, started saving money, and accessed Student Aid programs to continue my education.

Once the time came, I found it hard to leave YESS—it felt like leaving home all over again. But this time, I knew that I was strong and capable of success. And I know that if I need them, YESS will be there for me.


YESS needs your help to give hope to more kids like Camille. Donate today.

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Give Health: Amanda’s Story

I was born in Regina, though I spent most of my life moving around Alberta and Saskatchewan. I grew up surrounded by violence and addiction. My mom would try to stay sober, but she’d always slip. I was using drugs and drinking by the time I was 12. I’m the oldest of ten kids, and I spent a lot of time cooking, cleaning, and looking after my brothers and sisters. I was used to it though – my mom kept having more kids, and they became more dependent on me as time went by. I was the mom and the big sister all the time.

I didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy my youth, and when I did have time, I usually experimented with drugs or drank. My siblings and I ended up with Social Services time and time again over the years, but they always sent us back.

No one ever taught me how to deal with my feelings or anger, so I used to get into a lot of fights. I ended up at EYOC and another halfway house called CSS. I used to think my friends were my family, but I ended up in trouble over and over and they were never there for me.

I eventually ended up on the street.  Again, it seemed like my street friends were like my family. We tried to look out for each other, but when you’re hungry and you have nothing to eat, drugs will make the hunger go away, at least.

YESS has helped me a lot when I was down and out, and even when I started trying to make changes. They were supportive through a lot of phases of my life. I’ve suffered, lost and gained a lot over my life, but overall I think I’m successful. I’ve got my own place, am 9 months clean and I have a job. All that hard work has paid off.

The gift of health is yours to give when you send a #GiveChristmas card. One “Give Health” card gives five youth the mental health and addictions support they need to move forward into a healthy, fulfilling future. Visit www.givechristmas.yess.org to help a kid like Amanda.

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Give Hope: Brandon’s Story

When I was three years old, Children’s Services removed me from my home due to my parents’ addiction issues. I was placed directly in a group home for toddlers, until a foster home could be located. I spent eight years in one foster home. But as I got older, things started to change. I was starting to understand my situation more: that I wasn’t living with my real parents, that my home life was different from my friends’ at school. It created a lot of anger that I couldn’t understand. Why was I here? Why was I taken away from my family? All of this wondering about where I came from started to build up in me, and I started to act out.

Brandon1

My foster parents decided they couldn’t have me in their home anymore. I was bounced around in group care with no sense of stability and no real parents or family. Eventually I was couch surfing because Children’s Services had no other placements for me. When I had nowhere else to go, I slept on slides in playgroups, or laundry rooms in open apartment buildings.

At 17, I came to YESS. I met people who could help me manage my anger and build my confidence. Once I wasn’t obsessed with the past anymore, I could start to think about the future. I’ve caught up on school and I’m finally getting my high school diploma. I want to go to post-secondary, but I don’t know what I want to take yet. I love music, but I also love space and the universe and the idea of exploring it. Maybe that comes from my desire to know where I came from—but on the larger scale of where we all come from. It’s like I’ve finally found my place.

The gift of hope is yours to give to youth in need. One “Give Hope” #GiveChristmas card provides the necessities to one youth for one day. When a kid like Brandon doesn’t have to worry about where he’ll sleep or where his next meal is coming from, he can focus on his potential and start to feel positive about the future. Your gift will change a life. Visit www.givechristmas.yess.org

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Give Transportation: Zach’s Story

A police officer came by our Whyte Avenue building to drop off a wallet that had been lost on the train. It belonged to one of our youth living in Graham’s Place—Zach—who was at work. The officer offered to drop the wallet off with Zach if he was nearby, but he was at work at West Edmonton Mall on the other side of the city. The officer looked concerned: how would Zach get home if he didn’t have his wallet, which held his bus pass?

Meanwhile, Zach was at work and noticed that his wallet was missing. He called the house parent at Graham’s Place to let her know that he would probably be late for curfew. If a bus driver would not let him ride for free, he would have to walk the 10 kilometres home. He had done it before.


The officer was shocked that Zach would walk all that way. He said that if he got a call out in the west end and had time, he would try to find Zach to drop a bus ticket off for him.

Zach returned home to Graham’s Place shortly after his shift, well before curfew. He told a story about a police officer who stopped at the transit station and given him a bus ticket, as well as his name and badge number. Zach was amazed at the kindness shown to him, especially by a police officer. It was a remarkable experience all around, and a great meeting of the community and our youth.

The gift of transportation is bigger than you might think. One “Give Transportation” ‪#‎GiveChristmas‬ card provides a ten bus tickets to our youth, who need to get to school, to work, to medical and counselling appointments–and they need to be able to do it without riding transit illegally. Visit www.givechristmas.yess.org to help a kid like Zach. Your gift will change a life.

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Gifts In Kind: Where Do Your Donations End Up?

Giving back is simple. It starts with a decision to just lend a helping hand to someone in need.

Maybe you saw a story on the news saying that a local charity was low on food donations so you started collecting cans of soup from family and friends to help restock the shelves. Or maybe you finally outgrew a beloved, comfy hoodie and you just wanted to pass it along to keep someone else warm.  Whatever your reason for taking the step to donate, we’re really glad you did!

Here at YESS, the two most common types of donations we are gifted with are what we call “monetary donations” and “in kind donations.” Monetary donations are just that –  donations in the form of cash, cheque, or an online process. In kind items, on the other hand, are donations of tangible goods – like food, clothing, toiletries, or gifts for the kids to enjoy, like a video game.

So what exactly happens to these donations after they are dropped off at YESS?

The process begins with our facilities team. They carefully sort all of the items, going through boxes of food, bags of donations, and trunks full of stuff. Our facilities team sees everything from boxes of socks and deodorant, to strange items like cans of paint and leg braces.

Things like toothbrushes, deodorant, makeup, personal hygiene products, razors, soap, and clothing make their way to our donation room. Many kids come to us with only the clothes on their backs.  These kids will visit the donation room and carefully flip through hangers of donated clothing.  Some will need an entire set of clean clothes, others may just need a dressy shirt for a job interview.

Food donations are sorted by our kitchen team, who decide what items need to be used right away and what can go in the fridge or freezer and added to the menu later in the week. Food is then transported to one of our three buildings – our Whyte Avenue building, which houses our Nexus Emergency Shelter and Graham’s Place; the Armoury Resource Centre, where our daytime programming takes place; or to Shanoa’s place, our residential home in west Edmonton. Things like cereal, soup, pasta, canned meat, jams, crackers, granola bars, sauces, and other snacks end up on our pantry shelves. Perishable items like milk and meat end up in one of our oversized fridges or freezers.

And what exactly happened to that can of chicken soup you dropped off?

It was warmed up and placed in the ice cold hands of a youth who had nothing but tattered mittens to wear on the harsh winter streets, and with it came nourishment, comfort, and strength.

You can be assured that every donation, big and small, is loved and appreciated at YESS.

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