National Philanthropy Day 2017: Simons

Celebrations are an important part of our lives. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events with our friends and families. National Philanthropy Day is celebrated on November 15 each year by YESS and dozens of other agencies in Edmonton, across Canada, and even around the world. This year we have nominated three of our donors for special recognition on National Philanthropy Day. They joined us at the Shaw Convention Centre where the Association of Fundraising Professionals hosted a feast and a fete for hundreds of donors from Edmonton organizations. Please join us in thanking our nominees for their extensive and expansive support of homeless youth in our community.

Simons

Simons has become deeply invested in taking action through YESS’ Interactive Art program and has made a powerful impact in our youth’s lives. Thanks to our long-term partnership with Simons, the Interactive Art Program was developed and continues to mentor and build the talents of our youth. When they find an art form they are passionate about they are able to use it as a tool to express themselves, learn new things, and set new goals—all skills that can change their lives. Yvonne Cowan, Director of Store Operations at Simons West Edmonton Mall, tells us, “We feel very strongly that reaching out at this level is a small step in advancing the confidence of youth. It allows them to express feelings through their work that they might not be able to verbalize with others. Art is a voice that can never be silenced. Art is a voice that needs to be heard.”

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National Philanthropy Day: The REALTORS® Community Foundation

For National Philanthropy Day 2020 we nominated The REALTORS® Community Foundation, Ledcor Group, Collin and Janel Bruce, No Room in the Inn, and Hillcrest Junior High to recognize their incredible support of YESS!

The REALTORS® Community Foundation

For 26 years, The REALTORS® Community Foundation has both inspired and encouraged Youth Empowerment & Support Services (YESS) in its delivery of supports and programs for our youth. The team began in 1994 with their Edmonton Bike Nights and Ride for Kids community fundraisers, sponsorship of our annual Golf Classic. We have been the beneficiaries of their time and unique skills with volunteering. They’ve given the gift of enhanced safety to our kids with their investment in the security system upgrades at our Armoury Resource Centre (ARC), pride of home with the upkeep and renovations of our buildings, caring comfort with new furniture within our programs. And, their most recent investment in our Art Therapy Program will help to facilitate connection, self-expression and healing for our youth. The REALTORS® Community Foundation continues to weave a lasting, sustainable legacy within our organization, the lives of our youth, and the community at large. YESS is so grateful for the support of the REALTORS® team for helping to shape our future and strengthen the critical supports for our youth as they they address they address life-changing trauma and homelessness.

“The REALTORS® Community Foundation has proudly supported YESS since 1989 and in 26 of the last 31 years. Their tremendous compassion for youth facing homelessness in the Edmonton Area is evident in their programs and facilities. By meeting youth where they’re at and offering diverse programs, youth of many backgrounds and interests are able to connect to positive paths forward, empowering them to achieve their goals and contribute to a strong, vibrant future for our community. The Foundation has committed to a three-year pledge to YESS in support of their continued efforts to support youth in our city which will bring total giving to the organization to over $300,000 upon fulfillment. REALTORS® care about the communities in which they live and work; through the Foundation they invest in charities, such as YESS, who are doing the important work so needed to create opportunities for all community members to thrive.”

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YESS Interactive Art Program

Throughout the course of the pandemic, it has been hugely important to us that there be minimal interruption to YESS programs. Not just shelter and food access, but also those programs that create spaces where youth can heal from trauma, such as our Interactive Art Program. We talked to Hollis Hunter, Artistic Programming Facilitator, about the impact this program has on youth on their journeys towards healing.

 

Sewing activities

Tell us about yourself and your position as the Artistic Programming Facilitator at YESS.

Hello! My name is Hollis Hunter. I graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spring 2020. My personal practice and research revolve around identity politics: I navigate the challenging and rewarding question of how to visually represent 2SLGBTQ+ identities, communities, bodies, and experiences. As the Artistic Programming Facilitator at YESS, I engage with our youth in daily creative activities and work behind-the-scenes to connect youth artists to broader arts opportunities.

 

Tell us about the objectives of the art program.

The primary goal of the art program is to be youth-led. I spend most of my time working through “How do I best meet youth requests?” and “How do I approach youth or make myself approachable so that they can make requests?” This is always fun because one youth starting a project always entices more to join. What the youth want to gain from the art program is what it needs to be providing. Every secondary goal, such as a consistent programming schedule, or regularly restocked supplies, is centered around this. You cannot be successful in helping youth without them participating or having their wants and needs met by the program.

 

Hot Dog Octopus sculpture

What is it about art that makes it a powerful medium for healing?

Art is a tool for building connections. Engaging in arts activities goes beyond “making things” to learning new skills, building relationships, communicating ideas and emotions, and holding mind-body connection. Access to art programming allows youth a new path to connect with support staff, each other, and broader communities and opportunities. The art program provides youth with a medium to cope with difficult life circumstances, earn supplemental income, create archival objects, and participate in meaningful large-scale collaborative projects.

I have kids participate that are currently high, in psychosis, or emotionally coping with crises in their life. They choose to sit down and funnel their energy into a physical action like writing or colouring, and often end up calm and controlled in their ongoing interactions. I get to write contact notes about dreams, passions, relationships, and talents onto youth files full of contact notes listing conflict, abuse, substance use, and authorities; this program gives youth the space to safely be themselves.

 

What have been any remarkable projects/experiences you’ve had so far in the program?

I am constantly astounded by our youth. Every day I get to learn about their character, experiences, and what they can do. Every time I take out a new medium or project, there are youth that I would never have expected to be interested in art, and the things they make are amazing. My favorite thing is when youth make things that are silly and less serious or focus on playing with materials and trying new things. One youth LOVED rock painting because they got to use the natural shape of the rocks to help decide what they wanted to turn them into. Another youth was getting help to patch their jeans, and I brought out sewing machines so that we could dive deeper into their fashion interests. Sewing art programming happened for nearly a month straight because a lot of youth were really into hand-sewing, machine sewing, and embroidering jeans, hats, bags, and cotton face masks. There is so much value in learning textile and sewing skills, because it helps us protect, embellish, and cherish our clothes.

 

Abstract work in progress

What is one thing you wish the community knew about YESS youth?

This question puzzled me at first because “community” is a broad term with lots of overlap. Youth who access YESS are part of countless broader social, spiritual, recreational, and school communities. No matter what difficult life circumstances our youth are facing, they bring their unique strengths and qualities with them. It is so important to recognize that we are all going through hardships, and that the best way to heal and grow is to make room for collective care. The more that I can show up and show care for our youth, the more they can show up for themselves and others. This is how we make sure that those of us who are surviving and hurting day-to-day have space to be safe, heal, and grow.


The Interactive Art Program is proudly sponsored by Simons, who have interwoven the effect, power, and vision of art within their own culture since 1840.  The Simons family share a deeply held love and affinity for the arts, and feel strongly about helping talented young people access the possibilities to be found while exploring multiple disciplines.

“In these exceptional times it is our hope that the Interactive Arts Program continues to provide youth with an opportunity to engage their creativity, continue their path to hope and healing and celebrate their strength and courage through the visual arts,” says Yvonne Cowan, Director of Store Operations for Simons WEM.

In 2020, The REALTORS® Community Foundation joined Simons as a funder of the Interactive Art Program. Their support empowered us to take the artistic programming facilitator position from part-time to full-time.

“The REALTORS® Community Foundation has proudly supported YESS since 1989 and in 26 of the last 31 years. Their tremendous compassion for youth facing homelessness in the Edmonton Area is evident in their programs and facilities. By meeting youth where they’re at and offering diverse programs, youth of many backgrounds and interests are able to connect to positive paths forward, empowering them to achieve their goals and contribute to a strong, vibrant future for our community.”

 

 

Simons logo

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iHuman Youth Society

iHuman Youth Society is a non-profit that believes all young people have gifts to share. In partnership with marginalized young people, they amplify their creative expression, address their needs, and support goals that privilege their voices. They support youth impacted by the negative outcomes associated with poverty, intergenerational trauma, addiction, mental health, abuse, racism, discrimination, and exploitation. Over 500 youth between 12-24 years of age access iHuman every year, 80% of whom self-identify as Indigenous. While iHuman provides free access to their services and programs, they are not a drop-in centre—youth actively engage in determining their individualized journey through iHuman’s resources and guide how they can be supported.

We talked to Steve Pirot, Artistic Director of iHuman Studios, about their mission to invite young artists to use acts of expression to transform their experiences of trauma into experiences of self-worth, purpose, identity, and belonging. 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work with iHuman.

My name is Steve Pirot and my job title is Artistic Director of iHuman Studios; prior to working here I was an actor, writer, director, and producer of theatre and festivals. My function at iHuman is to provide direction and oversight to our studio system. I work for a large collective of artists who happen to be between the ages of 12 and 24. My job is to organize schedules, budgets, materials, staff, volunteers, spaces, and shows so that members of that collective have opportunities to express themselves. Sometimes that opportunity for expression will be personal, quiet, private; sometimes that opportunity will be public and effusive. Sometimes my job is to ensure a studio has a gentle vibe for an artist to work undisturbed, and sometimes my job is to bark into a microphone as iHuman’s hype-man.

In coming to iHuman from a mainstream artistic practice, I have had to recalibrate. My definition of art used to be informed by the idea that art was a commodity to be consumed; in that paradigm the idea of The Artist was necessarily elitist, because there needed to be an audience (the majority) that would consume the work created by the artist (the minority). In my practice at iHuman I have transformed to a perspective that art is not a product, but rather it is a process of expression. If you have the capacity to express, then you are an artist, and therefore all people are artists because it does not matter if your artistry is public, or even if it is ever viewed by another person. 

 

Why is art/creativity an important experience for youth to cultivate and have access to?

The essence of art is expression, and it is important for ALL people regardless of age to have the ability to express themselves. Cultivating the tools and habits of self-expression is essential for scores of reasons: to be sound in one’s mind, to build solid relationships, to foster a balanced society. It is especially important to cultivate these habits when younger because the skills one learns through the process of producing beats, or organizing chords, or composing a photograph, or beading earrings, or sewing a ribbon skirt… these are all transferable skills. In essence we are talking about pattern recognition, project planning and execution, communication. At iHuman we don’t look at art as being a product, but rather it is a tool to promote other outcomes. 

 

What is something you wish the community knew about youth who are healing from trauma?

I wish that the community at large was better informed about our brains actually function. How do our brains behave when hijacked by the amygdala? Can we identify the symptoms of an individual in shock? How is an individual in the grip of a flight/fight response able to interact with the world? If the general public were better informed about how human brains work, then we could have a better foundation to have meaningful conversations about more complex issues like multi-generational trauma, addictions, etc.


On April 1, 2021, iHuman is hosting a drive-thru donation event! Drop off donations without leaving your car and enjoy live art and music from iHuman artists!

For more information visit ihuman.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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Transgender Day of Visibility

Being able to work with my community – with transgender and nonbinary youth – is an honour for me. Transgender and nonbinary youth so often hear their identities and existence denied and invalidated, and are hurt for their identities in many ways. I see transgender and nonbinary youth, and their existence and identities are real and valid. We work with a large population of transgender and nonbinary youth, because there is a large population of displaced and homeless transgender and nonbinary youth; that is just the reality of our society at this time – a reality I am not a fan of. I work hard to try and change that reality. Sometimes it is in small ways, in correcting a co-worker on a youth’s pronouns, and helping them learn. Sometimes it is fighting for larger systemic change. Transgender Day of Visibility is both about celebrating transgender and nonbinary people and about recognizing that there is still work to be done to make the world a safe place for us to exist. I think that trying to do good is an important first step on a long but very rewarding journey. A very happy Transgender Day of Awareness to all transgender and nonbinary people, no matter where they are in their journey, no matter their personal identity, no matter what anyone else says. You are real, you are valid, and you are loved.

Ian Brown
Relief Worker
Youth Empowerment and Support Services

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March Message from Margo

Hello everyone and happy Spring!

I love March. For me, it is the milestone of hope and the light at the end of a long winter. It brings singing birds, more daylight, and new fresh buds. This March our newsletter theme is Art and the wonderful things art does to us and for us. For me, art brings focus and peace. When we focus intently on something, our brains build strong connectivity between areas and pathways. Art often engages both hemispheres of the brain, which also helps bring our emotional memories to a more rational perspective. Focusing on art can help us to regulate our bodies and our breathing and the vibration of art, and through visual experiences of colour and light, can bring healing and transcendence. Art can be both intimately personal as well as public and relational and can help us understand ourselves and understand others. It can help us share our past and dream for the future. This month, we feature our own Interactive Art Program and Artistic Programming Facilitator, Hollis Hunter, as well as our incredible friends at iHuman Youth Society, who focus their entire organization on building self-esteem through the Arts. We also shine a much-deserved spotlight on our incredible funding partners at the Home Depot Orange Door Project. And finally, we have an interview with our wonderful Executive Assistant and Manager of Administration, Karen Reed, and her experience in establishing a bequest for YESS in her will. I hope this Spring you can all find a little time to do a little art, whatever that may look like.

YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

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Do I Need a Will?

The answer is YES. I believe that every person who is eligible to make a Will, should have a Will. The reasons are many, but here are a few of the most important ones:

  1. People often assume that their immediate family (spouse, common-law partner, adult children) will be able to look after their estate if they pass away. This is incorrect. No person, not even a spouse, has the legal authority to deal with your estate when you pass away. Having a Will makes the process of estate administration much easier because the person you name as your executor (now called your Personal Representative) takes authority from the Will immediately upon your death, and can begin administering certain aspects of your estate right away. Without a Will, no steps can be taken until a grant of administration is obtained from the Court. Even with a Will, your Personal Representative may have to apply for a Grant of Probate in order to deal with some of your assets, but institutions like banks and investment companies are much more cooperative and willing to provide information to the person named in a Will as the Personal Representative than they are to a person making inquiries that has no Will to rely on. By making a Will, you make the process of settling your estate much easier and less stressful for your family and friends who may are left to sort out your estate without any guidance from you and without knowing your wishes.

 

  1. A Will allows you to choose who will act as your Personal Representative and administer your estate. You can choose a person(s) whom you trust and you know will follow your wishes as you have set them out in your Will. If you die without a Will, legislation in Alberta provides a list of the people who have the first right to apply to administer your estate, but that may not be who you would choose to do this job for you.

 

  1. A Will allows you to choose who will receive the proceeds of your estate. Although you have a legal obligation to support your dependents (spouse, common-law partner, minor children, adult children who are unable to earn a livelihood due to a physical or mental disability), you can otherwise make gifts as you choose. If you die without a Will, again there is legislation in Alberta that determines which family members will receive your estate.

 

  1. A Will allows you to leave gifts to a charity or charities in the amounts or proportions you decide. Without a Will, there is no provision for any of your estate to be given to the charities you supported during your lifetime. For many people it is important to them that some of their estate be left to their favorite charities. There are also some income tax benefits to your estate to making charitable gifts in your Will.

 

Making a Will is much easier than most people think. I often have clients comment when they are leaving my office having signed their Wills about how simple and easy the process was, and had they known, they would have done a Will much sooner.

I encourage everyone to make a Will to make it easier for your loved ones to take care of your estate during a sad and stressful time for them, to prevent unnecessary family disputes, and to ensure that your estate is given to those that you want to receive it.

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The Powerful Impact of Memorial Giving

Reflecting on our adolescence invariably evokes intense emotions and memories for each of us. While we remember the positive influences and protective supports that helped us navigate our adolescence, we also acknowledge how difficult it must be to navigate adolescence without these influences and supports.

Bernedette Butler is proud to share some thoughts both as a caring professional and a grateful, loving daughter. Bernedette knows that adolescents experience positive change when passionate donors honour and emulate the kindness, love, and grounding that helped shape their own lives.   

I am co-owner of Lokken College which works closely with government agencies to support people over 18 years old who experience barriers to employment. Many of our students’ employment barriers were caused by struggles during their youth. These struggles often cost them opportunities that others take for granted. I choose to support YESS because it provides youth who experience these challenges a hope for a better tomorrow. YESS builds resilience in traumatized youth by providing shelter and necessary individual and community supports. Resilient youth grow into adults who are better able to use their skills and strengths to meet the challenges and expectations of their future.

Today, when COVID-19 creates uncertainty for everyone, we must remember that the youth who rely on YESS’s services need us more than ever to provide support, caring, and hope. This is why I decided to give my support in memory of my mother. There are many ways to remember those we lost, but a donation to YESS best reflected my mother’s love for children and her hope for a bright future for us all. YESS, like my mother, understands that, by helping youth make that difficult transition from childhood to adulthood, we are creating a better future for them and our communities. We are giving them hope, offering support and showing that we care. 

 


 

In memoriam or “in memory” donations give profound meaning to the person and anniversary that you would like to honor, while making an important difference in a child’s life.  We in turn thank and pay tribute to your generosity by ensuring that your gift helps vulnerable youth in our community and province every day.

The gift that you make today – no matter how big or how small – will help YESS sustain, strengthen and grow our programs as we provide life-changing supports in real time to youth suffering trauma and experiencing homelessness in Edmonton.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness and generosity by choosing to support the work of YESS through In Memory Gifts. To make a donation in memory or in honor of someone special, or to celebrate an important occasion, visit YESS.org/donate or contact our Development Office at 780-468-7070.  We’d be delighted to speak with you.

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YESS Champion: Oodle Noodle

Oodle Noodle is not only a local favourite for Edmontonians, but a hometown hero committed to supporting non-profits with food donations. We talked to Jay Downton, President of Oodle Noodle, about what drives them to give where they live.

How does Oodle Noodle give back to the community? Oodle Noodle donates 200 lbs of noodles and sauces every week to charities that help feed our community. We also donate a portion of our in-store sales to local charities. Both programs started at the beginning of the pandemic, and since March, we have donated 17,000 meals worth of food and $110,000 for local charities. This program will forever be a part of Oodle Noodle, and we look forward to working with all these great programs in our city.

Tell us why you choose to support YESS? It warms our heart to know programming like this exists to help youth who experience both trauma and homelessness. It is important everyone knows the vital role that YESS plays in our community. We just want to do our part to support and share that message.

Why is it important to Oodle Noodle to support the community? One of our core values is “Oodle Noodle Loves Edmonton.” It’s great to say that, but it’s more important to back it up with action. This is one of the ways that we want to show our love for Edmonton.

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Breaking Barriers in Mental Health Support

In January, Africa Centre and The Alberta Black Therapists Network launched their new counselling program! This program not only provides free counselling services, but is also part of breaking down barriers and stigma that still surround accessing mental health supports.

We talked to Noreen Sibanda, Executive Director of The Alberta Black Therapists Network, about this new program and its impact on the community.

Tell us about the new counselling program in collaboration with The Africa Centre.

The clinic is funded by the United Way and a collaboration between Africa Centre and The Alberta Black Therapists Network (ABTN). We are proud to offer free counselling support to the African descent community through licensed therapists who have a cultural understanding and offer trauma and healing centered approaches. Our services provide formal, 50-minute, one-to-one counselling sessions in the form of short-term intervention, utilizing solution-focused therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. The services are available over a secure video platform and can be accessed as an individual, group, or couple. We also had secured a donation from Ikea to furnish an office space that we look forward to utilizing when restrictions are lifted.

Why is now an important time for this resource to be available?

We have seen a rise in the need for mental health resources because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now more than ever people need professional support. Unfortunately, despite this desperate need, the barriers to accessing support (cost, long waiting times, stigma), still exist. This service allows people who are struggling with their mental health to connect and not have to worry about costs, as most people cannot afford to access therapeutic support. It allows our community to access services from the organizations that they already know, at no cost and from individuals that share similar lived experiences.

What is something you wish the community knew about youth mental health?

I believe mental health needs to be a part of our overall wellness. Supports services need to include healing, otherwise we are merely treating the symptoms which leads to an overuse of services.

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