admin

YESS Champions: Boston Pizza Northern Alberta

We asked the staff in our overnight shelter, Nexus, what it’s like when youth arrive for the night and they all easily agreed on a highlight:

YESS Champions_Boston Pizza

“A big part of Nexus is when the youth come into program and they are excited to know what is for dinner. It creates a habit of coming together despite the harsh realities of their lives and gives them something to look forward to. Most of the time, youth offer to help staff set up for dinner. Once everyone is downstairs together, it gives staff a chance to ask youth about their day in more detail and plans/goals for the week; our youth are usually more relaxed once they’ve eaten. As part of building our youth’s daily life skills, everyone pitches in with chores to clean up the shared space and youth who work the following day get a chance to make a lunch for the following morning, creating time management skills and taking responsibility for themselves.”

Always proud to respond to the needs of the community wherever they can, the franchisees of Boston Pizza Northern Alberta have been strong ongoing supporters of the extraordinary youth who come to YESS. For more than a decade, they have generously provided the resources necessary to support at-risk youth through a variety of channels, including access to counselling, medical care, hot meals, and a safe place to spend the night. From the memorable and complete renovation of our Whyte Ave main kitchen in 2009, food donations, the many hours of volunteer time and providing financial resources to a variety of YESS programs and events, the franchisees of Boston Pizza Northern Alberta exemplify the true meaning of giving in so many ways. And of course, they’ve given us so much pizza for Pizza and Movie Nights for the youth!

Thank you to each of the franchisees of Boston Pizza Northern Alberta, for your generous support!

Read more

A Summer Recipe from The Organic Box!

The Organic Box provides hundreds of dollars’ worth of produce to our kitchens every week. They have also shared their passion for helping our youth with their Food Family initiative, which has led to donations of over $13,000.

 

Baked Cheesy Zucchini Bites

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded zucchini

2 eggs

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Dump the shredded zucchini onto a paper towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. When zucchini is dry, dump into a large bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
  4. Using a spoon, measure out 1 tbsp portions, tightly packed, onto a parchment-lined baking tray.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Read more

Meet Our Youth: Erinne’s Story

Erinne is a lifelong Edmontonian. When she was growing up her mother frequently disowned her, and when she was 16 she was permanently kicked out of the house. Erinne couch-surfed for a long time and eventually moved into a group home while she continued to go to high school and work. At school Erinne was bullied and threatened by one of her classmates and the school’s reaction was to expel Erinne. She continued her education at Centre High and it was at this point that Erinne discovered she was pregnant. Erinne aged out of her group home and tried to live with her sister, but it didn’t last.

“My counsellor at Centre High recommended I access YESS,” says Erinne. She started staying at the YESS overnight shelter and so did her boyfriend, Brad. Making to decision to stay at a shelter was an anxious time for Erinne.

“At times it was difficult to be around other homeless youth,” says Erinne. “But I learned so many things about life and what others have to go through.”

With help from YESS staff and resources, Erinne was able to apply for housing and continue with her educational goals. Thanks to her own determination and resilience, Erinne was accepted to the Youth Housing First project with Homeward Trust and has been successful in her own apartment for over a year. Erinne is also about to complete the second year of her four-year Bachelor of Science degree at Grant MacEwan, supported by the YESS Scholarship Fund.

Meet Our Youth_Erinne“If I was going to thank anyone in my life, I would thank my boyfriend, Brad,” says Erinne. “Even when I was going through the worst times in my life, he was always there for me and always reminding me of my goals and what I’ve been able to accomplish.”

Erinne and Brad live together and are raising a happy, healthy 18-month-old girl. For their goals for the future, Erinne wants to continue her studies at the University of Alberta and become a pediatrician and Brad wants to take an apprenticeship program at NAIT to continue to develop on the career he has built in the oil field industry. Eventually Erinne and Brad would like to own a home and they’ve talked to their bank about planning and saving to make their dream a reality.

“If I was going to give anyone in my situation advice, I would say don’t give up,” says Erinne. “I would say that life actually does get better and that you need to work really hard to get what you want. I was 19 years old and I had a child, and I didn’t let that stop me from pursuing my goals… It’s always good to be honest with everyone because it allows them to help you properly.”

Erinne acknowledges what her experience at YESS did for her future. “Being at YESS felt like a family and a community. YESS provided me with many connections to safe places and resources that not a lot of people know about.”

“When my daughter is older, I’m going to be really honest about my story,” says Erinne. “I won’t hide my story and I’ll be open and honest about how life is really difficult sometimes. I will encourage my daughter to do anything she sets her mind to.”

Read more

Letter from the ED – Summer 2018

It’s summertime!

The sun is out and the trees are in full bloom and it’s time for a little fun and relaxation at YESS. The summer months are almost already fully booked for recreational activities, including two camping trips to Kananaskis, a summer tree planting gig, community events, and trying out activities with new recreational partners including paintball, bowling, and Sustainival.

The youth will be playing in nature, taking walks in the river valley, floating down the Pembina, taking in the many Edmonton festivals, and eating some fabulous food. As they do these activities we will be talking about community and asking them to be mindful about what makes communities great and strong, and what they would hope for in a strong community.

So, when you are out in your community and your neighborhood this summer, I ask that you do the same. What makes communities great for you? How can you contribute to make it happen?

Have a wonderful summer,

YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

Read more

Level Up Gaming League brings tabletop fun to YESS youth

Last year YESS was approached by a brand new organization called Level Up Gaming League. They wanted to share their love of tabletop gaming and all its fun and benefits with our youth. They were connected with the youth at Shanoa’s Place for their very first Dungeons & Dragons campaign with YESS youth!

Level Up Gaming League believes that tabletop gaming has the power to create positive change in our community, and that by harnessing the power of gaming people can be empowered to build better futures for themselves. They provide gaming opportunities for organizations that support at-risk populations. With the groups they work with they encourage the social development of youth and adults through intentional gaming and build a culture of inclusivity, acceptance, creativity, and honesty.

The campaign at Shanoa’s Place took about four months to complete, with sessions held every second week. A few youth were really engaged from the beginning, and a few more participated here and there. All of the youth who participated enjoyed this new and creative experience.

YESS Youth Worker Dolphin noticed a number of new skills the campaign got our youth to practice. Dungeons & Dragons proved to be a powerful tool for teaching the link between choices and consequences. Challenges and riddles were opportunities for the players to cooperate and collaborate on solutions. And for an age group that’s used to the immediacy of video games, the switch to tabletop taught players to be patient.

YESS youth Jared loved the experience: “The Dungeons & Dragons program through YESS has been an exciting experience for me. It allowed me an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and, best of all, live vicariously through my character. My favourite part for sure is getting to experience new ideologies, cultures, and even behaviours through the game. Dungeons & Dragons is so much more than just a pen and paper game, really, and I thank YESS for coordinating such incredible play sessions with the talented Dungeon Master Bryan Sali and his artistic accomplice, James.”

“Working at Shanoa’s Place has been an extremely rewarding experience for us,” says Bryan Sali, President of Level Up Gaming League. “What surprised us was the level of involvement from the staff who joined us at the table and who have become part of a team with the youth who live there. The adventuring party that joins us at our gaming table every other week is an amazing group of people who have worked together to solve problems and build an incredible collaborative story; and we have all learned a few things about ourselves, each other, and how to work together.”

The team from Level Up Gaming League is currently kicking off their second Dungeons & Dragons campaign with YESS youth! This summer they’ll also host tabletop gaming days at our Armoury Resource Centre for youth in our daytime program. Let’s get rolling!

Learn more about Level Up Gaming League!

Read more

YESS Gala for Youth 2018

On April 27, we invited YESS Gala guests down the rabbit hole into a land of fantastical whimsy… Wonderland!

Guests arrived at the Shaw Conference Centre and entered the lush gardens of our heroine Alice’s imagination. We mingled with the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar, the Queen of Hearts, and Alice herself, brought to life by the wonderful cast from Rhythm FX. There was an abundance of hors d’oeuvres from the garden including carrots on a bed of spices, roasted mushrooms, and potato churros. For the brave, there was also a chance to take on the Queen of Hearts at her favourite game: croquet!

Gala 2018 Collage 1

Photos by One Step Beyond Photography + Video

Inside the hall was an enchanted forest filled with treasures: our silent and live auction items, a raffle for 100 bottles of wine generously provided by the Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group, and another raffle for a 2-karat diamond ring and a “pay it forward” pendant piece to be gifted to a YESS youth provided by Paris Jewellers.

When gala MC Ryan Jespersen took the stage, he wasn’t alone. He was joined by the one and only Cheshire Cat, who of course had more riddles than answers for our guests! Ryan and Cheshire invited Mayor Don Iveson and Honourary YESS Patron Sarah Chan to the stage. Sarah talked about harnessing the potential of all youth in Edmonton, and Mayor Iveson spoke to the commitment of front-line workers in organizations across Edmonton and how they make our city’s goal to end homelessness possible. Cheers to that!

YESS Executive Director Margo Long had exciting news for her first YESS Gala: a new vision for YESS. We recognize that our goals and promises must align to make sure we are doing our best work in empowering our youth and working with other youth-serving agencies. Our vision is to walk beside traumatized youth on their journey towards healing and appropriate community integration. How will we do that?

  1. We focus on prevention and diversion out of homelessness
  2. We focus on healing trauma through relationship
  3. We focus on walking beside youth to minimize falling through the gaps
  4. We focus on collaboration (with everyone)
Gala 2018 Collage 2

Photos by One Step Beyond Photography + Video

Special guest speaker Denise Ogden took the stage to share her story.

“It takes a village, a community, caring people to support families through crisis. I know this firsthand when I became homeless at 16.

“So let me provide some context. I’m 1 in 5. Meaning ….I live with a mental illness called depression.

“For those that don’t know…Let me tell you what depression is like. For me anyway. My rose colored glasses are replaced by shades. Everything I see is dark. Hope is replaced by fear. Living is replaced by wanting to die and not really knowing why. Depression is like a bag full of symptoms you carry over your shoulders. I know my bag is too full to carry when I have constant thoughts of suicide. Going down the rabbit hole. Thoughts are dark. The deeper you get in, the harder it is to get out… At 11 years old, when depression starting to take hold of me, I didn’t know what was happening. And you know, neither did my poor parents.”

As Denise struggled with her feelings, she developed an eating disorder and began cutting herself. She attempted suicide. She was in crisis, and as her parents and sister watched without any idea what to do, they were in crisis, too.

“A psychiatrist told my family I was just a sad little girl. Really not the answer you want to hear when English is your second language and you don’t know how to help your daughter, your sister, and you don’t know how to keep her alive.

“The day before my first day of grade 11, I was cutting and banging my head against a wall, to stop the pain. I was deep deep in the rabbit hole. My dad picked up the phone book, found the number for YESS and dropped me off at the YESS Shelter, now known as Nexus.”

The staff at YESS provided Denise with the support she desperately needed. They also reached out to her parents and walked them through the pain and confusion they were experiencing. YESS staff mediated conversations that needed to be had, and within a month, Denise was back at home with her family.

“It takes a village, a community, a group of people who care to walk with families and our youth.

“And as a parent of 6 year old twin daughters, who I hope are not going to be 1 in 5, I know we are going to be all right because behind me, I have my own village of family friends’ community and once upon a time, long time ago, I had YESS.”

We are so grateful to Denise for sharing her story. Our guests were touched by her experiences and her testament to the power of supporting youth.

Gala 2018 Collage 3

Photos by One Step Beyond Photography + Video

 

As dinner was served, dancers from the School of Alberta Ballet took the stage to perform “Tea Party” and “Roses” from the Alice in Wonderland ballet. These young performers were amazing and certainly brought the famously zany tea party to life!

Throughout the evening, guests were able to peruse the many enticing items on offer in the silent auction. This year guests could also contribute to “Give a Dream” experiences for youth like a robotics experience at the TELUS World of Science or a shopping and adventure experience at West Edmonton Mall.

As guests prepared to take their first bites of dessert, the cast of Wonderland characters serenaded everyone in the hall with a round of “A Very Merry Un-Birthday”! The dessert itself deserved it own round of applause for presentation. Thanks so much to Executive Chef Serge Belair and the entire culinary team at the Shaw for creating a delectable 3-course dinner for our guests.

Quick as a flash, the live auction was going, going, gone! And with that, it was time for us–and the Chesire Cat, of course–to say goodnight to our guests. As Lewis Carrol wrote:

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out–
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, we merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun

Thank you so much to all of the guests, sponsors, donors, performers, and volunteers who brought Wonderland to life at our YESS Gala for Youth! We are so excited to share that this year’s event raised $195,205.

We are so grateful for your support as we walk beside traumatized youth on their journey towards healing and appropriate community integration.

Sponsors

Boston Pizza
One Step Beyond Photography + Video
River City Events
Pattison Outdoor Advertising
Inland AV
Simons
Carlson Construction
Avenue Magazine
Burke Group
Paris Jewellers
Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group
Impark
Nordic Mechanical
Invert720 Productions
RhythmFX
The Organic Box

Live Auction Donors

Blind Enthusiasm Brewing Company
Simons
Luxe Designs Inc.
Central Social Hall
Impark
Edmonton International Airport
Frontech
FitPLM Service Pro
CTV Edmonton

Silent Auction Donors

Alberta Ballet Italian Centre Shop
Alberta Food Tours Kathy Usher
Allison Tunis Lori Ellaschuk
Big Valley Jamboree Marie-Pierre Castonguay Photography
Brian Mason, MLA Marlin Schmidt, MLA
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Mastermind Toys
Cactus Club Café Mayor Don Iveson
Calaway Park Nicole Goehring, MLA
Calgary Zoo Northlands
Canadian North Oxygen Yoga & Fitness
City of Edmonton Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge
Confetti Sweets Premier Rachel Notley
Cookies by George Rabbit Hill Snow Resort
Costco Sherwood Park Randy Boissonnault, MP
Councillor Aaron Paquette Resorts of the Canadian Rockies
Councillor Andrew Knack Richard Feehan, MLA
Councillor Ben Henderson River Valley Adventure Company
Councillor Bev Esslinger Royal Tyrell Museum
Councillor Sarah Hamilton Shaw Conference Centre
Councillor Tim Cartmell Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group
Councillor Tony Caterina Simons
Councillor Scott McKeen Situation Brewery
David Eggen, MLA Sonic 102.9
David Shepherd, MLA Steam Whistle Brewing
Dr. Bob Turner, MLA Sunshine Village Ski Resort
Duchess Atelier Sutton Place Hotel
Edmonton Eskimo Football Club Telus World of Science
Edmonton Folk Festival The Comic Strip
Edmonton International Airport The Explorer Hotel
Effing Seafoods Thomas Dang, MLA
Enliven Refinishing University of Alberta Botanical Gardens
Estefania Cortes-Vargas, MLA Vertically Inclined
Fringe Theatre Adventures VIA Rail
Get Cooking Workshop Eatery
Greenland Garden Centre Yellowhead Brewing Co.
Gwen Burroughs Yellowknife Golf Club
Hotels on Whyte
Interstellar Rodeo Music Festival
Read more

The Gift of a Lifetime

“Emma was always a giving, caring, wonderful friend.  She especially wanted to help children as much as she could.”

Shortly before the holidays, YESS received a generous gift in Memory of Emma J. Meharg, who passed in May 2017 at 94 years old. We were inspired to know more about the person behind the gift and Emma’s good friend, Brenda Peachey, shared a bit about this very special, strong, and loving woman.

I met Emma in 1989 in Edmonton and we became fast friends. She was one of the most giving and loving people I have ever known. Emma volunteered at many places such as the Edmonton Police, Meals on Wheels, the food bank, and helping new single mothers. She worked full time into her late 80’s in a job that helped people improve their well-being. Being close with God, she also delivered Communion to shut-ins. Emma was always there to help anyone who needed it. She came from extreme poverty and never forgot to pay it forward.

Emma’s most important concern was the need of children… Her greatest desire was to help benefit children with any monies left remaining when she passed. 

This gift that Emma extends to our youth is the gift of positive independence, which is what drives each of us in our work to help our youth build healthy, connected, and enriched lives.

Says Brenda, “Thank you so much for your lovely letter of thanks to my Emma—I know she would have been so proud and so very pleased knowing all the good that this gift will help facilitate for the youth. I know I am!”

Discover How You Can Help

At YESS, we have the privilege and pleasure of helping individuals, families, and organizations share their generosity and achieve their philanthropic wishes. Learn how you can support YESS and those we serve beyond your lifetime by contacting our Donor Relations team at 780-468-7070 or giving@ yess.org.  Eileen Papulkas or Jennifer Fuller would be happy to discuss the possibilities with you.

Read more

Letter from the ED

At YESS, we are trying to remove as many barriers to services as possible for youth facing difficult realities. Over the years we have learned that putting too many expectations and restrictions on youth can prevent them from seeking supportive help when they need it most. The majority of youth that we see are facing very difficult situations and could be living with traumatic experiences, fear, mental illness, PTSD, organic brain disorder, and community isolation. We know that within days of being on the street, a youth can be quickly swept up into the tight community of a gang or a predator. If we do not act quickly once they are inside our programs and start to create a safe and secure environment for them, they will be entrenched into street life. Response needs to be quick, compassionate, and non-judgemental, and focused on wrapping a warm hug of welcome around these youth, so that they stay and try to work towards healing and safe and appropriate housing.

Every youth has a story. And every youth comes to us on a different path, with unique needs. That is why we try to meet youth where they are at.

YESS practices harm reduction in our shelters. Youth may be intoxicated when they come to us and we have needle disposal sites at each of our buildings. When we ask and work with a youth to set goals, we work on goals that are appropriate for them. For example, one youth may be ready to try to find employment or go back to high school, another youth may need to get clean through a recovery program, while yet another may need to just work on feeling safe enough to have a conversation with a relative.

Meeting youth where they are at also means being trauma-informed. All YESS employees are trained in understanding trauma and its effects on behavior and how we can best mitigate and de-escalate youth who have been upset or triggered by an event or happening. Youth agencies across Edmonton are becoming much better equipped to deal with the trauma that these youth carry with them, and collectively we know that unless we work together to stabilize their housing, integrate them into our neighborhoods, and help them on their healing journey, we will lose them to the streets.

Moving forward, YESS will be working more and more collectively with city agencies and funders to ensure that we walk alongside these youth as they heal and build relationships.

You can be a part of this. Your generous financial or volunteer support helps us move closer to giving better care. If you are not in a place where you are able to give your time or your money, do me a favor: the next time you see a youth who looks like they might be experiencing homelessness, who might look scared (or even scary), look them in the eyes. Show them that you see them and that they matter.

YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

Read more

Meet Our Youth: Gabriel’s Story

The Power of Play

When Gabriel first came to YESS he was dropped off by his friend’s mom. He had left his parents’ home, angry after a disagreement and without anywhere else to go. He confided in his friend, whose mom brought Gabriel somewhere he would be safe and have access to resources that could help him mediate things with his parents, find appropriate housing, and support him in his goals.

After staying in our shelter for a month, Gabriel moved into our long-term residence, Graham’s Place. The homelike environment provided Gabriel with the resources he needed to focus and grow. Still a high school student, Gabriel already has plans for the future and knows how hard he needs to work to get there.

“I would like to be an electrician,” says Gabriel. “Although I currently live here in Edmonton, I don’t necessarily need to live here my whole life.”

While helping Gabriel identify his goals and finding resources to support him, our youth workers learned that Gabriel was a huge soccer fan and player. They knew that getting Gabriel back into his athletic interests could be a huge help for him.

“Youth who have experienced trauma, neglect, or abuse are often in a state of constant vigilance against the possibility of recurring trauma,” says Dolphin, YESS Relationship Worker. “When we are on guard against bad things happening to us, we’re not concerned with learning new things. We’re concerned with our survival.”

Whenever we can get youth to participate in recreational activities, we try to take advantage for the many benefits we know it can provide. Play and physical activity help relax the brain’s stress response and make it more engaged with learning. When our youth are able to play, it means that they feel safe and are releasing their stress—key developments in the work we do with our youth.

Finding Gabriel a way back into soccer was a perfect next step. Dolphin found a team and a coach who saw Gabriel’s potential and wanted to make this opportunity possible for him. They have waived his fees for the season.

“Sports and athletics give youth an outlet to release and take in their emotions,” says Rob, Gabriel’s new coach. “It’s our duty to make sports more accessible to kids.”

In February, Gabriel played his first game with his new team. He has experienced some other breakthroughs too.

“I was able to resolve the issues with my parents,” Gabriel says. “I spoke to them and asked them how they were doing. We decided not to dwell on the past, but to look forward to the future.”

Reconciliation will still be a long journey, and it is so important that youth like Gabriel have somewhere safe to stay where they can continue to be supported in their goals, whether that’s for their education, their career, their sobriety, their mental health, or their family life. Positive experiences at YESS helped pave the way forward, and Gabriel’s hard work has brought him a long way.

“If I could say thank you to one person who helped me become who I am today, it would be my dad. He helped me a lot and provided for my needs,” says Gabriel. “I would also say thank you to YESS because they helped to build my relationship between me and my dad.”

With goals for his education and dreams for his future, we know Gabriel is on the right track to a positive future and healthy independence. We’re so proud that we’ve been able to cheer him on every step of the way. Go, Gabriel, go!

Read more

Spring Recipe from The Organic Box

The Organic Box provides hundreds of dollars’ worth of produce to our kitchens every week. They have also shared their passion for helping our youth with their Food Family initiative, which has led to donations of over $13,000.

Our youth love to try new things–maybe you’re the same! If you’re looking for a fresh recipe full of spring flavours, try out this recipe from our friends at The Organic Box.

Brown Rice and Fresh Pea Frittata

Ingredients:

3/4 cup fresh peas (frozen works well here too in a pinch)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 cup cooked brown rice
7 eggs
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet and add the green onions and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the peas and parsley and a splash of water. Cook until peas are bright green, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Beat the eggs and milk in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rice and then then pea mixture.
  4. Heat remaining 1tTbsp oil in a nonstick pan. Pour in egg mixture, using a spatula to lift the eggs and tilt the pan to let eggs run underneath.
  5. Cover and turn down to low, shaking the pan every few minutes to prevent burning. Cook for about 10 minutes or until eggs are just set.
  6. Remove to a platter and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Read more