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#tbt Stardust Retro Roller Rink

This summer, Southgate Centre hosted the Stardust Retro Roller Rink for five weeks of groovy fun in support of YESS. They welcomed kids and adults, talented rollerskaters and newbies to the rink where everyone got to make awesome summer memories.

“Our team was brainstorming ideas in terms of new experiences we could offer our guests,” says Claire Kolmatycki, Marketing Director at Southgate Centre. “We landed on roller skating as we thought it would be fun to offer a retro activity that would be fun for our adult shoppers, while offering something new for our youth to try out.”

In addition to regular skating during Southgate’s open hours, they hosted theme days, seniors days, toonie Tuesdays, and parties at the Stardust Retro Roller Rink, with all proceeds coming to YESS. The team at Southgate anticipated that the roller rink would be popular with young families, and so they wanted to partner with a youth-oriented charity. They approached us with this awesome opportunity and we teamed up to provided all the staff and volunteers needed for five weeks of rollin’ at the rink. The team at Southgate learned a lot about YESS and even came for a tour of our Whyte Ave building.

“I would like to raise awareness that YESS is a lot more than an emergency shelter,” says Claire. “They offer a broad range of programs for traumatized youth. On our tour we were able to see some of the artwork created by YESS youth and we were impressed by their talent and level of creativity and artistry.”

At YESS we focus on empowering our youth to build healthy relationships and we love giving them opportunities to create special memories. It was touching for us to see friends, families, and—on a special outing!—our youth come together at the roller rink to have fun, experience community, and create memories together.

“If we can contribute towards shaping fun memories through the roller rink, then we are very happy!” says Claire.

There was a lot of rockin’, rollin, and retro fun at the Stardust Roller Rink this summer. Of all the great memories, what was a highlight?

“The adults-only roller rink party was a hoot! We had some diehard rollerskating fans that night and they were skating backwards and doing tricks! It was fantastic to see everyone in their retro outfits, just enjoying the 80s tunes and having a blast!” says Claire.

Thank you so much to Southgate Centre for partnering with us on the Stardust Retro Roller Rink this summer! The rink raised $18,290 to support YESS programs for traumatized youth on their journeys toward healing. The number of great summer memories made at the rink this summer will always be priceless and we know the community had a special, magical experience rolling the sunny days away!

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Winter Giving 101

Fall is setting in at that means winter is just around the corner. Between the weather getting colder and Christmas approaching we know that donations are going to start to roll in at a rapid pace.  With this being our busiest donation time of the year by far, we thought it would be helpful to both our generous donors and our staff that handle the donations to share some more information, let’s call it Winter Donations 101.

In winter we expand our hours at the Armoury Resource Centre to provide a safe space for our youth to seek refuge from the cold. Despite this, we know that many of youth will spend hours upon hours outside and will need proper winter gear to avoid serious medical issues like frostbite, trench foot, and hypothermia.

Things we always need throughout winter: Winter jackets, waterproof winter boots, gloves, balaclavas, thermal underwear, warmer clothing, warm socks, self-activating heating pads (like HotHands), lip balm, thermal bottles, headlamps/flashlights, and thermal emergency blankets.

When donating used clothing or goods please ensure that these items are still functional and presentable. For example, a winter jacket that has a broken zipper is not effective at helping keep warm and our youth do not have the funds to have clothing patched or repaired.

Gently used items will generally go directly into our donation rooms for the youth to access right away. It is very helpful if clothing is donated washed and folded, in a recycling bag or box that is clearly marked “washed”. New items, like clothing with tags still on, will generally be put away for use at Christmas gifts. If you are donating both, you could separate them for us and mark the new items a “Christmas gifts”.  We do not give used items as Christmas gifts, with the exception of electronics.

Many of our youth come from families who have struggled with poverty and did not have the luxury of showering their children with gifts, Christmas at YESS is often the first time they have ever received multiple gifts. It is incredibly heart warming to see their faces light up, usually accompanied by a wave of disbelief. These moments of joy and the feelings of gratitude that follow for long after as the youth continue to enjoy their gifts throughout the year, they are only possible because of the overwhelming generosity of people like yourself.

If you are considering purchasing Christmas gifts for our youth and would like some guidance on how to ensure your gifts are most effective, we have compiled a list of items that are most frequently asked for. You can rest assured that if you donate something on this list it will go to a youth who has specifically requested that item and will be incredibly grateful!

Winter Giving 101 list

We will collect and sort all of the gifts, and then we have each youth create a wish list. Over 100 youth will be accessing YESS around Christmas time. Once we have all of those wish lists, we go through our collection of goods to customize presents for each and every youth. As you can imagine, this is a ton of work. You can help us in easing this process by removing or scratching off pricing tags and by not bundling presents. We know, it’s super fun to create little gift packs, but in order to customize and ensure that gifts are fairly distributed, it is much easier for us to separate everything. This means if you and a group of friends are making 20 care packages for Christmas, rather than making 20 bags with one of each items in them, instead make one bag of toothbrushes, one bag of soap, one bag of shaving cream, one bag of writing pads, one bag of card games, etc.  It’s also very helpful if gift cards aren’t hidden in other items, again, we strive for fairness and that is easier when we know what’s going out.

You have now graduated Winter Donations 101! Thank you for reading this and taking these ideas into consideration when donating goods this season. We are constantly blown away the outpouring of love for our youth over winter and we can tell you first hand from being with the youth over winter and Christmas that they truly appreciate your generosity and thoughtfulness.

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Letter from the ED – Fall 2018

Homeless=Hurt

When you see a youth on the street in Edmonton, you are not just seeing someone without a home, you are seeing a child that is hurt. They have been hurt by their families, or friends, or government systems, or the community they are in, and in many cases, all of the above.

Think about the communities you live, work, and play in. Many of us are fortunate to have people who love us, support us, care for us, and believe in us—even when we don’t believe in ourselves. The youth at YESS haven’t had these empowering, comforting experiences. The community that was supposed to love, support, teach, and empower them was not safe. Our community was not safe.

We are not separate: traumatized youth are not them, they are us. The days when we can all come together are days when we can heal together. These young members of our community can be some of the most powerful contributors to our community if we see them as us, if we let them in and provide, safe and healthy spaces for them, and if we slowly and patiently walk beside them as they try to heal from the damage already done and move forward. This fall we are focusing on bringing more awareness to the hurt behind the symptom of homelessness and to the amazing youth serving organizations who passionately try to help.

You will see us speak more about what these youth face and what our youth serving partners are up to. You will hear us speak about community healing—because we cannot do it alone. It will take each and every one of you and us to make a difference.

We are #healingtogether.

YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

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Fall 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.

 

Carrot Cake Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups flour (mixture of white and whole wheat works well)

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup melted coconut oil

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup plain yogurt

3 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups finely shredded carrots

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Shaved coconut and rolled oats for topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare muffin tins with liners
  2. Sift together flour(s), baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together brown sugar and coconut oil. Beat in the applesauce and yogurt until fully combined. Add the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla.
  4. Using a spatula, stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in the carrots, raisins and walnuts.
  5. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and top with shaved coconut or rolled oats if desired.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out cleanly. Cool to room temperature before enjoying.
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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!

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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.
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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.”

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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

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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!

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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
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