Our Collaboration with Our Neighbours

We spoke to neighbourhood members Elizabeth Showalter and Barbara McPherson, who have been involved in a community group since the summer of 2022. This group’s feedback has been instrumental in how YESS has introduced the concept of the changes in our programs in June 2023, and how we can ensure the felt safety of not only our youth, but also for our neighbours in the Bonnie Doon community where we are based.


Interview with Elizabeth Showalter

Tell us about yourself and your connection with YESS.

I live nearby the Youth Community Support Centre and first connected with YESS last summer. I’ve been able to attend clean ups and meetings to learn more about YESS, get to know staff and help maintain a relationship between the organization and the community. I’ve been working with some other neighbours and the City of Edmonton’s Neighbourhood Empowerment Team on this.


What was your opinion of the changes to YESS programs when you first heard of them?

Having learned about the mental health challenges faced by youth and the need for more supports in one place, I was glad to hear that the changes were able to fill an important gap and address some barriers that youth faced in the old model and provide more staff to support them. 


How have you seen the positive impact of these changes not only for youth, but in the community?

I’ve heard that youth have been able to access more supports for mental health and I think YESS has done a good job of keeping the community informed as change has occurred. 


What is one thing you wish the wider community knew about youth who access YESS?
That YESS is a safe place for youth and that feeling safe is important to them.


Interview with Barbara McPherson

Tell us about yourself and your connection with YESS.

My first connection point with YESS is proximity—I live in the neighbourhood. And then last summer I got involved with the neighbourhood action community group that Elizabeth Schowalter headed up.


What was your opinion of the changes to YESS programs when you first heard of them?

I was very much in support of the new model. It is excellent to see all the resources co-located and available for youth. Now, youth don’t have to leave the building to access the most essential services, and this reduces barriers for youth in how they get help.


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

I found it very compelling to learn that 100% of youth who access YESS have experienced trauma. Across all the different kinds of experiences kids have had, they have this in common. This is significant, and it points to the importance of a place like YESS existing and helping youth find their way.

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Our Collaboration with the City of Edmonton

The City of Edmonton Neighbourhood Empowerment Team has been an important partner in creating a sense of literal and felt safety for our neighbourhood as we have undergone so many changes in YESS programs at our Whyte Ave building.

We have been in closer communication and connection with our neighbourhood since summer 2022. Having the Neighbourhood Empowerment Team be part of these conversations has coordinated so many resources for both the community and the youth who access YESS.

We talked to Maggie Farbrother, Community Safety Liaison with the City of Edmonton, about their team’s experience of this process and the impact they have seen.


Tell us about your organization’s connection to YESS.

The Neighbourhood Empowerment Team (NET) has been working closely with YESS to support a stronger sense of community safety for all in the community surrounding the 24/7 overnight shelter located at 9310 82 Avenue.  In partnership with YESS, Edmonton Police Service (EPS), other City of Edmonton departments, and community members, positive change has occurred over time, allowing for stronger communication and collaboration between YESS as an organization, and the surrounding residential community.


How has your organization been involved in the recent changes to YESS programs?

The Neighbourhood Empowerment Team has been working closely with YESS to support a stronger sense of community safety for all in the community surrounding the Community Youth Support Centre site. Though NET was not involved in the new program changes directly, the existing work to work collaboratively with the community allowed for safe and productive space for community consultation. YESS has worked hard to hear the concerns of their neighbours and take that into account to ensure a better sense of community for all.


How have you seen the positive impact of these changes not only for youth, but in the community?

One positive impact I believe is really beautiful from all the changes YESS has made, is seeing the broader communication and collaboration happening with YESS and in the community. At times there have been differing perspectives on the best course of action forward, and though disagreements continue to exist, there is a strong willingness to work together to tackle issues, not separately but together as a community.


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

Over the last year the community surrounding YESS has taken a lot of time to learn about the programs and youth that access YESS. I do believe that education has helped build a stronger community and sense of safety for all. I wish the wider community beyond this was able to see the challenges, but also resiliency that many of the youth have and face on a daily basis.

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Leading the Way: Edmonton’s First Community Youth Support Centre at YESS

It is increasingly clear that Edmonton is in urgent need for additional 24/7 crisis intervention centres in community associated with agency service hubs and trauma-based mental health clinics. Currently, YESS is the only organization offering this service. Because the need is so great and the strategy is so compelling, we have leaned in to creating the first site to demonstrate and evaluate the coordinated intake and holistic assessment components. In June 2023, YESS expanded on our successful 2021 launch of the 24/7 shelter for youth by consolidating our existing programming, recreation, and primary medical care from the Armoury Resource Centre into the Whyte Avenue location. Our intent is to address the immediate need we are seeing for youth in crisis and build a strong evaluation model for the Community Youth Support Centre that is scalable and repeatable across the city.

24/7 Crisis and Intervention Support at Whyte

  • 24/7 intake and crisis stabilization
  • 8 transitional beds/16 emergency beds
  • Holistic assessment and entry into YAC-connected communities of care
New Resources & Services (Monday-Friday) at Whyte Ave

  • Onsite medical clinic
  • Onsite mental health clinic (YESS Wellness Integration Team and CASA [future])
  • Housing connections
  • Cultural and identity supports
  • Employment and education connections
  • Programming, arts, and recreation
  • Life and wellbeing skills development



While the YESS Community Youth Support Centre is still very new, the transition has been successful, and we are seeing the beginnings of positive impact on youth. For example:

  • serious incidents (requiring EPS or EMS) in July 2023 are 60% lower than in July 2022
  • the average stay for a young person at the centre is 3.5 days and the majority are not staying longer than
    13 days as we have been either able to get them back with family or into supportive or transitional housing

The impact of this holistic approach cannot be underestimated. By providing 24/7 crisis intervention and connected support, we can break down the barriers that currently prevent many youth from accessing help or staying on the journey to wellbeing. For many, this will save lives.

In addition, this strategy will also alleviate the pressure on our emergency departments and police services and, in time, reduce chronic adult homelessness


“I would be dead if it wasn’t for YESS. This is so serious, and it is not a joke. YESS helped me realize that I wasn’t just born to be a homeless person. That has been the hardest thing for me to do, is to change that mindset. When you are homeless it feels like you are worthless… When you are homeless it feels like no one else in society cares and getting over those feelings is still a struggle. So yeah, the staff at YESS, they help save people.”
– Tom


Future Vision: 24/7 Crisis Intervention Centres in Communities Across Edmonton

The YESS model for 24/7 crisis intervention components and coordinated intake into the Youth Agency Collaboration can be added to any youth resource centre or mental health hub. Ideally, these service components would be added to the new Kickstand Integrated Youth Service Hubs planned for Alberta, and YESS has been working alongside Kickstand, CASA, and YAC for the past year to plan and build rationale for this approach.

This approach would address key aspects of the many challenges (those we can affect) that youth in crisis face: small shelters, access to necessary supports, consistent trauma-informed care, coordination among each onsite service provider, familiarity (trust), support (not judgemental or stigmatized), and holistic, accessible care. Most importantly, it will provide the 24/7 crisis intervention and support that is so needed.

This strategy could make a profound impact on youth wellbeing across Alberta and set the province as the best practice region for youth wellbeing. Because it is a model that can be consistently repurposed, it can easily be expanded adopted in other cities, provinces/territories, and countries. For example, there are integrated youth service (IYS) hubs across Canada that could have 24/7 crisis and stabilization components added.


Read the full Case for Support here

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Ensuring Youth Get the Help They Need, When They Need It

The Youth Agency Collaboration

YESS, in collaboration with 25+ youth serving agencies (and growing) across Edmonton in the Youth Agency Collaboration (YAC), are already working together to create a connected continuum of care that ensures youth get the help they need, when they need it.

This means safer spaces, trained help, holistic wellbeing support, and bridge transitional housing that are all accessible 24/7 and in the communities where youth live.



Created in 2019 to collaborate and share experiences, information, and ideas to improve outcomes for youth.

  • Work together to build a strategic, cost-effective, and integrated continuum of complex care for youth
  • Streamline and coordinate intake, holistic assessment, and evaluation using a shared data system
  • Eliminate the need to compete for funding and build stronger connections between partners


What We’ve Learned

Working together since its inception, YAC partners found common themes and needs across their organizations from the voices of youth and youth workers:

  • Youth need the right help at the right time
  • Youth have better results when they face fewer barriers to supports and services
  • Small, community supports for youth and families are best
  • Building 1:1 trusting relationships is key
  • We don’t need to be one, we just need to act as one
Edmonton’s Collaborative Youth Strategy

The Youth Agency Collaboration has developed the following strategy to ensure that we are strategically focusing on the holistic wellbeing of young people in a coordinated and connected way that allows each community agency to address the needs of the youth in their community while still acting as one continuum of care.

An Innovative Implementation: “Youth Community Support Centres”*

One of the priority YAC innovations is creating community-based 24/7 crisis intervention, intake, and holistic wellbeing assessment services that are co-located with resource hubs for youth across Edmonton.


*Naming is functional and utilitarian for communication and concept purposes and the “centre” does not need to be a completely new entity but could be the addition of the crisis intake component to existing youth resource centres or Integrated Youth Services Hubs

Read the full Case for Support here

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YESS is Evolving to Better Address the Challenges of Youth in Crisis

Based in Edmonton, YESS helps young people ages 15-24 who are in crisis because of family or community breakdown, mental illness, traumatic experiences, and often all of the above.

We provide safe spaces for young people to get immediate 24/7 crisis help, sleep safely, and access the basic necessities for survival as well as build the tools and life skills they need for wellbeing and healthy adulthood.

We have evolved over our 40+ years of operation from an overnight emergency shelter to an expert in youth crisis intervention and support, as well as a collaborative partner in a community of youth care leveraging 25+ Edmonton youth agencies focused on youth wellbeing.

Our goal, first and foremost, is to ensure that young people have the help they need when they need it, and this means addressing a significant gap in the care system: 24/7 crisis support.


“I think that sometimes when I tell people that I stayed at YESS they feel sorry for me; although, I don’t look at my time there like that. To me I have a better life because I stayed at YESS. It wasn’t a “step-down” it was a stepping stone to me being able to create a better life. I had a team of people believing in me and cheering me on. I’m thankful for the experience.”



Who We Serve

  • Approximately 700–800 young people in crisis each year
    • 45% are Indigenous
    • 10% are newcomers
    • 35% identify as 2SLGBTQIA+
    • 75% do not have Children’s Services involvement
    • 25% of youth at YESS are supported with government funding
Our Current Services

For youth 15–21:
• 24/7 intake and crisis support

• 16 emergency beds
• 16 supportive transitional beds

For youth 15–24:
• Onsite medical professionals (3x a week)
• Onsite mental health professionals
• Meals, clothing, hygiene products, and facilities
• Internal supports and connections to external agencies for life skill development
• Programs and program connection (art, recreation, community, culture, nutrition, health)


Read the full Case for Support here

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The Need for 24/7 Youth Crisis Intervention is Clear

Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) has seen a steady increase in suicide, overdose, psychosis, and complex mental health crisis since 2019.

The number of young people in mental health crisis showing up at the YESS 24/7 shelter has increased by 30%.


“…the highest number of social disorder calls occurred between 3:00PM and midnight, with mental health calls for service peaking between 2:00PM and 10:00PM. Social disorder calls peaked from Friday–Sundays.”

“Based on an analysis of dispatched calls to the front line, trends with social disorder and mental health calls for service were identified. A significant gap has been identified regarding the availability, based on timing, of most social agencies compared to when social disorder calls or mental health calls are received.”

Edmonton City Council. Analysis of the Delivery of Social Services Type by Edmonton Police Service: Responding to Social Disorder & Mental Health Calls for Service. November 16, 2020.


“Wait times for care in the ER, both from ER team members and mental health professionals, were seen as unacceptable to respondents. Caregivers were concerned about wait times when worried for their child’s safety, especially when their child had attempted suicide or was experiencing suicidal ideation. Participants noted a lack of mental health services offered during the evenings and weekends, and expressed frustration that an appropriate mental health provider was not always available for youth. Parents also stated that the long wait for getting support in the community is very frustrating and inhibits recovery.”

Suen, Victoria Ph.D. Helping Kids & Youth in Times of Emotional Crisis: Phase 1 Final Report. Addiction & Mental Health and Emergency Strategic Clinical Networks, 2018. p. 19.


Currently, in Edmonton, youth have very little access to 24/7 crisis intervention other than emergency departments and police services, neither which are equipped or intended to support youth in crisis. More and more young people are needing:

  • 24/7 crisis intervention, stabilization, and personal, individual support
  • safe places to sleep during the day or night
  • specialized and trauma-informed mental health and medical treatment services
  • an intentional continuum of aftercare to ensure their wellbeing

Almost all mental health supports and services for youth are available only during daytime hours and many are only available Monday to Friday. Currently, YESS is the only place in Edmonton that will intake youth in crisis 24/7 and provide a place to sleep during the day or night, and we can typically only support 16 youth at a time. Furthermore, while youth agencies work hard to support young people, youth often slip through the many jurisdictional gaps in the current system of care that divides services and funds based on a youth’s symptoms such as addiction, mental health, homelessness, criminal involvement, and disabilities, which only creates more barriers for youth and decreases the likelihood that they can or will seek help.

We have seen a significant increase in youth in crisis over the last two years and a decrease in the funding and support for the agencies who support these youth.


Read the full Case for Support here

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All is a Gift: A Lifetime of Grace and Gratitude

“Each of my brothers and sisters lived very interesting lives.” As the youngest and the last of 11 Zdunich siblings, Hilda O’Neill cherishes countless beautiful memories of growing up in a large family. Most recently, great joy was to be found in the time set aside for care and visits with her remaining sister, Rosaleen, who was then in her twilight years. It was a regular practice that she now so greatly misses since Rosaleen’s passing.  

YESS is so grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the long and blessed journey of a woman who touched the lives of so many in her lifetime: her family, her religious community and communities, and her many relatives and friends. “Rosaleen lived an extraordinary life! She was generous with her time in life and, in the end, with her money. I was so happy with the various charities that Rosaleen chose to leave a gift to in her will. They reflected causes dear to her heart. And being in education, Rosaleen was happy to help youth.”



Sister Rosaleen Zdunich was a woman of deep faith, prayer, compassion, and sensitivity. She lived a very happy, inspiring, rewarding life, strongly committed to her Roman Catholic tradition. Her work and ministries were faith directed with prayer, hope, joy, remarkable dedication, and passion. Work and friendships came to life with her outstanding creativity, organizational, and leadership skills. Members of the interfaith and the ecumenical communities often remarked on the passion that she had for her work.

Sister Rosaleen studied scripture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, received her Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan, Master’s in Psychological Counselling from Fordham University in New York, and graduate diploma in Religious Education through various universities across the USA. Her background was in education as a teacher, principal, and counsellor. Evidence of students’ appreciation was the contact maintained by many students over the years. Working full time in schools, she volunteered many hours beginning to build understanding among the interchurch and interfaith communities. She was the founder of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese Ecumenical office. She coordinated the annual Ecumenical Institute, the first city-wide prayer service for Christian Unity Week. Now both initiatives fly under the banner of Edmonton Council of Churches.

She was one of the founders of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre and the first coordinator. Sister Rosaleen laid the groundwork for interfaith and ecumenism in Edmonton and Alberta. She organized many activities to bring the Edmonton’s interfaith communities together in understanding and appreciation. One of these was the first Prayer Service for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which is still being observed. In 1986 she coordinated the first Jewish/Christian dialogue held at Beth Shalom Synagogue with the Rabbi and the Archbishop together leading a prayer service and the dialogue.

She also coordinated several dialogues such as the city’s first Jewish, Christian, and Muslim dialogue and as well as the first Hindu, Christian, Sikh, and Muslim dialogue. She also organized Edmonton’s Centennial celebration led by 14 faith leaders. As they were called forth according to their arrival year to Edmonton, the faith leaders walked down the grand staircase of City Hall. More than 500 people of all faiths celebrated at City Hall to mark the arrival of these religions to Edmonton. She organized many more such events too numerous to mention.

She leaves a legacy to the City of Edmonton of initiating many events to build bridges of peace, harmony, and acceptance within and among the Christian and interfaith communities. These events are still part of Edmonton’s fabric.

Her love for those less fortunate was evident in her many works of charity and kindness. One could find her on Christmas morning serving dinner in the inner city or at other times preparing food to take to the food bank.  

She was very involved in her Roman Catholic community and especially her parish community.

In 2012 she was invested into the Alberta Order of Excellence, received the City of Edmonton’s “Salute to Excellence Award” in 2005, and the Alberta Centennial medallion for her dedication to building bridges among the faiths in Edmonton. In 1992 she was recognized by the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal for outstanding leadership.


One of the numerous recognitions that Sister Rosaleen received in life was having a tree planted in Israel in her honour—a symbol of hope, love and life to last for generations. We at YESS are likewise profoundly grateful to Sister Rosaleen for the forethought of her inspirational legacy gift and for her faith in the youth as they heal and direct the powerful potential of their minds, talents, creativity, and determination to the future.

To learn more about making a legacy gift, please contact Eileen Papulkas by phone at 780.468.7070 x298 or by email at eileen.papulkas@yess.org

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Soul of a Building and Heart of a Team

One day on my way from the Armoury to our Whyte Avenue location I saw one of our youth waiting at a bus stop. They were showered, in fresh clothes, listening to music while waiting for the bus, which left me with a great sense of pride knowing my team provided this youth with their clothes, a safe space to sleep and shower, and their meals so they could proceed with their day indistinguishable from every other person at that bus stop.” – Darin Maxwell, Director of Facilities, YESS

Darin Maxwell, Director of Facilities

Hello. I’m Darin Maxwell and I have been the YESS Operations Manager since December of 2020, and now the Director of Facilities. I manage the Facilities and Kitchen teams and wish my legacy to be the critical importance of providing and maintaining safe spaces for our youth, enabling them to continue their journey towards adulthood.  

The facilities team maintains, cleans, and cares for YESS’ properties. Our days can run the gamut of having simple projects and chores to complete, to those filled with more wide-ranging challenges. We make sure our youth have access to clean, secure sleeping quarters, shower and laundry facilities, and sanitized spaces in which to access the many resources YESS provides. My team’s work provides the physical elements that our city’s most vulnerable youth need so that they will be able to bring their best selves forward into our programs. We provide the resources for them to continue their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration rested, clean, clothed, and fed.

Donations in their many forms help to support and are an essential part of all that we provide as a team for the youth. Funds enable us to maintain the properties and to purchase wholesome food. The very basics of clothing and furniture can bring a lot of joy into young lives, as does the gift of time and talents from our many volunteers. The generosity of the community is always needed and is truly appreciated!

Being a native Edmontonian, I am humbled by the opportunity to bring my organization and team-building skills to supporting youth where I live, ensuring they can then strengthen this community with their own legacy for future generations.


Rhonda Friskie, Facilities Maintenance Supervisor

Hi! My name is Rhonda Friskie and I’ve been working at YESS for 13 years now. I’d have to say my favourite part about working here has been witnessing our youth reach their full potential. Despite their difficult beginnings, when given a little love and support, they end up flourishing and move on to do amazing things. The world can sometimes be a harsh place, and the strength and courage it takes for them to work through incredibly challenging circumstances is nothing short of admirable. I am deeply inspired by and admire our youth.

I love my role here at YESS and the variety it gives me, with each day presenting new challenges. I am part of an amazing team who work hard to keep our buildings safe for our staff and clients. Everyone here shares the same vision and is dedicated to the mission. I’ve met some of the most amazing people in my time here at YESS who continue to inspire me daily, and I feel fortunate to be a part of this incredible team.


YESS Facilities Team (left to right, back row to front row): Jerome Bongon, Facilities Assistant; Rhonda Friskie, Facilities Maintenance Supervisor; Darin Maxwell, Director of Facilities; Mark Porter, Facilities Worker; Rosemarie Morla, Facilities Assistant; Zandra Buison, Facilities Assistant

Hello, my name is Rosemarie Morla and I have been at YESS for eight years. What I enjoy most about working at YESS is the opportunity to contribute to and offer the youth a safe, comfortable, and clean environment. I enjoy hearing of youth success stories and I am proud to be a part of their journey.


Hi everyone. I’m Zandra. I’ve been working at YESS for eight years already and enjoy working with the Facilities team helping programs provide what youth need.








Jessica Day, Chief Program Officer

When we are talking about providing therapeutic spaces for young people, we have to start with our buildings and our maintenance teams. Before a youth or youth worker can be in program, we have to have plans on the layout of the building, the paint colours, the safety of the building, the health of the people who work and live in the space, and the processes for cleaning and repairing the building throughout service delivery. This is important because, as much as we work to build healthy relationships with the youth between our staff and their peers or community, we have to remember that they are building up a very fragile sense of self—self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-expression.

The young people we serve have experienced trauma and this has changed their development from rational problem-solving to emotional survival mode. In this survival mode, problem-solving and communication skills are not developed, or are lost, and this can contribute to crisis behaviours and escalated outbursts. It is really important when a youth is coming down from the escalation that they are supported emotionally but also within the physical space. They have to know that a hole punched in the wall can be repaired and repainted quickly, so that they and other youth are not staring at the physical reminder of their reactions or choices. When windows are broken, we have to respond quickly to ensure that everyone feels safe, and they know that the window will be replaced. If they make a mess and cannot clean it up themselves, we will be there to support and provide them with a clean and healthy environment when they return. It is so important to provide consistency, predictability, and transparency in repairs, cleaning, and building maintenance for the visual safety and security that these youth need. Many of them come from homes where they did not have this foundation of response and support and so we have to show them they deserve nice places too. It provides hope, safety, and an opportunity to try again tomorrow—their crisis outbursts weren’t permanent and neither is the damage. They will calm down, the building will be repaired or cleaned, and they can move forward and learn from the experience. If we did not focus on quick responses and providing safety for staff and youth to work or grow, then their fragile self-worth would be infected with visual shame and reminders of their lowest points.

When a youth has a healthy trajectory of brain development, then they can start to rationalize their behaviour or experiences and learn from them. When a youth is in survival mode, they are not rational; they are emotional and the emotions around the behaviours or experiences solidify in a protective survival way, not a healthy experience way, and that can further cause trauma or heighten trauma responses in the future or even slow down their development further. So we clean, every day. And we replace the windows every time they break without question and without hesitation. We re-patch, we repair, we adjust temperatures, we fix stair rails, and we focus on what we can bring in for safety and security measures to ensure that youth and the staff can do their jobs to the fullest.

What makes our Facilities team unique is that they understand that their role is much bigger than the tasks. They know and believe that they are partners with our Programs staff and work in tandem with respect and empowerment to be around the youth and staff, and also to be seen and heard in program as part of what YESS offers. They laugh and sing and dance and respond with kindness and politeness and a softness that the youth appreciate and the staff respect. While they are a different department that has different strategies, they worked side by side with our programs during the pandemic as essential staff and they continue to work side by side with our Programs staff because both teams are central to providing truly therapeutic care.



The legacy and layers by which every edifice establishes its own unique character have at their foundation the talents, inspiration, warmth, and skills of the people tasked with its care as they build out an ever-evolving story: bricks and mortar tucked with history, shimmering sunlight reflects off of freshly mopped floors, aged tiles betray the skids and markings left behind as well-used furniture is shifted and repositioned. A gentle flutter is perceived as fresh sheets are crisply folded and stacked, the clicking and clanking of doors are heard as laughter and conversation gently wafts along hallways, and the powerful and rhythmic buzz of an electric saw echoes from a busy tool room. 

Follow along with the YESS Facilities Team as they share a glimpse into days filled with a choreography of planning, craftsmanship, cleaning, polish, and care.

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Of Legacy and the Enduring Gift of Friendship

One of life’s greatest treasures is the friendships that develop when paths cross. How fortunate is  the person who can draw from a trove of rich and valued memories to rightly express the essence of a life lived by the values, hopes, and aspirations that were most important to them. YESS warmly thanks Allan Reid for sharing an eloquent and personal reflection on the life of Bernard Dousse: a good and close friend to many and a friend to YESS.



It was with deep sorrow, and some surprise, that we mourn Bernard Dousse: a long serving pillar of the Edmonton LGBTQ+ community. Bernard was a man who embraced community in all its iterations. Born in Fribourg, Switzerland, Bernard was the youngest of 13 siblings. The prodigal child of his family, he was the only sibling to seek a life far from the constraints of familiarity, from oversight, and the fear of scandal.

Bernard was born October 1, 1931, into a devoutly Catholic family. Several of his siblings would later become priests or nuns—some so much older than he, as to be, effectively, adults whom young Bernard would have been obliged to hear and obey. He did not speak much about the conditions of his growing up, at least not to me. But there were annual trips back to Fribourg, of which he often expressed his joy in reconnecting with his family, his place of birth, and welcoming new generations of nieces and nephews. Did they know about his homosexuality? Bernard claimed, when asked, that they did not. Keeping such a secret is much more difficult to imagine today than it was then. But a secret can cut both ways. Perhaps there was a silent understanding among his siblings: that thing left unspoken that then can be ignored.

Bernard Dousse: A gracious host, we all share memories of fine weather spent out in his lush vegetable and flower garden, which he lovingly tended | Photo courtesy of Blaine Madsen

Honestly, I never met anyone from Bernard’s family, nor anyone who claims to have done so. I do not know his family dynamics. What we do know is that Bernard launched his career with a doctorate in Natural Science from the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Fribourg (1965). Post doctorate, he entered the field of geology, working first in Nigeria, then spending time in South Africa, and eventually arriving in Canada, first on Prince Edward Island, then Montréal and finally, to Alberta where he took a position with the Alberta government, retiring at the prescribed age of 65 in 1996. He was then head of the Evaluation Section, Hydrology Branch, for Alberta Environmental Protection. His was a life-long career path that gave Bernard the freedom to be who he really was, and there was no better life than that.

I first met Bernard in Edmonton in 1987 or 1988. He was an older gay man, and I was in my early twenties and still learning the ropes of gay society. Older gay men were routinely dismissed as trolls among my age group—an odious term suggesting that the only thing they wanted was a young toy to discard after our novelty had worn off. Bernard was not that man. To him, I and everyone else my age were the future, and we deserved to have a brilliant one.

But this was also the death-sentence time in the HIV/AIDS pandemic, before the cocktails of drugs that would eventually bring the disease under control, when we were all struggling to understand how the disease was spread and how to protect ourselves. The very same   were asked during the recent COVID-19 pandemic amid constantly changing recommendations from health authorities. Just as someone’s allergies aroused such fear of their COVID status that people would take a wide path around the poor person suffering seasonal sniffles and sneezes, so then, in many minds, a gay man was automatically deemed to be infected and contagious. And all too often, queer youth had only our queer elders to turn to for knowledge, support, solace, and comfort. Bernard was such a man.

From its inception, Bernard became active within the AIDS Network of Edmonton, and on a more casual level, served as support for many people, younger and older, who were living with HIV/AIDS. An ear that was listening. Someone to hear one’s fears, a mentor for every young man trying to figure out how to live and love in a world dominated by the virus and its associated  discrimination.

Bernard accepted everybody—straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, and, as the concept developed, our non-binary and gender-fluid friends as well. My husband and I moved away from Edmonton in the late 1990s, so though we remained friends, I do not know what relations Bernard had with today’s youth, but I do know that he would have offered an understanding ear. He would have been uplifting, supportive, and a font of knowledge and experience. To Bernard, there was never a question: we are all equals entitled to our own brilliant futures.

And so, in early 2021, at the time when he was still a model of health and fitness, and with a sharp mind such that we, his friends, could all envision him living another decade or more, but, nevertheless, quickly approaching 90 years of age, he revisited his will, as we all must do with increasing regularity the older we get. Bernard approached YESS as a potential recipient from his estate. He was interested in the services and supports that YESS provides to the youth of Edmonton, and of course, how dedicated in terms of their financial structures that YESS is to their stated commitments. He wrote: “I find the objectives and activities of YESS super-important for the well-being—present and future—of our youth-in-need, and certainly very worthy of my serious attention.”

Bernard was never in it for the ego. I am sure he thought of himself as a good person, but never better than anyone else. He did not want renown. What he wanted, through his legacy, was to continue to support Edmonton youth, straight, gay, lesbian, trans, non-binary—all youth—as they each forge their own paths toward a socially, mentally, and emotionally healthful future. And thus, his generous donation to Edmonton’s Youth Empowerment and Support Services.


To learn more about making a legacy gift, please contact Eileen Papulkas by phone at 780.468.7070 x298 or by email at eileen.papulkas@yess.org

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The Deep Flow of a Kind and Generous Heart

Marsha Manolescu was an amazing mother, grandmother, daughter, and sister. She was a seasoned lawyer, faithful friend, and dedicated supporter of YESS. We are delighted and so blessed by Marsha’s children, Stacey, Julie, Trisha, and Chris, as they lovingly share with us the most beautiful swathes of sweeping colour that imbued the life of a greatly beloved mother.



Marsha displayed a lifelong passion for giving to and serving others. Her formative years as the oldest of six children most definitely had something to do with that. Caring for five younger brothers and then four children of her own helped shape her into a brave and independent woman. She was a role model to those around her, willing to try almost anything. She loved to cook, read, and garden. She was a seamstress, a baker, a tutor, and a caregiver. Marsha was a literal “Jill of all trades,” a powerful force.

Marsha: A Loving Grandma | Photo courtesy of Stacey Manolescu

Marsha loved to give gifts. She bought things she loved for herself and for others. Her gifts were thoughtful and generous and, occasionally, a little zany and over the top. She could also be quite practical with her gift-giving. She loved stocking up on necessities like soaps, toothbrushes, t-shirts, and hoodies; buying for those she’d never met before but heard had a need. She and her grandchildren loved filling “birthday bags” with party supplies and snacks and donating them to the local food bank.  She was always thinking of others.

Marsha had a huge heart for the community at large. She spent copious hours volunteering her time and resources, a trait she inherited from her parents. She invited and included her children and grandchildren in many of her volunteer opportunities. Twice a year, her grandkids loved to help Grandma fill and deliver backpacks stuffed with personal care items, school supplies, snacks, and warm clothing for the youth at YESS. Marsha had a soft spot in her heart for troubled youth. She felt it necessary for them to have good quality basics and to feel cared for in their time of need. She felt that by supporting YESS, she was able to let her actions do the talking. Always choosing the highest quality goods to donate in the hopes that her gifts would say, “You are important. No matter what you are going through, we see you and we care.”

Marsha with daughters Julie and Stacey | Photo courtesy of Stacey Manolescu

Through the Blatchford chapter of Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE), Marsha, along with her chapter members, spent hours filling backpacks for youth, making personal property bags for local women’s shelter WIN House, and buying books for adopted school classrooms across the city.

To Marsha, giving to those in need was a part of her routine and it truly filled her cup. When she passed away this past December 2022, it was only fitting to ask those who knew her to give a gift in her name to YESS. A gift that would help continue the great work being done through the support and programs they offer. Marsha wanted people to see that youth in trouble didn’t automatically mean youth who would cause trouble. She wanted to support and supply a safe landing place for youth in hopes it could become a launch pad for their happier and healthier future.

Our mother’s legacy of community support was one to be admired, one we would love to see continue. We hope her story of compassion and generosity will encourage others to support the wonderful programs of YESS.


To learn more about making a legacy gift, please contact Eileen Papulkas by phone at 780.468.7070 x298 or by email at eileen.papulkas@yess.org


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