Do I Need a Will?

This article was originally published as part of the 2021 Planned Giving Newsletter. It has been updated for the 2023 edition.


A will is one of the most profound and consequential documents that you can ever create and, for many, an emotional but deeply fulfilling process. The questions it presents are numerous and the conversations inspired amongst family and loved ones are a gift in and of themselves. Shelly Chamaschuk provides valuable information on wills in Alberta and answers the most basic and often-heard estate planning question: do I need a will?



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


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


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


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


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


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

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


This article was written by Shelly K. Chamaschuk, a Barrister & Solicitor with Reynolds Mirth Richards & Farmer LLP. Her practice focuses on corporate/commercial matters, business and succession planning, estate planning, including wills, enduring powers of attorney, personal directives, family trusts, and estate administration. She is the firm’s Wills, Estates & Trusts Team Lead.

Prior to entering law, Shelly worked for the Capital Health Authority and was the Regional Coordinator for the Department of Laboratory Medicine. She also worked overseas as a medical laboratory technologist in Saudi Arabia and with a humanitarian aid project in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Shelly is a regular presenter for the Edmonton Community Foundation and lecturer for the Legal Education Society of Alberta.



Impact the Future

Youth rely on valued and trusted sources of support and are inspired to look to the future with hope, purpose, and the courage to strive for a better tomorrow.

Will you consider including YESS in your estate plans? Every legacy gift to YESS is a thoughtful gift from the heart, a meaningful part of your life story, and a way to help YESS thrive in its commitment to champion youth who reach out in their need for healing, relief, and guidance.

Leaving a legacy gift is as easy as 1-2-3! To make your legacy gift, consider the following:


  1. Adding a codicil (a supplement) to your current will,
  2. Creating a new will, or
  3. Adding YESS as a beneficiary to an investment or life insurance policy


We’d be happy to work with you, your family and your advisors on a confidential basis to ensure that your gift meets your philanthropic goals.

If you have already provided for a legacy gift to YESS in your estate plans, we’d be delighted to learn in confidence about your future plans. Thank you for your life-changing gift! It will surely help to enable young people in crisis to heal, improve their well-being, find connection and stability, and to create healthy futures.

To learn more about making a legacy gift, please contact Eileen Papulkas by phone at 780.468.7070 x298 or by email at


What you need to know if you wish to leave a gift to YESS in your will:

YESS’s legal name:

Y.E.S.S.: Youth Emergency Shelter Society of Edmonton o/a (YESS) Youth Empowerment and Support Services

CRA Registered Charitable No.: 12953-7437 RR 0001

Full mailing address:
9310 82 Ave NW Edmonton AB T6C 0Z6


Sample wording for a Specific gift in your Will:

“I give to currently of Y.E.S.S.: Youth Emergency Shelter Society of Edmonton o/a (YESS) Youth Empowerment and Support Services currently of 9310 82 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB, T6C 0Z6, the sum of $______ to be used at the discretion of the organization.”


Sample wording for a Residual gift in your Will:

“I give to Y.E.S.S.: Youth Emergency Shelter Society of Edmonton o/a (YESS) Youth Empowerment and Support Services currently of 9310 82 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB, T6C 0Z6, all (or ______%) of the residue of my estate, to be used at the discretion of the organization.”

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Making an Impact with Strategic Charitable Giving

This article was originally published in the 2021 Planned Giving Newsletter.

Charitable giving is a deeply rewarding experience that benefits our communities and the causes that are dear to us. The government encourages giving by providing a variety of tax incentives for individuals looking to give back. There are many types of charitable gifts, each with its own advantages and tax implications. It is important to review and understand the basic features of each type of gift so that you may choose the option that best suits your needs and financial circumstances.

Donation Tax Credit

All donations by individuals to a registered charity in Canada are eligible for the donation tax credit. In Alberta donations up to $200 receive a combined (provincial and federal) tax credit of $50 (15% federally and 10% provincially).

When donating more than $200 in Alberta, the provincial tax credit jumps from 10% to 21% and depending on your income tax bracket, the federal tax credit jumps from 15% to 29% (or 33% if your income exceeds $210,371).

In-Kind Donations

In addition to the donation tax credit, in-kind donations of property, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or segregated funds that have increased significantly in value are perfect candidates for tax incentivized giving. Gifting these securities directly to a registered charity in-kind provides a special tax treatment and exemption from capital gains that cannot be taken advantage of by selling the security and donating the proceeds.

To understand the impact of donating securities in-kind, assume “Etta” owns a mutual fund that has a fair market value of $100,000 that she purchased many years ago for $20,000. She is considering donating the mutual fund to charity.

If Etta sells the mutual fund first and donates the sale proceeds, she would realize a capital gain of $80,000 and pay tax on half of that capital gain. In this case she would be looking at approximately $18,000 in capital gains and a tax benefit of approximately $32,000. Instead, Etta could avoid selling the mutual fund by donating the fund in-kind and the capital gains tax would be eliminated. She would be entitled to the full tax receipt of $100,000, a net tax benefit of $50,000 on her gift. Her decision to donate in-kind saved her $18,000 in tax!

If we consider that some of Etta’s investments have not performed as anticipated, she can also donate any depreciated securities to charity and claim the capital loss to be used against either capital gains realized in the current year or carried back and used against any gains she may have realized in the prior three years. The capital loss may also be carried forward indefinitely to future years.

Charitable giving has a real and positive impact on our communities, the organizations we support, and ourselves as individuals. The government has recognized the value that giving has on society and provided incentives that we can all use to gain the maximum value for our dollars. In-kind donations are a fantastic example of these incentives. If giving is a priority to you, reach out to YESS and the tax experts in your life to fully explore tax incentivized strategies for giving.


Donating a gift of publicly traded securities or mutual funds to YESS is a simple, cost-effective, and tax-efficient way to make a charitable donation during your lifetime or through your will, and YESS receives the full value of the gift.

How to donate stock from a non-registered account during your lifetime

It is important to know that the ownership of the shares must be transferred in-kind to realize a tax benefit. Have your broker transfer your shares in-kind directly to YESS through our CIBC Investor’s Edge account using a Letter of Authorization/Direction to Transfer Securities.

How to donate stock from a non-registered account through your will

If you plan to make a gift of publicly traded securities through your will to YESS, the correct legal name to include is:

Y.E.S.S.: Youth Emergency Shelter Society of Edmonton o/a (YESS) Youth Empowerment and Support Services
9310 82 Ave NW, Edmonton AB T6C 0Z6

CRA Registered Charitable No.: 12953-7437 RR 0001


Ayden is an Investment Advisor with the Harty Investment Group at CIBC Wood Gundy. He has a passion for finance and portfolio management and has enjoyed every moment of his 8 years of experience in the financial services industry.

The Harty Investment Group provides wholistic wealth management through customized portfolio management, estate and trust planning, tax planning, charitable giving, intergenerational wealth transfer strategies and business succession planning.

Outside of the office, Ayden enjoys spraying golf balls, wrestling his daughter Colette, and sharing a glass of wine and a meal on the patio with his wife Brittany. Ayden is a former member of the YESS Board of Directors.





To learn more about making a legacy gift, please contact Eileen Papulkas by phone at 780.468.7070 x298 or by email at

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YESS x Simons Art Show

On July 13-15, Simons and YESS collaborated to highlight our longstanding relationship with a wonderful celebration of art at the Simons WEM location. This incredible event was a beautiful showing of the various kinds of artistic gifts and talents of YESS youth artists, Simons staff artists, and YESS staff artists alike. Guests enjoyed an exhibition of eclectic creativity including beautifully crafted bead work, monochrome sketching focused on the visual power of black, white, and shades in between, colourful and emotive paintings of acrylic on canvas, watercolor and digital art, and multimedium projects.

In addition to a beautiful gallery of 85 pieces of amazing art, we were also able to give six youth the opportunity to create art live in the store, together with participating Simons and YESS staff artists.

For the past 11 years, Simons has been an incredible champion and support of the YESS art program. Providing funding for supplies, artists in residence, and program coordinators, Simons has empowered youth to explore various media types and develop their artistic knowledge and skills.

Yvonne Cowan, Director of Store Operations, Simons WEM, has seen the growth of evolution of both the art programming and the youth as artists. “In these exceptional times it is our hope that the interactive arts activities in YESS programs continues to provide youth with an opportunity to engage their creativity, continue their path to hope and healing, and celebrate their strength and courage through the visual arts.”

Why is art an important aspect of YESS programs? Art therapy is instrumental in helping youth work through difficult experiences and emotions. Art promotes self-expression and personal independence, and encourages the development of healthy coping strategies. Making art builds strengths such as decision-making, teamwork, positive self esteem and mastery, self-soothing abilities, overall mental wellness, and the ability to express oneself in a healthy manner. These are all skills that youth at YESS need in order to succeed, and many of them have been able to take their art practice and use it in ways that serve them best.

Melissa Mukai, Program Coordinator at YESS, facilitates the youth art program and coordinated the space for youth to do live art in-store for the art show. “We had the opportunity to showcase YESS youth and staff art at Simons WEM over the three days of the art show. In addition to a beautiful gallery of amazing art, we were also able to give six youth the opportunity to create art live in the store. We, the youth and YESS staff, were met with nothing but kindness and warmth from the Simons team, with them going above and beyond any expectations I had to make a safe and enjoyable experience for the youth. Our youth represented YESS beautifully; they were total professionals, and it really was a joy to see them so welcomed and supported out in the community.” 

A huge thank you to Simons for their unwavering support of YESS and for hosting our spectacular collaborative art show. We appreciate their dedication to showcasing the artistic brilliance of young minds, which is truly remarkable.

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Community Spotlight: Edmonton’s Food Bank

Interview with Hailey Helset, Agency Depot Engagement Manager at Edmonton’s Food Bank


Tell us about yourself and your organization!

My name is Hailey Helset and I am the Agency Depot Engagement Manager with Edmonton’s Food Bank. I started as a summer student in 2019 working to build hampers for people in need before I finished my degree in criminology. When I graduated in April 2020, I worked the following summer in the same position before transitioning into my current role at Edmonton’s Food Bank. I now have the pleasure of working with 300+ organizations including agencies, soup kitchens, schools, shelters, and food depots across the City of Edmonton.Edmonton’s Food Bank provides food to more than 30,000 people through our hamper programs every month. Of those receiving food through these programs, approximately 40% are children under the age of 18. Edmonton’s Food Bank is, primarily, a central food warehouse and distribution centre for local social service agencies, shelters, soup kitchens, and schools. We raise food and collect food donations from the food industry and other donors. In 2022, Edmonton’s Food Bank collected, sorted, and redistributed 5.9 million kilograms of food.


What kinds of programs and support does Edmonton’s Food Bank offer, and how do you see the impact of these programs? What is the ripple effect of creating food security?

Edmonton’s Food Bank has many programs to reduce food insecurity. These include: 

  • Hamper programs that provide food hampers for individuals and families
  • Food for partner programs that provide about 400,000 meals and snacks every month
  • Supporting Nutrition for all Classes and Kids (S.N.A.C.K) for schools and child-focused agencies
  • The Beyond Food Program that assists people with job readiness and personal supports such as assistance with resume writing and job searches, safety tickets, referrals, and much, much more

These food programs help directly with food insecurity and relieve one source of concern. By supporting food needs, we help people free up their monetary resources for rent, utilities, or other important expenses. We also often hear it helps to know there are people in the community supporting them through their difficulties. Our Beyond Food Program decreases food insecurity by helping people to increase their employability and earning potential or by maximizing the supports they receive. In 2022 the Beyond Food Program assisted over 800 clients. It is only with the support of the community that we are able to make these positive impacts for the people we serve.


Like YESS, Edmonton’s Food Bank has a long legacy in Edmonton. How do you continue to evolve to meet the needs of the community?

Edmonton’s Food Bank was Canada’s first food bank! We have been operating for 42 years and continuously evolving to help meet the needs of our community. Our annual client surveys show what is most needed. For example, our Beyond Food Program was created after our 2015 survey. This summer we opened a new building that will feature a pantry to help provide other access for our clients. We provide mobile hamper depots to meet clients in their own neighbourhoods where barriers exist.

Edmonton’s Food Bank does “food” really well, and to help move toward lasting change we continue to collaborate with other agencies assisting people in need to provide the best network of resources possible to people. 


What is one thing you wish the community knew about people who access Edmonton’s Food Bank?

That it could be anyone! All it takes for many people is one unexpected large expense or loss of a job and they can quickly need our assistance. We have people who were donors become clients and people who were clients become donors. We are here when you need us.

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Congratulations to YESS Chef Tiffany Sorensen, winner of the Janet Hughes Award from Edmonton’s Food Bank!

In May, YESS Chef Tiffany Sorensen was awarded the Janet Hughes Award from Edmonton’s Food Bank, which honours an individual’s commitment to direct food relief and solving the underlying causes of hunger. Tiffany has worked in our kitchens and programs for almost eight years, not only providing nutritional food for youth but also teaching cooking as an important life skill.

Tiffany was nominated for this award by YESS Chief Program Officer Jessica Day, and President and CEO Margo Long. This award from Edmonton’s Food Bank is named after Janet Hughes, the first chairperson when Edmonton’s Food Bank was formed in 1981.



As the Program Kitchen Coordinator for Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS), Tiffany Sorensen considers food, meals, and nutrition as more than mere necessities. Instead, she sees them as powerful tools that can aid young people in healing from trauma, developing resiliency, and acquiring new skills that can benefit them for life.

YESS youth come from a variety of backgrounds and regardless of their unique experiences, they are all experiencing trauma. Tiffany weaves this understanding into her work and prioritizes providing a safe and supportive space with interactions rooted in compassion and kindness.

Tiffany works with youth to educate them about food safety, nutrition, and fundamental kitchen skills, preparing them for their eventual transition to independence. She encourages young people to voice their opinions and preferences regarding food, allowing them to participate in creating the weekly menus or requesting homemade meals for their birthdays. By doing so, she fosters healthy relationships and addresses the underlying trauma associated with food and food security.

Tiffany has been deeply influential in supporting and collaborating with food bank locations within Edmonton. As our liaison, she fosters relationships with both locations and expertly manages expectations, communication, access, and resource supports. Her careful attention and nurturing demeanor make a meaningful difference in the lives of our youth, who feel empowered to ask for assistance thanks to her work reducing the stigma surrounding support-seeking. Even throughout the pandemic, Tiffany’s dedication and advocacy for our partners have remained unwavering.

In addition to her partnership-building skills, Tiffany has also leveraged her talents to produce short videos that demonstrate creative ways to use food bank items in both simple and complex meals. Her innovative approach to food inspires both our youth and staff, and she infuses each interaction with compassion and kindness, recognizing the unique trauma that our youth have experienced.



Did you know…

You can cook along with YESS Chef Tiffany too! Check out our playlist of Tiffany’s cooking videos for all sorts of meals, snacks, beverages, and treats!

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Community Spotlight: The Pride Centre of Edmonton

Interview with Esjay Lafayette, Executive Director of the Pride Centre of Edmonton


Tell us about yourself and your organization!

My name is Esjay Lafayette (he/him) and I am the Executive Director of the Pride Centre of Edmonton (PCE). I joined the PCE team in 2020 as the Operations Manager and became the ED in October 2022—prior to that, I worked as an electrician but a combination of factors (turning 40, the brink of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter movement) motivated me to change careers. I wanted to dedicate my time and skillset to helping the community rather than just making money for an industry, which aligned with an opportunity at the PCE. With the expertise of Pe Metawe Consulting, we are implementing a new strategic plan, committed to the advancement of all 2SLGBTQIA+ people but with a specific focus on three key groups: youth, trans and gender diverse people, and queer asylum seekers and newcomers. When I’m not at work, you can find me hanging out with my partner, two teenagers, and dog, Samson; skateboarding, or watching reruns of M.A.S.H. and The Golden Girls.


What kinds of programs and support does the Pride Centre offer, and how do you see the impact of these programs?

The PCE offers an accessible, trauma-informed, judgement-free space and support systems for people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions, and the people in their lives. Our programming includes:

  • Free drop-in counselling sessions every Tuesday and Thursday with intern therapists, via our partnership with The Family Centre;
  • In-person and virtual youth programming (ages 13 to 24) every Wednesday evening;
  • Gender affirming wares programming which includes a community closet – people can access second-hand garments and jewelry, new undergarments, toiletries, and seasonal clothing at absolutely no cost;
  • The Binder Exchange Program, which provides community members with gently used binders, gift cards for gender affirming gear, and binder fittings and education for safe wear, free of charge;
  • The largest queer library in Alberta, which includes YA fiction and books for children 12 and under, is available to the PCE members — memberships are $25 or sliding scale. We also offer fee waivers, so memberships are accessible to all;
  • Support for queer asylum seekers through a partnership with EMCN’s (Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers) Rainbow Refuge program and LGBTQ+ Newcomers Group, and support letters for refugee hearings and advocacy work;
  • Information and referral wayfinding, from housing to food insecurity.

During public hours, people can utilize various equipment and services in our space, including: washing facilities and public washrooms, computers and charges, printing, a games room, a sensory room, art supplies, light refreshments, a community kitchen for baking and cooking, and a community fridge, freezer, and pantry.

At the PCE, we see the impacts of our programming on a daily basis—by meeting people where they are at, we’re able to mitigate a lot of loneliness and isolation. By developing trust and healthy relationships with community members and other organizations, we’re able to build connections, bridge gaps, and remove barriers to resources. Safety is one of our top priorities, therefore the resources and information we provide to community members is vetted to the best of our ability, as are the people and collectives we collaborate with.


Like YESS, the Pride Centre has a long legacy in Edmonton. How does the centre continue to evolve to meet the needs of the community? Why is it important to still have dedicated safe spaces for the 2SLGBTQ+ community?

In addition to our new strategic plan, the PCE has applied for support from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) to action this plan. We are also working with CASA on a one-year pilot program that will provide community members with access to a registered social worker.

These steps were taken after engaging with community and gathering feedback—our evolution, as both an organization and as frontline workers, is directly linked to listening, observing, believing, and responding accordingly to those who access our services and programs.

Ironically, increased societal acceptance and queer visibility has created more danger for, particularly, identifiable 2SLGBTQIA+ people. The political climate in the States has a contingent in Alberta that is vocally homophobic, especially towards trans and gender diverse folks which creates safety issues. Most of the community members who access the PCE do not have social capital. They are typically lower income with intersecting identities, and their queerness is just the cherry on top of all the other barriers they face. These community members in particular deserve dedicated safe spaces to engage in human connection without the threat of being targeted for who they fundamentally are. It’s also important that a city the size of Edmonton and the surrounding areas provide multiple safe spaces for the queer community that include options for youth under 18 and don’t involve alcohol.


Pride is about activism, but it is also a celebration! What is the impact of the 2SLGBTQ+ community having opportunities to celebrate themselves and share joy?

Just like hurt and pain are integral to the human experience, so is joy and celebration. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, and even more so for those generations before me, there was virtually no diverse queer representation, and limited opportunities to come together and celebrate in safety. Historically, our pain and suffering was focused on. We were often depicted as sick and/or dangerous. My mom struggled immensely when I came out as trans. She worried terribly that I could not live a fulfilling life as a trans person. Her experience is not unique for many guardians of queer folks, but also for queer people themselves. These feelings of despair are directly a result of the absence of balanced, truthful representations of queer people and our experiences. The impact of people openly expressing and celebrating who they are helps counter the myth that being queer equals an unhappy life, it provides hope for people who do not feel safe or ready to come out, and it is a form of speaking truth to power. There are a lot of people in power locally and globally who still don’t want us around, so queer joy and celebration is absolutely a form of resistance.


What is one thing you wish the community knew about the Pride Centre?

There is a lot of diversity amongst the PCE community. We serve a large demographic of people, with many intersecting identities and barriers, but our team is small. There are four core staff members, myself included, striving to make deep, systemic changes in the way our organization operates while continuing to offer frontline services and balance our own wellbeing. However, we are beginning to run on fumes, and our financial situation is currently precarious—donations are greatly needed, as is advocating for the PCE, so we can continue to evolve and expand and increase our capacity, which will ultimately increase the impact of the work we do.

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The Importance of Pride at YESS

Interview with Ash Dafoe, Youth Worker

Tell us about yourself and your position at YESS!

Hello, my name is Ash (she/they) and I’m a youth worker at the Armoury Resource Centre. I get to support our youths with connecting to resources and programming. 


What particular principles or processes does YESS have to ensure that programs are a safe space for youth who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ and may be on a journey of healing when it comes to their sexuality or gender identity?

YESS provides a safe space for youth who are a journey of self-discovery through inclusive language, resources, and programming. We strive to provide gender affirming care with support from our allies. The diversity in us as front-line workers who have and are continuing to walk this journey while welcoming and empowering youth to grow in their own ways, creates a positive impact on our surrounding community, and the lives of our youths. 


Why is it important to create this kind of safety for youth? Both in YESS programs and in the wider community?

We at YESS stand on our non-judgmental policy and teach others to view differences as the wholly beautiful human experiences that they are. When we work to integrate our youth into their local communities, we hope they carry these life lessons with them, making those communities more diverse, inclusive, and caring. 


Pride is about activism, but it is also a celebration! What is the impact of 2SLGBTQ+ youth having opportunities to celebrate themselves and share joy?

As we support these youth on their journeys, and by unconditionally accepting them into our community, we are empowering them to love themselves. When someone is truly accepted, truly welcomed to the table, and they come to love their whole self, this is what makes the world a better place. 


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

I would love for the community to know that each and every one of the youth who have accessed YESS deserve to feel unconditionally loved, welcomed to the table, and empowered to love exactly who they are, right now, and in the future. 

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The Importance of Indigenous History Month

Interview with Nicole Radke, YESS Team Lead

June is Indigenous History Month, and June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day! Approximately half of the youth who access YESS are Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit), and we know that access to culturally specific experiences either through YESS staff or through partner organizations can be an important asset on the journey towards healing and a positive community.


Tell us about yourself and your position at YESS!

My name is Nicole Radke I come from a background of Cree/German parents, and I am currently the Team Lead at the Armoury Resource Centre.


What particular principles or processes does YESS have to ensure that programs are a safe space for Indigenous youth who may be on a journey of healing that includes their culture, their family, their extended relations, etc.?

We have been building relationships with different Indigenous agencies so we can provide our Indigenous youth ample opportunities to learn about their culture. We offer supplies they would need to practice their culture and will go to different ceremonies with them. One in particular has been our Land Connection where we learn about Mother Earth and get to connect. Our programs are able to provide [cultural or spiritual] medicine for the youth when it is needed. The staff at YESS are open and listen to the youth so we can learn about their practices and teachings. We recognize not everyone has the same teachings. We exist in a non-judgemental environment and give space so they know that they can determine their own journey of healing, we simply walk with them, learn with them, learn from them, and support them.


Why is it important to create this kind of safety for youth? Both in YESS programs and in the wider community?

Representation is so important when it comes to creating a safe space for the youth. There has recently been significant awareness brought to the Indigenous community and the mistreatment that stemmed from colonization, which was hidden for years. To be allies we need to provide space that is safe for our youth and provide a space where they know they can learn about their culture, they can share their culture, and that they can do this without stigmatization. Healing comes from reconnection and balancing. YESS gives this space to the youth by listening to their voices and hearing about what practices they would like to see in our agency. We have seen youth reconnect with culture because they were in a safe space, and we have seen them transition into independence and are leading the most beautiful lives filled with culture and stability.


Indigenous History Month is about activism, but it is also a celebration! What is the impact of youth having opportunities to celebrate themselves and share in the joys and practices of their culture?

We get to see their beautiful spirits. There is nothing that will give you more chills than when a youth is excited to speak about their culture and the exciting things they have done to celebrate it, whether it be attending pow wows and competing, beading, attending sweat lodges, going to round dances, or simply sharing stories about their ancestors. When we give them this space it gives them a chance to know that they are heard, and we care. I also love learning their native tongue from them. By giving them the opportunity to celebrate themselves we are making sure that they know they are seen, and we hear them.


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

They are some of the most incredible humans you could ever encounter. They are selfless, compassionate, caring, emotionally intelligent, and kind. These youth would give the shirt off their own back for someone else who was more in need. I would describe the youth at YESS as “bears”: they are protectors and always look out for those they care about. Most of these youth have been dealt difficult hands, but they have the skill set to manage these hands and they often are able to succeed while at the same time being the most caring human beings. The youth who access our services are some of the most resourceful humans you could ever come across. I would encourage people to just have a conversation with them and you would see how incredible they are.

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June Message from Margo

Hello everyone, and happy June!


As June celebrates Pride month and also Indigenous History Month, with National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, this is a particularly special time at YESS. Though safety and wellness and YESS means that we honour gender expression, sexuality, culture, spirituality, and personal exploration all year round, Pride and Indigenous History Month create a community-wide opportunity for youth to live these aspects of their lives out loud. In this month’s issue, you will hear about the practices in our programs that create safe, non-judgemental for all youth, all year round. Our team members in YESS Programs, Nicole Radke and Ash Dafoe, talk specifically about the importance and impact of creating safe spaces for youth who are Indigenous and youth who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. We also put our community spotlight on the Pride Centre of Edmonton and interview Executive Director Esjay Lafayette about their new strategic plan to build and provide safe spaces.

We hope you have a wonderful Pride, Indigenous History Month, and first day of summer!


YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

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Thank You to Vans!

Our friends at Vans are monthly donors to YESS by providing footwear and clothing for youth. Last month, Vans and the Vans Community Fund went above and beyond and donated $16,178.40 to YESS.

This donation will remain within our community, supporting those who need it most.


Tell us why you choose to support YESS?

We support YESS because we see it as a positive institution delivering real change in the lives of youth experiencing homelessness in our community.


How does Vans give back to the community?

Within our community Vans gives back through store donations of gently used and nonsalable product to organizations helping youth and families in need. Vans also donates product for Go Skate Day, and during the Fort Mac fires, Vans sent an entire semi-trailer of product up from California to help families in need. Each family got a free meal, pair of shoes, and piece of clothing. They’ve also been spotted helping out the arts scene here in Edmonton!


Why is it important for Van’s to support the community?

The community is who supports us, so we need to do the same for them!

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