YESS Interactive Art Program

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

 

Sewing activities

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

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

 

Tell us about the objectives of the art program.

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

 

Hot Dog Octopus sculpture

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Abstract work in progress

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

 

Simons logo

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Transgender Day of Visibility

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

Ian Brown
Relief Worker
Youth Empowerment and Support Services

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March Message from Margo

Hello everyone and happy Spring!

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

YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

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Do I Need a Will?

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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The Powerful Impact of Memorial Giving

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

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

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

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

 


 

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

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

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

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YESS Champion: Oodle Noodle

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

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

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

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

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Meet the Navigators!

Within YESS Programs is an incredible team we refer to as our navigators. As navigators, Natalie Morgan and Dupe Adedeji help connect youth and families to resources within YESS and our community. Get to know Natalie and Dupe and why they are so passionate about their work with youth!

Tell us a bit about yourselves!

Natalie Morgan: I have been in my role with YESS for almost four years, but I have been in the community service field for over 13 years, having worked under the umbrella of Homeward Trust with affiliated agencies such as Capital Region Housing, Bill Reese YMCA, and now YESS. My educational background is within radio broadcasting. I always tell people this field of work found me and I am happy it did.

I remained with the YMCA until I got pregnant with my son and took some years to be a stay-at-home mom until I decided to re-enter the social services field in 2017 with YESS. The rest is history!

Dupe Adedeji: I studied Psychology at the University of Guelph and graduated at the end of 2014. I moved to Edmonton in early 2015 when I became employed at YESS. It was my first professional work experience and I was excited to work in the human services field and apply some of my educational background to my job. I started my role as a resource centre staff and then became a client navigator until I left to work at another agency in 2017. I returned in 2019 when the position of a second client navigator opened up at YESS!

Describe the role of “navigator” and how this work is part of walking beside youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration.

NM: In this role, I speak with youth and parents/guardians about how YESS can support them all, whether it be shelter at the Nexus Overnight Shelter, group home placement, education, addiction and mental health referral supports, employment referral to our Youth Education and Employment Program, or family reunification.

DA: As a navigator, we support youth by empowering them to make the best decisions for themselves. We often walk alongside youth on their journeys from start to finish. This can be in the form of us providing resources in order for the youth to make the best-informed decision, calling or texting to check in on where they’re at with their goal plan, driving them to get identification, coaching them prior to speaking with a potential landlord, or supporting them by accompanying them to meetings that they’re anxious to have.

NM: This role as a navigator is very personal as we handle the ICM (Intensive Care Management) portion with the youth. In this role we walk alongside them through parts of their lives which can be triggering and painful to the youth, but we remind them of how strong they are and how far they have come on their own. We take no credit in how far a youth has come because it is their own endurance, motivation, and inner strength which allows them to reach their goal.

DA: As a majority of our youth don’t have dependable supports in their personal lives, we as navigators often fill in that gap and gradually step back as they become more confident in their journey towards independence and community integration.

NM: I say we are their coach and cheerleader all in one, cheering for them and reminding them to refocus when they get off course. I feel that knowing we won’t give up on them, even when they do, is a key component to walking along side our youth and integrating them back into the community.

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

 DA: One thing I wish the community knew about YESS youth is that they can be very resilient. Despite major challenges faced by our youth specifically with homelessness, they are still able to find and access resources that would meet their needs. Some of our youth are homeless and sleep at the shelter, but still find ways to continue schooling because education is important to them, or still make it in to work and important meetings. I am glad to be able to support youth on their journeys to success despite the difficult realities they face.  

NM: One thing I wish the community knew about our youth is how amazing they are as young people and how, for the most part, they are just like any typical teenager. They are trying to figure out who they are, what they want, what their purpose in life is. The only difference is they do it with no family, regular hugs, or positive words of affirmation. They are blindly navigating this crazy world and they are doing it wonderfully. I am proud of them every day.

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February Message from Margo

We need the most love when we are being our most unlovable.

Whether you are a fan of Erma Bombeck, or TV’s Lucifer Morningstar, this quote never loses its impact, in my opinion.

This February, our focus is empathy and understanding—the response needed most when we see others (and ourselves) displaying dysregulated, problematic, risky, or even disrespectful behaviour. If we can remember that hurt people hurt people, that substance use is comfort-seeking and escape from often very adverse experiences, and that desperation, crisis, and lack of control in one’s situation can lead to decisions based out of fear and survival, we can focus more on root cause and less on symptoms.

We talk a lot in our sector, in our government, and in our community, about prevention. By focusing on (and in many cases even condemning) the symptoms of community breakdown, poverty, and adverse experiences we prevent prevention. Life is very hard for young adults facing crises and home instability—life is very hard for all of us at the moment. What we need now, more than ever, is empathy and understanding—for ourselves and for each other. We are stronger together and we heal…together.

 

YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

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Get to Know Kate and Peter Morrison!

Kate and Peter Morrison pride themselves on being “prairie people.” Kate was born in Edmonton and raised in Sherwood Park, and Peter is a Saskatchewan farm boy.

They met when they were both working in Regina. After they got married, Kate and Peter worked all across Canada and lived in many different communities. Wherever they were, they believed in helping out local causes through volunteering and, when able, financially.

“Growing up, we both learned the importance of helping others, whether friends, family, neighbours, or strangers,” says Peter.

The Morrison family moved to Edmonton in 2000. Peter joined Canadian Western Bank (CWB) and his work included working with and facilitating CWB’s Community Investment Program. CWB’s focus was and continues to be on local communities, as well as encouraging and supporting its employees to become involved with local organizations. One of CWB’s three primary areas of focus was youth and that was how Peter became aware of YESS.

As he represented CWB at the Homeless for a Night event, the annual YESS gala, at breakfast fundraisers, and at tours of the Armoury Resource Centre, it became clear to Peter that supporting youth could be a personal cause for his family.

“The work YESS was doing struck a chord with us,” says Peter. “Our sons were in their late teens, so we were attuned to that generation. We were fortunate our sons were safe and healthy, but some of their friends were dealing with the effects of substance abuse, sexual exploitation, family breakdown, and suicide.”

The Morrison Family began to support YESS through in-kind donations of new and used clothing, food items, tickets for sporting events, and through financial gifts. It was during this time that Kate and Peter became aware of the Canada Revenue Agency’s gifts of capital property, including gifts of common shares in public companies listed on a designated stock exchange. This program allows donors to transfer stock “in-kind” to a charity of their choice, receive value as a charitable donation equal to the value of the stock on the day of the transfer, and not be subject to a capital gains tax. For Kate and Peter, this was a cost-effective way to meet their personal donation goals while supporting YESS.

“There are many, many people in this world who are in dire straits. We don’t need to look beyond our neighbourhoods to see the needs,” says Peter, still driven by those lessons he learned long ago to help others in the community. “The youth YESS focuses on will hopefully become the people who will enable future generations to make this world a better place. By helping them we are helping ourselves.”

 


 

Everyone who makes a planned gift to Youth Empowerment & Support Services (YESS), regardless of the amount, enables us to provide life-changing trauma-informed care programs, a warm place to sleep, nutritious meals, medical care, job training and education, and housing support to youth who need it the most. And that is an incredibly powerful thing to do!

If you are holding publicly traded securities which have appreciated in value in your non-registered account (e.g., not held in a RRSP or RRIF) consider making a donation “in-kind” to YESS. Your professional advisors can help you plan wisely for the impact you want to make.

For information and to explore opportunities, please contact Senior Development Officer Eileen Papulkas at 780-468-7070 ext. 298 or email her at eileen.papulkas@yess.org. You many also contact our Development Department at giving@yess.org or fax 780-466-1374. We would be delighted to hear from you.

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Youth Education and Employment Program Successes

We have completed our first year of the Youth Education and Employment Program. Thanks to our partners, this program has already been a success! Because YESS focuses on low-barrier access, the Youth Education and Employment Program has been able to support youth who might not have had access to other education and employment resources.

These supporters are having a direct and positive impact on the lives of youth in Edmonton. Thank you for being part of the community walking beside youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration.

 

Youth Education and Employment Program Partners

Atlantic Fence

Boston Pizza Whyte Ave

Evergreen Recycling

FIND Edmonton

Home Depot Strathcona

Inland Audio Visual

MC College

McDonald’s

Trinity Youth Project

Waiward Steel

Walk the Talk

YESS Kitchen

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