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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National Philanthropy Day: Ledcor Group

For National Philanthropy Day 2020 we nominated The REALTORS® Community Foundation, Ledcor Group, Collin and Janel Bruce, No Room in the Inn, and Hillcrest Junior High to recognize their incredible support of YESS!

Ledcor Group

Youth Empowerment & Support Services (YESS) is honored to recognize Ledcor Group as a true pillar in the Edmonton Community -whose philanthropic leadership, dedication and commitment has championed YESS for over a decade. The team at Ledcor Group has been tireless in their long-term support of YESS and their strength of confidence in YESS programs that are helping to transform the lives of our incredible youth. They have been major donors since 2015 and have gifted YESS with profound encouragement and countless hours of volunteer leadership. Purposeful and always with a great sense of fun, their team has helped to create a spirit of community, safety and responsibility while transforming the front yards of YESS buildings and a neighborhood cleanup. And as a result of much creativity and flair, they helped to create a truly one of a kind Halloween celebration for our youth to enjoy at YESS’ Armoury Resource Centre (ARC) . The leadership and vision of Ledcor Group has helped to support the programs and resources that help youth experiencing trauma and homelessness achieve goals for their relationships, their health, and their futures. Thank you for being a part of creating a community where we can heal together!

“Embedded in our company culture is the Ledcor Cares spirit. That spirit comes from a desire to assist others in need and to help move our communities forward by coming together for organizations that have a place in our hearts. YESS provides an essential community of care and encouragement to Edmonton’s most vulnerable youth and we are proud to support them and their mission to walk beside traumatized youth on their journey towards healing and appropriate community integration.”

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National Philanthropy Day: Hillcrest Junior High

For National Philanthropy Day 2020 we nominated The REALTORS® Community Foundation, Ledcor Group, Collin and Janel Bruce, No Room in the Inn, and Hillcrest Junior High to recognize their incredible support of YESS!

Hillcrest Junior High

Each year the Edmonton Oilers NHL team runs a Hockey Helps Kids campaign. Schools pick a charity to support and submit a proposal to be selected as one of four school groups, each of whom, represent their chosen charity in the campaign. Hillcrest School chose Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) as their charity. The group creates a video presentation about the charity, which is then shown at NHL hockey games and works online as well to get votes for their video. Hillcrest School was able to accumulate a large number of votes and was able to get an award of $10,000 for YESS, which is used for clothing, food, shelter, youth training, and many other things. The students at Hillcrest did an outstanding job of representing YESS through the creation of their video, all of which they did themselves, and directly helped a large number of traumatized youth in doing so. They are an outstanding group of kids with an incredible understanding of social responsibility.

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New YESS Artwork

We were so excited to premiere the incredible artwork from local artist Jonathan Busch on the cover of our 2019/2020 Annual Report. This was a very special project spearheaded by Manager of Shelters Tessa Mulcair.

Hear more from Tessa on her aim for this project, get to know Jonathan, and learn how this collaboration created some incredible artwork!

Our youth are incredibly diverse in so many ways, they represent many cultures, races, religions, sexual orientations, gender expressions, and different neuro and physical abilities. When youth who are experiencing trauma are looking for support it can difficult for them to know where they will be accepted. I wanted to have some artwork created that could signal to youth that they will be accepted at YESS, that these diversities would never be a barrier to getting the support that they need from us.

I have had the pleasure of being a judge for an annual YESS fundraiser drag competition that Jonathan has organized, and through that have become acquainted with his incredible art. I was drawn to having Jonathan do the art for our youth because the portraits he does have a modern edginess to the them and manage to reflect emotion and mood authentically. I was not disappointed! The art he created for YESS captures not just the diversity of our youth but the spirit and individuality is reflected so well. From the pensive gaze to the all out sass, and many expressions in between.

Get to Know Artist Jonathan Busch

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m a queer artist, drag queen, and public library employee, born and raised in Saskatchewan. I make digital art, mostly portraits but other stuff, which I like to share online, also on t-shirts, fridge magnets, stickers, and other kinds of homemade merch. I also do commissioned artworks for a variety of clients. I have two cats.

What was the vision and collaboration behind the new YESS artwork?

Tessa approached me about creating an artwork for the YESS Facebook banner, and I was definitely on board. It was all her vision and also general design, which cohered very well with my style of work.

She and I had also collaborated on a fundraiser for YESS, a drag competition called Mz. Arthaus, which I organized and hosted. To be honest, the project came about more or less because I wanted to host my own competition-style event, and often such events make great fundraisers. A chance conversation with Tessa led me to want to raise funds for YESS, which I had heard of through various channels. It seemed like a perfectly suitable choice because I see drag events as opportunities to inspire and empower others through creativity and to build each other up with self expression. There seems to be a shared interest there.

What is something you wish the community knew about YESS youth?

I guess I just wish people knew that the YESS youth exist, and that YESS itself exists to help provide the empowerment and support that all young people require and deserve to flourish in their lives and society, that it’s going into building a better world.

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Interview with YESS Volunteer Peter Li

Prior to the pandemic, Peter volunteered in our Nexus Overnight Shelter. Though volunteering looks a little different these days, we wanted to catch up with Peter and talk about his focus on mental health.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I was born and raised in Edmonton. After high school I went to the U of A for Engineering. After the first semester I decided drop out and apply to NAIT for Instrumentation Engineering. 

Then after the first year of NAIT I dropped out again to work for a financial education company. I realized school wasn’t for me. 

Through that company, I gained confidence in becoming an entrepreneur. So I started a CrossFit gym with a good friend of mine and ran that business for 4 years. Then I started working in marketing and now I have my own marketing agency where I help small businesses increase their sales. 

How did you come to volunteer at YESS?

I was a point in my life where a lot of pieces had clicked into place for me. I felt very fortunate to have the resources and time at my disposal. I also knew that there were many people who were in a less fortunate situation than me, so I felt drawn to give back and serve. 

I chose YESS because I feel strongly that youth in the age range of 15-21 are at a fork in the road. Especially those who are homeless with no real support system or family to take care of them. 

I made a lot of mistakes in my late teens and early 20s and I’ve also learned a lot of information that I feel would be helpful for youth in this age group. I’ve also had many mentors and friends who were 5-10 years older than me. I feel having these people in my life helped shaped the direction of my life in a positive way. 

So if I can share some of my experience and knowledge with these youth, hopefully they can choose a more positive path instead of continuing on a downward spiral.  

In what capacity do you volunteer at YESS?

Before COVID, I was going into the Nexus shelter two nights a week. I would run book club sessions and meditation sessions for those who were interested. 

What benefits do you see from reading and meditation as mental health practices?

With reading, I think of it like this… Someone spends a huge portion of their life (10, 20, 30 years…?) studying a subject. Then spends another few years taking all that knowledge and distilling it into a book that I can read in a week or so. To me, I feel like I’m gaining time because I’m able to leverage someone else’s time to learn a subject or topic that interests me. There’s also a saying I heard that goes “the more you learn, the more you earn,” I’ve seen this play out in my life which is why I’m such an advocate of reading. Plus, by reading I’m also able to expand my vocabulary and give my brain a workout in order to create new neural pathways. It’s like going to the gym, but for our brain. 

Now when it comes to meditation… In this day and age there are so many external elements trying to steal our attention. Attention spans these days are shrinking more and more which is kind of scary. The ability for someone to focus seems like a lost art nowadays. That’s one of the reasons why I meditate. 

What happens if you don’t take out the garbage from your home and you leave it piling up for weeks or months? The same needs to happen for our mind. There’s so much clutter and noise that I feel it’s important to take the time to sit quietly and “take out the garbage” within our own mind. Give my mind room to come up with new solutions for problems, clear the mental clutter, think clearly, better focus. Less “chasing” and more “being”. Connect back to who we truly are instead of what society tells us we should be.

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

There are many smart and savvy youth at YESS. But unfortunately, due to their circumstances, they’ve had to grow up in pretty harsh and abusive environments. Often I think to myself, “if I went through what they went through, I’d be in the same position….”

Many of us are fortunate enough to grow up in a “normal” environment, whereas a lot of these youth didn’t have that luxury. Before you judge someone based on their looks, status, age, sexual orientation, colour, etc., first put yourself in their shoes and try to feel the pain they went through that brought them to their current situation. 

We are not separate, we are all connected… So if one part of the whole is suffering, then we’re all suffering.  

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Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society

It takes all of us working together to create spaces where we can all heal together and thrive together. We talked to Sherry Fowler, Community Engagement Coordinator at Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, about how they create these spaces for the community.

Tell us about your organization.

Bent Arrow is committed to building on the strengths of Indigenous children, youth and families to enable them to walk proudly in two worlds both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous world.

Although Bent Arrow’s programs have Indigenous base to them, we welcome people of all races and backgrounds.

Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society has been serving Indigenous children, youth, and families in Edmonton and area since 1994. 

The founders believed strongly that keeping culture at the centre was crucial and that this important work was best done in partnership. 

Bent Arrow provides programming and services for all ages from pre-natal to seniors ensuring that we look at all programming to ensure we are providing a wholistic perspective encompassing the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing of all participants.

How does your organization bring focus to mental health?

When looking at an individual’s mental health it is done from a wholistic standpoint ensuring we look at the whole person and what needs are not being met.  A person who is struggling in one area may be struggling in all. Mental health supports may include but are not limited to: connection to community and culture through phone calls, video chats, social distance meetings, or meeting face-to-face (in a safe way) with an Elder.

We also offer onsite therapy/counselling sessions for participants of the programs offered at Bent Arrow.

What is one thing you would like the community to know about young people and mental health?

When we look at mental health just remember you are never alone. Many people struggle in silence, don’t be one of them. There are people out there who can help; you just have to let them. You are stronger than you think and braver than most, keep on being strong and talk to someone.

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Meet Don and Elaine Geake

Don and Elaine Geake have been giving to YESS annually for over 20 years, but their story with YESS begins long before that. Get to know these incredible members of our community and how they have taken action on their lifelong beliefs to help those who need it.


I [was born] two days prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even though growing up during WWII and early post-war time wasn’t always easy for our family, my three brothers and I were made aware of the need to help others less fortunate. This philosophy is one that my wife Elaine and I passed on to our children who have continued this practice in both career choices and daily life.

I focused my high school courses on a career in engineering, but in Grade 12 I felt an urge toward a “helping” occupation. I enrolled in education instead and worked with the Edmonton Public Schools for 34 years as both teacher and principal.

My first contact with YESS came in the mid-1980’s when I was principal at Mill Creek Elementary School.  At Christmas, the school community would donate [gifts] of non-perishable food items which were given to YESS.

As an educator, I recognized the importance of providing children with a sound base in a safe and encouraging environment for a happy and fulfilling life. In addition to meeting their basic needs for food and shelter, it is also necessary for mental and emotional support.

My wife and I have continued to contribute to YESS because it plays an important role in supporting youth in crisis with not only the necessities of life, but also in achieving mental and emotional stability.

A big thank you to the staff at YESS for their dedication in providing their clients with hope, healing and safety as well as educational and occupational opportunities.

 By Don Geake


Don’s work with students demonstrates the importance of engaging young people in their community. YESS values working with schools to empower students to support their community and practice leadership. We continue to help with this in the online teaching and virtual worlds, as well as in-person.

If your school is interested in learning more about YESS and our work, please contact us at giving@yess.org or call 780.468.7070.

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The Love, YEG Show Interview with Desiree

Thank you so much to The Love, YEG Show and Legacy YEG for having our very own Desiree on their podcast! Check out the episode below!

From The Love, YEG Show:

Supporting Youth in YEG since 1981…

Desiree Concepcion of Youth Empowerment and Support Services speaks about how they transition & empower youth from traumatic situations to supporting themselves by providing food, clothes, safe shelter & many programs.

They’ve had to shift big time since the pandemic & continue to lead our youth through a trauma informed approach supporting & empowering them every step of the way!

 

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