Volunteer Story

Volunteer Spotlight: Michelle Aberant

We are thrilled to announce that Michelle has won the Alberta Blue Cross Volunteer Community Wellbeing Grant Program! The Community Wellbeing grant program celebrates our province’s exceptional volunteers by giving out awards to each of them, plus a matching donation to the charitable organization they volunteer with.

Michelle’s dog, Blu, Very Good Boy with the Pet Therapy Society of Northern Alberta (PeTS)

Michelle has been volunteering her time, expertise, knowledge, and support to YESS for several years, creating a safe and enjoyable opportunity for youth to engage with animals. Michelle, President of the Pet Therapy Society of Northern Alberta (PeTS), has positively impacted the mental wellbeing of the youth YESS serves by allowing them to engage with animals in a healthy, safe, and controlled environment. Her efforts have helped the youth open up emotionally and socially, making a huge difference in their lives.

Michelle is an invaluable community member, and we are honoured to have her as a volunteer and congratulate her on this well-deserved recognition.

Thank you for all that you do, Michelle!

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Volunteer Spotlight: University of Alberta Residence Services

Tell us about yourself/your organization and how you came to volunteer at YESS.

My name is Valerie and I’m currently acting as the Diversity and Inclusion Intern for the University of Alberta’s Residence Services for the 2022/2023 year. I reached out to YESS in August 2022 to see if there was any interest in participating in our Day of Service event, an afternoon where students living in residence at the University of Alberta could choose amongst different community organizations to participate in a drop-in group volunteer session with for the afternoon. We were able to send a group to volunteer at the Armoury Resource Centre on August 26, 2022. In addition to that, another group of students were able to attend a virtual presentation on February 21, 2023, as part of our Alternative Reading Week program, a 4-day long service-learning program that aims to engage students living in residence in different social issues that affect the Edmonton community.


Why did you choose to volunteer at YESS and how do you see your impact as a volunteer?

The main reason YESS came to mind when I was narrowing down a list of community organizations to contact for volunteer opportunities to promote to students living in residence was due to friends having recounted their positive experiences with YESS, be it in a volunteer capacity or through club involvement like the 5 Days for the Homeless campaign. While I have not had the opportunity to volunteer with YESS myself, having needed to stay behind in the office to coordinate the various drop-in group volunteer sessions during Day of Service, and having been away from the office during Alternative Reading Week, I am fortunate to be able to provide wonderful opportunities like these to the students living in residence.


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

I wish the community knew that there is more than meets the eye for YESS youth. YESS youth are humans just like you and me, who are currently experiencing difficult circumstances. Yet, they are so very strong, brave, hopeful, and resilient. It takes tremendous courage to face a world so determined to set barriers in front of them, and yet grow, thrive, and flourish in spite of that, if given the proper support, resources, and compassion.

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Volunteer Highlight: Dutch Delicious

Volunteer Spotlight: Dutch Delicious

The team from Dutch Delicious started volunteering with us in the summer 2019. About once a month they would lend their hands to helping in the kitchen or doing some much-needed outdoor work at our buildings. For their annual “For the Love of Opa” event in 2019, Dutch Delicious selected YESS as their charity of choice, donating 50% of the event day’s sales which came to over $3000.

When the pandemic interrupted their volunteering schedule, the Dutch Delicious team was still eager to help with outdoor work in the summer, following all necessary health protocols.

“I am just so proud of all the work and service to our community that Siebe and his staff have done for YESS,” says our Volunteer Programs Officer. “I feel even though they are a small group they really achieved so much and always exceeded my expectations, so willing to help.”

 Tell us about your organization and how you came to volunteer at YESS.

My first interaction with YESS was at the Ice on Whyte festival. Beside the booth we had as bakery was a coffee stand that was run by volunteers of YESS. A kind older gentleman helped to serve coffee and we chatted regularly, and he even ended up coming to the bakery as a regular customer. During this time we were working on the branding of our company and chose the line “Nourishing Community.” We thought it fitting to have this line connected to our company and the tasks we perform on a daily basis. One leader at the bakery said rightly one day: “Why don’t we really show our true colors and actually go out into the community to help out?” It was then that we met up with our friend and asked for contact details from YESS.

Why did you choose to volunteer at YESS and how do you see your impact as a volunteer?

Although we started because of our connection through a customer, we are blessed to make a difference for YESS as an organization as a whole. Originally we signed up with the kitchen to be helpful in the food area, since we do food as well. Learning that our tasks are not about us but ultimately about the youth you serve, we decided to be blessed as long as we could do anything to minimize the wish list of the organization as a whole. So painting railings, pulling weeds, shoveling snow all helps to have your staff take better care of the youth. In this way we see the youth better served because we could take care of the little things for you. 

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

We as a company really wish that people knew more about the trauma of these youth. With that we can see how much good the organization does as a whole to heal, nourish, and prevent the youth from pain points and danger.

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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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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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Volunteer Interview: The Village

The Village is a volunteer group of 40 community-minded Edmontonians dedicated to supporting the wellbeing of the staff at Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) and their partnering agencies. With wellness and connection being central focus points, The Village aims to be a hive of ideas and activators with innovative ways to emotionally, financially, and even physically support the building of resiliency for the people who are doing such vital work for vulnerable youth in our community.

The Village connected YESS with organizations and individuals through whom we have received hundreds of masks that we use in our programs, including Earthgroove Activewear. They have also worked with our Social Committee, providing gift cards and prizes for staff events.

Learn more about The Village in this interview with members Carmelle Boston, Denise Van Weelden, and Jackie Fetter.

Tell us a bit about yourselves!

Jackie Fetter: I am a wife (Jeff), mother of two incredible children (Josh & Jill), teacher, creator, adventurer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, event creator, doer, and strong supporter of Edmonton, especially those who need support.

Denise Van Weelden: I am professionally a nurse, intuitively a caregiver.  Some of my best work is in the three humans I have nurtured.  I love to travel, slowly, mostly to see how other people live. Volunteering with various non-profits has been some of the most rewarding work of my life.  I am active everyday, loving our Edmonton ravines and valley. 

Carmelle Boston: I have two kids, three dogs and a cat, so obviously patience is my virtue! I got involved in the Village because it truly does take a village to support our youth. My kids are 17 and 20 and the world today isn’t easy to navigate at the best of times.

The Village created and collected hundreds of masks that we currently use in our programs.

How did the concept of The Village evolve?

JF: I first volunteered with YESS in approximately 1995. I have always seen the value of the services that YESS provides. I helped with the Growing Dreams carnival they used to have. Then as fate would have it, a fraternity sister, Margo, became the ED and we reconnected at a mutual friend’s—Denise’s—event. We started to talk and after over a year of discussion on what the needs for YESS were The Village was born! Margo expressed her deep appreciation for her staff and wanting to support them so that YESS can be the best that it can be. Supporting these amazing front line workers who help our most vulnerable was something that immediately inspired me to say “sign me up!” This is a service group built on a desire to actively support the staff of YESS and similar organizations. The Village is exactly a surrounding framework to the amazing work that YESS does. 

YESS reaches out with needs and we find ways to support them.  Our main initiative is to support the staff needs so that they can be at their best to support the youth. We have rallied to make face masks and collect funds to buy gift cards to local businesses around YESS which are being used to keep the staff feeling valued and appreciated during these uncertain times…  We want them to know they are not alone they are doing an amazing job of taking care of the youth—let us take care of dinner,

DVW: I am rich in people and experiences. I count my friends and family as my best treasure, because with them I know anything is possible. I have received kindness and support, and enjoy sharing back to the community. With that in mind, the concept of The Village evolved. How can we harness the wisdom, creativity, and power of our diverse circles? I want the folks of YESS to feel they have such a circle of support like I have known, that is strong and will not let them down. We seek to resource and be the Ways and Means workers, solving whatever obscure needs that may arise.

CB: I got involved with YESS because of Margo Long. Her vision and passion and ability to see the big picture is a game changer for youth in Edmonton. I appreciate how YESS is taking a community, collaborative approach with other partners—it helps to create cohesive systems for all youth.

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

 JF: For youth to need the services of YESS things have happened that are not in their control and we can’t judge their journey but we can show them that they are important, cared about, valued ,and matter to Edmontonians. They are not alone, that is our job as citizens of this amazing city.

DVW: I wish people paused to remember their own hard or dark days, then imagine you are a youth without healthy supports to manage. Youth deserve enfolding to bridge them thru, believe in them even in the days they don’t believe in themselves. Our investments in youth pay off in healthy adults, healthy parents, healthy caring communities. Invest your efforts where it will yield amazing results.

CB: Intervention and support when kids are most vulnerable and most scared makes the biggest difference. Providing food and shelter helps, but knowing that others in the community care and want to help plays a major part in helping youth overcome their challenges. We all have something we can do—no matter how big or small.

Every gift of every size is an investment in the future of our community. Together we can create a community where we can all heal together and thrive together.

Donate Now!

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Volunteer Interview: Martha Doxsey

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I retired 8 years ago from my work as a preschool teacher for children with disabilities with a not-for-profit agency.  I have 2 daughters and a grandson. I enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing, reading, and crafts. I have been very fortunate in my life and have received support when I needed it, so I am very happy to be able to help out now when I can.

How did you come to volunteer at YESS?

I have been a long-time donor because I believe it is so important to help the youth who need it. I live near the Armoury and about six years ago I would walk past and notice the flower beds needed some attention. I first started volunteering in the summer weeding the flower beds. In the fall when that ended I asked about a volunteer activity for the winter and organizing the pantry was suggested. 

In what capacity do you volunteer at YESS?

Now I organize the pantry, all the canned and dry goods donations that come in. It is a perfect volunteer activity for me as I was looking for something requiring physical activity, that was in my community and supported a cause I believe in. The kitchen staff are wonderful and I am glad to be able to help them provide healthy nutritious meals for the youth and make the most of the generous donations. 

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

I wish people saw how much potential the youth have, potential that might be wasted without the support of YESS.

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A Sanctuary Within a Sanctuary

Meet the Latte Family, who created Richard’s Reading Room at the Armoury Resource Centre and created a legacy of giving in memory of their son, Richard

1. Tell us a bit about yourself. My name is Cheryl Latte. I am a mom of five, and a grandma.  I love to help create spaces and sanctuaries for others. Thus far I have helped create a number of spaces including: a playroom at another charitable organization, a family space at an assisted living facility, and have helped set up and decorate homes for new refugee families. Of course Richard’s Reading Room is the space that started it all. When my son Richard passed away tragically at the age of 22 from testicular cancer, I was a mom who was deeply grieving and needed to find something positive to focus on in the face of something so tragic. I thought of YESS and the rest, as they say, is history. I am so humbled that this small space has become an integral part of the YESS landscape, and that Richard (and our family) continue to make a positive difference in the lives of others. 

2. What are some of your strongest beliefs about YESS? YESS helps kids. That is the long and short of it. They help youth in so many ways:  their physical and mental health, and emotional needs. YESS gives them a safe place to be and a soft place to land when their world is anything but. 

3. What is something you wish the community knew about YESS and YESS youth? When I visit the Armoury to tidy Richard’s Reading Room, or to bake with the kids there, I always come away with far more than I give. I can’t count the number of thanks and hugs I have received over the last 7 years. I am always awed at the level of kindness and compassion I see in these kids, and that they are so grateful for the smallest of gestures. I have had the privilege of hearing some of their stories, and they have asked me to share mine. Sharing our stories… it is how we connect with each other, despite our differences. How fitting it is that those stories are often shared in Richard’s Reading Room: a place where stories abound.

4. What inspired you to give to YESS through an endowment? When we were planning the grand opening of Richard’s Reading Room in November 2012, it became apparent that the monetary donations we received from the community to create the room exceeded what we needed at the time. We were lucky enough to meet with a representative from the Edmonton Community Foundation, who suggested that an option for the remaining funds could be to create an endowment fund in Richard’s name. We were excited to go ahead with this, as it would mean that Richard’s legacy would continue to give back for years to come. 

Although the direction of the “Richard Latte Educational Fund” has changed a bit over the years, I’m thrilled to know that Richard’s Reading Room at YESS will continue to receive funds regularly, which will allow the space to continue to be updated, homey, welcoming, aesthetically pleasing, and filled with a selection of good quality youth literature. It will continue to be a “sanctuary within a sanctuary.”

Richard’s chapter is finished, but his story continues thanks to Richard’s Reading Room at YESS and the endowment fund established in Richard’s honor with The Edmonton Community Foundation.

If you’re interested in or have any questions about endowments or legacy giving, please contact our Philanthropy team at giving@yess.org.   

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Volunteering at YESS

Many hands make the work and healing done at YESS possible

YESS volunteers are a huge part of the work we do in our youth programs, in our offices, at special events, and around our buildings every day. In 2018, 435 volunteers gave 5021 hours of their time and dedication to walk beside youth on their journeys towards healing. Volunteers are community individuals, students, and corporate teams looking to give where they live.

At the 2019 YESS Gala for Youth volunteers greeted guests, sold raffle tickets, and helped set up and tear down the incredible Underneath the Stars experience. Our gala and golf tournament would not be the same without our event volunteers. YESS volunteers are also part of major community events such as Interstellar Rodeo and this year’s Edmonton Craft Beer Festival that benefit YESS. They are part of the impact YESS is making on the community.

In programs volunteers help wake up youth in the shelter, serve lunch at the daytime resource centre, and host fun events for all youth like Easter egg hunts, Halloween parties, and BBQs.

One team of volunteers that has done a lot of work over the past two years is Distribution NOW. Their enthusiasm when they come to YESS is so contagious and we’re always happy to see them!

“The DistributionNOW Lights Program was created to encourage our people to look for ways to support organizations and causes that help others and improve our communities,” says Nan Mifflin, General Manager of the Edmonton Distribution Centre at Distribution NOW. “As an industry leader, DistributionNOW believes it is our responsibility to use our influence and relationships to promote increased philanthropic efforts throughout our Canada-wide branch network and with our industry partners.  DistributionNOW is a proud supporter of YESS and their vision to walk beside traumatized youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration.”

Volunteers also help in the maintenance of our facilities at Whyte Ave, the Armoury Resource Centre, and Shanoa’s Place. Led by our amazing Facilities team, volunteers organize donations, plant gardens, tidy yards, and paint. Some volunteers take on even bigger jobs, like at the United Way Engineering Day of Caring. Volunteers with engineering backgrounds replaced roof shingles, installed new flooring in shelter areas, and built a new patio base in the Whyte Ave yard. It was a huge “done in a day” effort that we couldn’t have accomplished without them!

We like to share the quote “Changing the world always needs volunteers.” Our volunteers are truly making a positive impact in the lives of youth by working directly with them, creating safe spaces for them, and providing support for resources that empower them. This work is changing our community, creating a city where we can all heal together.

Are you interested in sharing your time and dedication with youth on their journeys towards healing? Visit YESS.org/volunteer to check out volunteer opportunities and apply to volunteer!

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