YESS Champion

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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Got Milk?

The YESS kitchens do thanks to a partnership with Alberta Milk!

 “It has been a huge relief for our kitchen to not have to worry about where we are going to buy milk for our kids,” says Cherish Hepas, YESS Kitchen Supervisor. “Thanks to Alberta Milk and their long-term friendship with us, our kids are given the amount suggested to us by the Canada Food Guide. We need more friends like them! They are giving our youth a healthy beginning to a new future.”

Alberta Milk is proud to partner with YESS and to be part of providing our youth with proper nutrition. Says Charmaine Blatz from Alberta Milk, “Alberta Milk is proud to support initiatives such as this. We understand the issues that face these kids and are happy to provide support the YESS in all the programs they have.”

Recipe

YESS Dream Summer Smoothie

With frozen peaches and mangos, these quick & easy smoothies can make any day a tropical dream.

Servings: 1 smoothie (recipe may easily be doubled)

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Total Time: 5 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup peeled and sliced peaches, cold (frozen peaches should be thawed)
  • 1/2 cup chopped mangoes, cold (frozen mangoes should be thawed)
  • 1/4 cup mango nectar, cold
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 of a banana
  • 2 teaspoons agave (optional)
  • ½ cup of 0% Greek yogurt

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and purée until completely smooth. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy cold.

https://youtu.be/QUCgKpuVU0I

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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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Spring Recipe from The Organic Box

The Organic Box provides hundreds of dollars’ worth of produce to our kitchens every week. They have also shared their passion for helping our youth with their Food Family initiative, which leads to donations of almost $13,000 annually.

Oven-Roasted Root Crops with Chicken

  • 8 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 8 ounces potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces romanesco broccoli, trimmed to similar pieces
  • 6 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths, thick ends halved lengthwise
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp dried, divided
  • 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary or 3/4 tsp dried
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2.5-3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 475 degrees. Toss brussels sprouts, potatoes, shallots, carrots, garlic, oil, 2 tsp fresh thyme, 1 tsp fresh rosemary, sugar, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper together in a large mixing bowl. 
  2. In a small mixing bowl stir together melted butter, remaining 2 tsp fresh thyme, remaining 1 tsp fresh rosemary, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place vegetables in a single layer on an 18 by 13-inch baking sheet, arranging brussels sprouts in the center. Place chicken, skin side up, on top of vegetables, arranging thighs around the perimeter of the sheet. 
  4. Brush chicken with herb butter. Roast until thighs register 175 degrees, 35-40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through roasting.
  5. Remove sheet from oven, tent loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter or plates. Toss vegetables with pan juices, season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to platter or plates and serve warm.
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Winter Recipe from The Organic Box

The Organic Box provides hundreds of dollars’ worth of produce to our kitchens every week. They have also shared their passion for helping our youth with their Food Family initiative, which has led to donations of over $13,000.

 

Winter Vegetable Strata

Adapted from The Kitchen Paper (thekitchenpaper.com)

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed (1″)

1 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup shallots, minced

2 bunches kale, chopped (2 cups)

8 cups crusty bread, cubed (1″)

1 tbsp grainy mustard

1 tbsp fresh thyme

10 eggs

2 cups half & Half cream

1 Cup gruyere, shredded

2/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped, for topping

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Toss butternut squash with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet until fork-tender (20ish minutes).
  2. In a heavy-bottom skillet, melt the butter and add the shallots. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the kale and cook until wilted. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Whisk together mustard, thyme, eggs, and 1/2/ & 1/2. Set aside.
  4. Arrange the bread, squash, kale mixture and cheese in layers in the skillet, reserving a handful of cheese for topping.
  5. Pour the egg mixture over everything in the pan. Let the bread absorb the eggs for a few minutes (up to an hour in the fridge).
  6. Reduce the oven to 350. Cook the strata for 45-55 minutes, or until the center is no longer wobbly. Add the reserved cheese and broil for a minute to crisp everything up.
  7. Let cool for a few minutes, top with hazelnuts and serve.
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Interview with YESS Board Chair Robert Blackwell

You’ve served on the YESS board for a number of years. What was it about the work YESS does that first drew you to YESS?

I moved to Edmonton 11 years ago as general manager of a hotel on the south side,and was first introduced to YESS through assisting with complimentary meeting space, rooms, etc. which we were happy to provide. We became more involved as our employees participated in Homeless for a Night several years running, so our employees actually chose YESS as our local charity to support. I always felt that YESS was a great fit for our hospitality team as both strive to provide a safe, welcoming environment and comfort to people in need of shelter.

How does serving on a board empower you to give back to your community?

When I look at my own three kids who have grown into healthy, confident young adults, I am incredibly grateful that my wife and I were able to provide a stable, loving home for them and provide them with opportunities to grow and thrive. Working on the YESS board has allowed me to give back by supporting this amazing organization providing sanctuary and support, walking beside Edmonton youth to help them build successful lives after suffering trauma and homelessness during their most critical formative years.

What has been your most remarkable experience at YESS?

The most remarkable thing about YESS is the staff. I am in awe at how committed and passionate they remain through dealing with challenges and incidents every week, and sometimes every day, that would break the spirit of many people. The shelter they provide, programs they deliver, and relationships they build with Edmonton youth facing difficult realities is truly remarkable and changes lives—not many people can say that about the vocation they have chosen, and we all need to be grateful for the people who make organizations like YESS possible.

What do you wish the community knew about YESS?

I wish everyone in Edmonton understood that homeless youth will grow into homeless adults or suffer even worse fates if we don’t act to help them, and there is not nearly enough focus on youth homelessness by all levels of government or funding for organizations like YESS. YESS provides emergency shelter, residential programs, daytime programs, and many other forms of assistance in three facilities, but 70% of our $4M+ budget comes from fundraising efforts. Executive Director Margo Long is working with similar local agencies to build a network dedicated to helping youth, but we need to change how the community and governments view youth homelessness and provide funding in keeping with the scope and consequences of the problem.

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Fall Recipe from The Organic Box

The Organic Box provides hundreds of dollars’ worth of produce to our kitchens every week. They have also shared their passion for helping our youth with their Food Family initiative, which has led to donations of over $13,000.

 

Carrot Cake Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups flour (mixture of white and whole wheat works well)

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup melted coconut oil

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup plain yogurt

3 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups finely shredded carrots

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Shaved coconut and rolled oats for topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare muffin tins with liners
  2. Sift together flour(s), baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together brown sugar and coconut oil. Beat in the applesauce and yogurt until fully combined. Add the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla.
  4. Using a spatula, stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in the carrots, raisins and walnuts.
  5. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and top with shaved coconut or rolled oats if desired.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out cleanly. Cool to room temperature before enjoying.
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YESS Champions: Boston Pizza Northern Alberta

We asked the staff in our overnight shelter, Nexus, what it’s like when youth arrive for the night and they all easily agreed on a highlight:

YESS Champions_Boston Pizza

“A big part of Nexus is when the youth come into program and they are excited to know what is for dinner. It creates a habit of coming together despite the harsh realities of their lives and gives them something to look forward to. Most of the time, youth offer to help staff set up for dinner. Once everyone is downstairs together, it gives staff a chance to ask youth about their day in more detail and plans/goals for the week; our youth are usually more relaxed once they’ve eaten. As part of building our youth’s daily life skills, everyone pitches in with chores to clean up the shared space and youth who work the following day get a chance to make a lunch for the following morning, creating time management skills and taking responsibility for themselves.”

Always proud to respond to the needs of the community wherever they can, the franchisees of Boston Pizza Northern Alberta have been strong ongoing supporters of the extraordinary youth who come to YESS. For more than a decade, they have generously provided the resources necessary to support at-risk youth through a variety of channels, including access to counselling, medical care, hot meals, and a safe place to spend the night. From the memorable and complete renovation of our Whyte Ave main kitchen in 2009, food donations, the many hours of volunteer time and providing financial resources to a variety of YESS programs and events, the franchisees of Boston Pizza Northern Alberta exemplify the true meaning of giving in so many ways. And of course, they’ve given us so much pizza for Pizza and Movie Nights for the youth!

Thank you to each of the franchisees of Boston Pizza Northern Alberta, for your generous support!

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A Summer Recipe from The Organic Box!

The Organic Box provides hundreds of dollars’ worth of produce to our kitchens every week. They have also shared their passion for helping our youth with their Food Family initiative, which has led to donations of over $13,000.

 

Baked Cheesy Zucchini Bites

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded zucchini

2 eggs

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Dump the shredded zucchini onto a paper towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. When zucchini is dry, dump into a large bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
  4. Using a spoon, measure out 1 tbsp portions, tightly packed, onto a parchment-lined baking tray.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
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Level Up Gaming League brings tabletop fun to YESS youth

Last year YESS was approached by a brand new organization called Level Up Gaming League. They wanted to share their love of tabletop gaming and all its fun and benefits with our youth. They were connected with the youth at Shanoa’s Place for their very first Dungeons & Dragons campaign with YESS youth!

Level Up Gaming League believes that tabletop gaming has the power to create positive change in our community, and that by harnessing the power of gaming people can be empowered to build better futures for themselves. They provide gaming opportunities for organizations that support at-risk populations. With the groups they work with they encourage the social development of youth and adults through intentional gaming and build a culture of inclusivity, acceptance, creativity, and honesty.

The campaign at Shanoa’s Place took about four months to complete, with sessions held every second week. A few youth were really engaged from the beginning, and a few more participated here and there. All of the youth who participated enjoyed this new and creative experience.

YESS Youth Worker Dolphin noticed a number of new skills the campaign got our youth to practice. Dungeons & Dragons proved to be a powerful tool for teaching the link between choices and consequences. Challenges and riddles were opportunities for the players to cooperate and collaborate on solutions. And for an age group that’s used to the immediacy of video games, the switch to tabletop taught players to be patient.

YESS youth Jared loved the experience: “The Dungeons & Dragons program through YESS has been an exciting experience for me. It allowed me an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and, best of all, live vicariously through my character. My favourite part for sure is getting to experience new ideologies, cultures, and even behaviours through the game. Dungeons & Dragons is so much more than just a pen and paper game, really, and I thank YESS for coordinating such incredible play sessions with the talented Dungeon Master Bryan Sali and his artistic accomplice, James.”

“Working at Shanoa’s Place has been an extremely rewarding experience for us,” says Bryan Sali, President of Level Up Gaming League. “What surprised us was the level of involvement from the staff who joined us at the table and who have become part of a team with the youth who live there. The adventuring party that joins us at our gaming table every other week is an amazing group of people who have worked together to solve problems and build an incredible collaborative story; and we have all learned a few things about ourselves, each other, and how to work together.”

The team from Level Up Gaming League is currently kicking off their second Dungeons & Dragons campaign with YESS youth! This summer they’ll also host tabletop gaming days at our Armoury Resource Centre for youth in our daytime program. Let’s get rolling!

Learn more about Level Up Gaming League!

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