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.
YESS is honoured to recognize The Vans Community Fund and the local Vans store in West Edmonton Mall for their continuous leadership and dedication to support youth experiencing homelessness in Canada. Through their monthly donations of clothing and footwear, the dedicated staff at Vans has shown immense positivity when engaging customers on the impact they can have on the youth accessing our programs. In March of 2023, the Vans Community Fund generously donated over $16,000 to YESS. Thank you to Vans and the Vans Community for being a pillar of change and breaking the cycle of homelessness.
Vans WEM makes monthly donations of clothing and footwear
National Philanthropy Day falls on November 15. The day provides an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of giving and all that it has made possible. National Philanthropy Day celebrates the endless daily contributions individuals and organizations across the world make to countless causes and missions.
“We support YESS because we see it as a positive institution delivering real change in the lives of youth experiencing homelessness in our community. Within our community Vans gives back through store donations of gently used and nonsalable product to organizations helping youth and families in need. Vans also donates product for Go Skate Day, and during the Fort Mac fires, sent an entire semi trailer of product up from California to help families in need. Each family got a free meal, pair of shoes and piece of clothing. They’ve also been spotted helping out the arts scene here in Edmonton!”
On July 13-15, Simons and YESS collaborated to highlight our longstanding relationship with a wonderful celebration of art at the Simons WEM location. This incredible event was a beautiful showing of the various kinds of artistic gifts and talents of YESS youth artists, Simons staff artists, and YESS staff artists alike. Guests enjoyed an exhibition of eclectic creativity including beautifully crafted bead work, monochrome sketching focused on the visual power of black, white, and shades in between, colourful and emotive paintings of acrylic on canvas, watercolor and digital art, and multimedium projects.
In addition to a beautiful gallery of 85 pieces of amazing art, we were also able to give six youth the opportunity to create art live in the store, together with participating Simons and YESS staff artists.
For the past 11 years, Simons has been an incredible champion and support of the YESS art program. Providing funding for supplies, artists in residence, and program coordinators, Simons has empowered youth to explore various media types and develop their artistic knowledge and skills.
Yvonne Cowan, Director of Store Operations, Simons WEM, has seen the growth of evolution of both the art programming and the youth as artists. “In these exceptional times it is our hope that the interactive arts activities in YESS programs continues to provide youth with an opportunity to engage their creativity, continue their path to hope and healing, and celebrate their strength and courage through the visual arts.”
Why is art an important aspect of YESS programs? Art therapy is instrumental in helping youth work through difficult experiences and emotions. Art promotes self-expression and personal independence, and encourages the development of healthy coping strategies. Making art builds strengths such as decision-making, teamwork, positive self esteem and mastery, self-soothing abilities, overall mental wellness, and the ability to express oneself in a healthy manner. These are all skills that youth at YESS need in order to succeed, and many of them have been able to take their art practice and use it in ways that serve them best.
Melissa Mukai, Program Coordinator at YESS, facilitates the youth art program and coordinated the space for youth to do live art in-store for the art show. “We had the opportunity to showcase YESS youth and staff art at Simons WEM over the three days of the art show. In addition to a beautiful gallery of amazing art, we were also able to give six youth the opportunity to create art live in the store. We, the youth and YESS staff, were met with nothing but kindness and warmth from the Simons team, with them going above and beyond any expectations I had to make a safe and enjoyable experience for the youth. Our youth represented YESS beautifully; they were total professionals, and it really was a joy to see them so welcomed and supported out in the community.”
A huge thank you to Simons for their unwavering support of YESS and for hosting our spectacular collaborative art show. We appreciate their dedication to showcasing the artistic brilliance of young minds, which is truly remarkable.
In December 2022, The Home Depot Canada Foundation hosted their annual Orange Door Project holiday campaign in support of youth-focused charities across the country! The Home Depot Canada Foundation is committed to preventing and ending youth homelessness. Together with community partners across the country, they work to break cycles of inequity and enable at-risk youth facing homelessness achieve positive development outcomes and realize their full potential.
In the Edmonton area, eight The Home Depot stores selected YESS as their charity of choice for their Orange Door Project holiday campaign. In total YESS will be granted $51,810.40 as a result of the successful campaign!
We are so grateful to these local stores for their initiative to support youth in their community! Thank you to:
I was born and have lived my entire life in Edmonton. We had a family business on the Southside (99 St. and 82 Avenue) where I worked for several years until we moved our business downtown in 1980 to 112 St. and Jasper Avenue. My whole career has been focused on the travel industry so I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see much of the world. Traveling is a great educator and certainly puts into perspective just how lucky we are in Canada in comparison to many other countries. Yes, our weather could be better but aside from that I’ve always found Edmonton to be a great place to raise a family (I’m married and have one son who is a teacher, and we have two granddaughters). My wife and I sold our company (Globetrotter Travel Ltd.) back in 2014 but remain very active in the travel industry as IC’s (independent contractors) for the firm that purchased us – Vision Travel. Vision is a privately held agency with some 50 offices across Canada with annual sales approaching $1 billion. It’s one of Canada’s largest agencies and their buying power has given us terrific opportunities to provide many extra amenities to our clients which in turn has allowed us to grow our business to the point that my wife Sue is amongst the top producers for the company in Canada.
What inspired you to support youth in our community?
My father Carlos (since deceased) was a Member of the Rotary Club of Edmonton South for many years. The Club used to meet first at the Park Hotel on Calgary Trail and 80th Avenue (now I’m dating myself!) and after the hotel burned down we moved for many years to the Renford Inn, which is now the Varscona Hotel. That is where I eventually joined Rotary back in 1978 at the age of 20. For over 11 years I was the youngest member of the Club. I had a great opportunity to meet many of the movers and shakers of business who had major companies on the South Side and I received a lot of guidance and inspiration from these individuals. I got to see that while they were very successful, they also knew that giving back to the community was important and that was a valuable lesson for me as a young man starting out in business myself. It inspired me to join the Board of the Club and I was given the portfolio of Community Service. It was at that time that our Club received a letter requesting funding from a brand new organization call YESS (Youth Emergency Shelter Society back then) and I was really taken with the concept that they were looking to implement. Being from a loving and stable background, I couldn’t directly relate to what many young people were going through but knew that it was important to fill the gap that existed for young people in need. YESS required a commercial dishwasher in order to get their occupancy license (a $3,500.00 request, so quite a bit of money at that time). I pushed hard for the request to be fulfilled and thankfully I had the support of my fellow board members and that gave YESS the final item they needed in order to open their doors and they still serve the community from that very same location all these years later. I myself have been a Member of Edmonton South for 45 years.
What is one thing you wish the community knew about YESS?
Your [recent] presentation [to the Rotary Club] reminded me of all the extra work that YESS now does for youth in the community and I truly believe that most Edmontonians don’t fully realize the scope of what great work you really do for youth in our community.
Collin, Janel & the team at Collin Bruce Mortgage Team have had profound impact with their philanthropic commitment over the past 10 years. As passionate advocates and ambassadors for our youth in the community, the Collin Bruce Mortgage Team has helped to strengthen the futures of our youth through their many creative and generous avenues of support. With television and radio commercials, they have been instrumental in raising awareness of the challenges our youth face. Their benevolence has extended to major financial support, Christmas gifts for the youth celebrating the holidays at YESS, and they have generously matched support for fundraising initiatives at SONiC 102.9.
For the past 17 years, SONiC 102.9 has been serving our community and bringing people together with their annual Halloweenie Roast! With their partnership with the Collin Bruce Mortgage Team, they continue to raise awareness and show immense support to the youth accessing YESS programs. Be sure to tune in for all the best of Edmonton and hear about great upcoming fundraisers they host including the Abandoned Shopping Carts of YEG Calendars.
“SONiC is Alternative Edmonton, which means we love this city and want to support our community. YESS does fantastic, life-changing work and they are deserving of everyone’s support.” – SONiC 102.9
“We are proud supporters of YESS. These are kids, put in horrible situations. I can’t imagine what would happen to these youth if it wasn’t for YESS. This is why it is so incredibly important to support YESS and why we will continue to do so.” – Collin Bruce
The Abandoned Shopping Carts of YEG calendars are currently in their fifth year! It began as a silly topic on the radio to collect photos of abandoned carts around the city, but quickly grew into an awesome charity initiative supporting YESS! The calendars contain listeners’ photos, alternative album anniversaries, and rock star birthdays, and are printed locally at Print Machine.
Order yours online at sonic1029.com or pick one up at TGIF on Gateway Boulevard!
YESS is honoured to recognize TELUS for their dedication in transforming the lives of youth experiencing homelessness. With their years of philanthropic commitment TELUS has been a pivotal support for youth to address trauma and have the resources they need to focus on healing. TELUS’ passion for community is exemplified in their annual TELUS Days of Giving and numerous employee engagement efforts. TELUS Community Ambassadors lend their support in ensuring youth have memorable holidays at YESS. Since 2000, the TELUS team and retirees have contributed over $430,000. Additionally, the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation through the Edmonton Community Board also contributed $72,000 in grants since 2005. Their generosity continues to make a profound impact on youth through the essential programs at YESS. Thank you to TELUS for being a pillar of support as we focus on breaking the cycle of youth homelessness.
“We believe that good business and doing good go hand-in-hand and are incredibly proud to be able to leverage our resources, time, and compassion to make a difference in our communities. Through our give where we live philosophy, since 2000, TELUS, our team members, and retirees have provided more than $1.4B in cash, in-kind contributions, time, and programs and volunteered 1.8 million days to charities and community organizations in our local communities—just like YESS. It is an honour to support the meaningful work of YESS who are not only helping to transform the lives of youth experiencing homelessness but also helping to make the world a better place.” – Jill Schnarr, Chief Social Innovation and Communications Officer, TELUS
The remodeling of Graham’s Place bathroom space and laundry room has provided a comfortable home-like environment for youth to thrive and achieve their personal goals. The new laundry room has provided a sustainable way for our staff to teach life skills, and the remodeled bathrooms have created a space of self-care and privacy. The new setup for bathrooms has also taken away the notion of gendered bathrooms and has created a safe and neutral environment for all.
Tell us why you choose to support YESS?
YESS is a locally based, grass-roots organization that aligns with many of the values ECECAF strives to uphold. We recognize the desperate situation of traumatized youth in Edmonton and applaud the tireless dedication by YESS to mitigate and heal this issue. We especially realize the importance of supporting youth as they are our future.
How does ECECAF give back to the community?
ECECAF gives back to the community by helping our contributing members to help others on a larger scale through collective donations.
We choose to support local organizations which in turn tend to support the community we live in, our members, their families, and their neighbours.
Why is it important for ECECAF to support the community?
With our motto being “Impacting Lives and Promoting Healthy Communities,” ECECAF was formed in 1941 to address three main concerns:
To contribute to the comfort of military patients in Edmonton hospitals
To provide assistance to soldiers and their families during WWII
To give financial assistance to charitable and welfare organizations formed for the purpose of scientific research into the causes and cures of diseases
We still believe that by helping those in our community who need help the most, we help the entire community in turn.
The YESS Youth Education and Employment Program provides youth between the ages of 15–24 with skills and knowledge to help them identify career goals, access job-specific training, and learn job readiness skills like cover letter writing and interview skills.
This year, we are so grateful for the support of The Home Depot Canada Foundation and their grant of $150,000 in support of the Youth Education and Employment Program! The Home Depot Canada Foundation is committed to preventing and ending youth homelessness in Canada. Together with community partners across the country, they work to remove barriers, break cycles of inequity, and enable at-risk youth facing homelessness to achieve positive development outcomes and realize their full potential.
Staff at the Skyview, South Common, Westmount, and Windermere Home Depot locations with The Home Depot Canada Foundation grant amount of $150,000 in support of YESS
We talked to YESS staff members Caitlin Parker, Karley Spelrem, and Juwayriya Abdullahi, who run and support the Youth Education and Employment Program, about what they see youth learn and achieve in this program.
Describe your role at YESS!
Caitlin and Juwayriya:We are the Employment Coordinators. We facilitate the Youth Education and Employment Program. Before the program begins, we provide information to youth about what the program entails and complete the intake for each of the youth who are interested. We also reach out and form connections to agencies throughout Edmonton to support the youth during their placements. During the program, we teach youth for three weeks about life skills that can help them obtain employment. An example of this would be discussing employability skills and mental health. After this takes place, each of the youth complete the 12-week employment/practicum portion of the program. We support both the youth and the employers throughout these weeks. Finally, we work with the Transitional Worker to form a plan for what comes next after each youth has completed the entire 15-week program.
Karley:I am the Transitional Worker at YESS where I work with our Supportive Housing Program to transition youth out of our group homes and into independence. I also work with community youth as well as Children Services youth to transition them into our group homes. I support youth in the Youth Education and Employment Program with their transition out of the program, whether that is getting hired onto to work full-time or finding alternative job placements that work with their schedules.
Describe the Youth Education and Employment Program.
The Youth Education and Employment Program is a 15-week program that assists youth between the ages of 15-24 with building skills to enter the workforce. The first three weeks entails in-class lessons with the Employment Coordinators where the youth learn life skills such as resume building and how to be successful in an interview. Following that, the youth are placed with an employer for 12 weeks while being provided with the support needed to ensure they are successful at their work placements. Finally, a transition plan is created to provide the youth with a clear path for what their life will look like after the employment program is complete.
What are the training/opportunities/outlets that this program provides for youth who access YESS?
The Youth Education and Employment Program provides youth with three weeks of in-class training, followed by 12 weeks of work experience at a place of employment. Youth are trained in basic safety courses such as First Aid and food safety, as well as employment-specific training by obtaining licensing, that is required by employers at their work placements. Youth are led through different courses during the initial 3 weeks which include employment skills, mental health, sexual awareness, and finances. The program supports youth in their placements of choice by seeking to eliminate barriers that might cause inconsistency.
How is this program part of the YESS mission to walk beside youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration?
Within our Youth Education and Employment Program we provide youth with training on mental health, relationships, boundaries, advocacy, health and safety, basic hygiene, cooking skills, etc. We prioritize the first three weeks to class time where we enhance each of these skills before entering the workplace. We also ensure the youth are housed or have housing set up prior to attending the program to eliminate any barriers while in the work field. With this wraparound support from Employment Coordinators and Transitional Workers, we are able to ensure the success of each youth after the eight-week mark of completing our employment program.
What is one thing you wish the community knew about youth who access YESS?
Juwayriya:The youth who access YESS did not choose to experience the barriers they face. They are survivors who are fighting to break the cycle of violence and trauma they have been entrenched in. They are inspiring because of their motivation to help improve their circumstances. They are resilient because they are persistent in their resolve despite setbacks.
The youth at YESS have experienced trauma throughout their lives, yet they are tenacious in their pursuit of healing, community integration, and reaching their full potential in life.
Thank you so much to the Youth Education and Employment Program work experience partners!
Atlantic Fence Bottle Depot Windermere (Windermere, 3515 Allan Drive) Bottle Depot Winterburn (West End, 21410 100 Ave) Evergreen Recycling FIND Edmonton Habitat for Humanity – ReStore North Habitat for Humanity – ReStore Sherwood Park Habitat for Humanity – ReStore South Habitat for Humanity – ReStore West Little Caesars (McConachie Edmonton) Pita Pit (104 Street NW, Whyte Ave) YESS Kitchen
The Youth Education and Employment Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy
We want to give a huge thanks to D’Arcy’s Meat Market for supporting youth in their community amidst all their other giving initiatives!
The partnership we have built with them continues to support our kitchen and provides nutrition for youth who access our programs. We talked to Kyle Iseke, owner of D’Arcy’s Meat Market, about why their team chose to give to YESS.
We had been looking for a few places that we could donate some meats as we had been very busy during this pandemic. Our team was staying safe and customers were very supportive. Earlier in the year we had donated a large order of ground beef to the St. Albert Food Bank and thought about finding a different place to send some meats and sort of spread the love around, especially because we have a location in Edmonton. When we started looking for a place, we found some were not accepting donations because of the pandemic. It was around this time YESS had reached out to us looking for help getting proteins and obviously the timing was great, but also YESS does wonderful work and has a great reputation for making a difference, so it was an easy choice to get on board.
I think in general D’Arcy’s Meat Market is giving back to the community by serving as a bridge between local livestock producers and consumers looking to purchase local meat. So much of what we consume these days comes from so far away and we believe that simply by using the amazing agriculture we have in this province we can support our economy, improve our food security, lessens the environmental strain caused by long haul trucking or flying in foods, and provide a more natural product that undergoes less processing. Of course, we also try to support causes like YESS, the Food Bank, SAIF (Stop Abuse in Families Society in St. Albert), and as many shelters, sports organizations, and silent auctions that we can afford.
Giving back to the community is very important because when we have a strong and well-supported society, I believe my business thrives. I also have two young children and I’d like to set a good example for them that, when possible, taking care of your neighbours is an important thing to do.
Photo credit: D’Arcy’s Meat Market team after they won the best sausage in Edmonton award / Photo courtesy of Kyle Iseke