YESS Champion

Donor Spotlight: Louise Davis

It is a gift in itself to be able to so eloquently share deeply personal memories that echo resilience in times of hardship, and ultimately, a determination to find wellbeing. Long-time annual donor, Louise Davis, generously reflects on a time when love, belief, forgiveness, and compassion made all the difference in her journey through adolescence and life choices. She is certain of the powerful impact of constructive support, care, and guidance in young lives. Louise shares her confidence in the very real difference that can be made, and the better future that can be built, when a child knows that their well-being is our utmost concern.

 

I was born in 1932, the eldest of three children, at the beginning of the Great Depression. Everyone was poor so there were very few class distinctions. As I recall, until my mother became ill, we were happy with a loving extended family, grandmother, aunts, and uncles. Everyone tried to help us, but it meant that we, the children, had to be separated during school holidays so my father could work. In 1943, when I was eleven years old, my mother died at 34 years of age after suffering terribly with cancer. At that time, although everything was done to help her, medicine was not as advanced as it now is. As the oldest child, I understood what was happening. This affected my entire life and the choices I made.

The death of a parent is a life-altering event for everyone, my father included. He was young, at an age when today many men begin their first marriages. Here he was now with three bereaved children, so after 4 years, he married again. Unfortunately, the relationship between his new wife and we children was not happy or healthy, so we again became separated. My brother always said he could have used YESS at that time.

My sister and I became nurses. I spent most of my apprenticeship caring for people with cancer, but later concentrated on psychiatry. My sister developed a love of babies and worked in maternity. My brother was a businessman. We all valued family above all and built happy, secure homes. I had no children, but my brother and sister together have eight well-adjusted, happy young adults, most of whom have started families of their own. We made certain that our families would not suffer instability by working together, providing unconditional love whenever needed.

There were few community supports when I was a child, but families were larger and stronger in some ways. When my husband and I heard about YESS we decided to be supporters. Children are our most valuable asset. They are trying to build a system of identity, ethics, and beliefs to support themselves as they grow and learn, but they need help to do this. Disruptions at the teenage years are disastrous, especially if they interfere with the love and support they need. Sometimes parents are ill, or ill-equipped to care for their children. At other times they have not had a good experience themselves to pass on to their own children. There are many reasons for family instability and failure. People, like me, who can help should do their best.

I chose annual donations because I use investment income for charitable purposes. It is not until late in the year, after I know what is required to maintain my home and support for family that I have a true picture of funds available for others.

All I know about YESS youth began with my own experiences with family instability. My sister, brother, and I made our way to adulthood with the support of extended family and friends. We were separated, but kept together emotionally so that we could strengthen our ties as adults. We knew we were loved. That is what is so important. Young people need to know that others care about what happens to them personally. I think YESS can do that and that I can help in my small way. Nothing is more precious than our youth.

 


 

The potential to change young people’s lives is exciting! Every gift, regardless of the size, allows YESS to fund the ongoing operations that support the life-changing programs and resources that empower our youth to heal, improve their wellbeing, and find connection and stability. Your gift is a deeply appreciated motion of confidence in the leadership and activities at YESS. Do you already support YESS with an annual donation? Thank you! Please consider the power of an increased gift that would be gratefully received and help us to enhance and grow our capacity to respond to unique and important opportunities that will further serve our youth.

To make your annual donation, visit YESS.org/donate or contact our Development Office at 780-468-7070.  We’d be delighted to speak with you and hear what inspired your gift!

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National Philanthropy Day 2017: Simons

Celebrations are an important part of our lives. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events with our friends and families. National Philanthropy Day is celebrated on November 15 each year by YESS and dozens of other agencies in Edmonton, across Canada, and even around the world. This year we have nominated three of our donors for special recognition on National Philanthropy Day. They joined us at the Shaw Convention Centre where the Association of Fundraising Professionals hosted a feast and a fete for hundreds of donors from Edmonton organizations. Please join us in thanking our nominees for their extensive and expansive support of homeless youth in our community.

Simons

Simons has become deeply invested in taking action through YESS’ Interactive Art program and has made a powerful impact in our youth’s lives. Thanks to our long-term partnership with Simons, the Interactive Art Program was developed and continues to mentor and build the talents of our youth. When they find an art form they are passionate about they are able to use it as a tool to express themselves, learn new things, and set new goals—all skills that can change their lives. Yvonne Cowan, Director of Store Operations at Simons West Edmonton Mall, tells us, “We feel very strongly that reaching out at this level is a small step in advancing the confidence of youth. It allows them to express feelings through their work that they might not be able to verbalize with others. Art is a voice that can never be silenced. Art is a voice that needs to be heard.”

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National Philanthropy Day: The REALTORS® Community Foundation

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!

The REALTORS® Community Foundation

For 26 years, The REALTORS® Community Foundation has both inspired and encouraged Youth Empowerment & Support Services (YESS) in its delivery of supports and programs for our youth. The team began in 1994 with their Edmonton Bike Nights and Ride for Kids community fundraisers, sponsorship of our annual Golf Classic. We have been the beneficiaries of their time and unique skills with volunteering. They’ve given the gift of enhanced safety to our kids with their investment in the security system upgrades at our Armoury Resource Centre (ARC), pride of home with the upkeep and renovations of our buildings, caring comfort with new furniture within our programs. And, their most recent investment in our Art Therapy Program will help to facilitate connection, self-expression and healing for our youth. The REALTORS® Community Foundation continues to weave a lasting, sustainable legacy within our organization, the lives of our youth, and the community at large. YESS is so grateful for the support of the REALTORS® team for helping to shape our future and strengthen the critical supports for our youth as they they address they address life-changing trauma and homelessness.

“The REALTORS® Community Foundation has proudly supported YESS since 1989 and in 26 of the last 31 years. Their tremendous compassion for youth facing homelessness in the Edmonton Area is evident in their programs and facilities. By meeting youth where they’re at and offering diverse programs, youth of many backgrounds and interests are able to connect to positive paths forward, empowering them to achieve their goals and contribute to a strong, vibrant future for our community. The Foundation has committed to a three-year pledge to YESS in support of their continued efforts to support youth in our city which will bring total giving to the organization to over $300,000 upon fulfillment. REALTORS® care about the communities in which they live and work; through the Foundation they invest in charities, such as YESS, who are doing the important work so needed to create opportunities for all community members to thrive.”

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The Powerful Impact of Memorial Giving

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

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

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

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

 


 

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

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

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

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YESS Champion: Oodle Noodle

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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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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