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.

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