This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Adult literacy programs break down barriers to employment
Workplace youth mentoring changes lives
Reducing the stigma of mental illness
New program demonstrates the struggles of poverty
The high cost of low wages
THIS ISSUE OF WE MAGAZINE IS GENEROUSLY SPONSORED BY EPCOR COMMUNITY ESSENTIALS COUNCIL AND NAIT
EPCOR’s Community Essentials Council (ECEC) invests in a wide variety of community causes – everything from outreach support programs for seniors to workforce readiness programs for unemployed people. Learn more about the work we do beyond wires and water. Visit epcor.com/community
WINTER/SPRING • 2013 SPOTLIGHT Employability
Employers need workers and there are still people looking for work, how to bring both groups together By Cheryl Mahaffy
10 A Willing Workforce
19 Speaking UP
Reducing the stigma of mental illness By Cait Wills
DEPARTMENTS 22 Life After ‘Life’ 4 MESSAGE FROM UNITED WAY 5 COMMUNITY CHAMPION
Cliff Higuchi saw a need in the community and in response created a new event
Finding work helps former inmates reintegrate and contribute towards a productive community By Omar Mouallem
26 Jacket Required
Coats for Kids & Families has been providing winter gear to the community for more than 20 years By Michelle Lindstrom
6 THIS WAY IN
United Way happenings including National Child Day and United We’re Strong music video
FEATURES 16 Location, Location, Location
An Edmonton company connects with kids through a worksite mentorship program By Caitlin Crawshaw
9 MYTH BUSTERS
Working poor: A surprising number of Edmontonians work for low wages
29 bridging boundaries
A trio of communities and their unique relationship with United Way By Elizabeth Chorney-Booth
36 LEADING EDGE
A not-for-profit rebrands its image for renewed interest and support
33 Not Your Reality
Community members experience the decisions people living in poverty make every day By Michelle Lindstrom
38 BUSINESS WAY
Two Edmonton businesses commit time, talent and funds
ON THE COVER: 42 MILESTONES Frank went to P.A.L.S., improved The City of Edmonton launches his literacy, found a better job a dedicated United Way and new outlook on life. PHOTO: Aaron Pedersen / 3TEN campaign
39 lasting legacy
Barbara Poole was one of Edmonton’s great philanthropists. Her devotion to the community lives on
we • winter/spring • 2013
O UR WAY
WINTER/SPRING 2013 VOL 2 • No. 2 UNITED WAY OF THE ALBERTA CAPITAL REGION EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Nancy Critchley ASSOCIATE EDITORS: Mike Kluttig, Angela Dorval, David Odumade EDITORIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE Meredith Bongers, Karina Hurtado, Sheilah Pittman, Anne Smith, Jessica Smith-Perry SPONSORSHIP AND CORPORATE SUPPORT COMMITTEE Meredith Bongers, Nancy Critchley, Kevin Fitzgerald, Mike Kluttig, Stephane Hache
Karina Hurtado Community Investment Specialist United Way of the Alberta Capital Region
The Worth of Work
IN THIS ISSUE, WE MAGAZINE EXAMINES THE SOCIAL
and economic implications of employment and the different ways employability impacts diverse populations. Research shows that most low-wage earners are women and unemployment rates for Aboriginal people living off-reserve are usually higher than average. For many low-income households, having a job is no longer a guarantee for meeting a family’s basic needs, much less a door to long-term social and economic security. Working full-time, earning less than $15 per hour while living in Alberta makes it difﬁcult to support a family. In 2010, 51.6 per cent of children experiencing poverty lived in a household where one or more persons worked full-time. Signiﬁcant numbers of newcomers, single mothers, Aboriginal people, seniors and students work in industries that pay low wages and have limited opportunities for career advancement. Therefore, many low-income households work two or three jobs in order to provide their families with an adequate standard of living. We hope this edition of WE offers insight and information into how community agencies and United Way partners are helping individuals realize their potential and increase their earning power. Thanks to our co-sponsors, EPCOR Community Essentials Council and NAIT for their contributions to making this fourth edition of WE magazine possible.
VENTURE PUBLISHING INC. PUBLISHER: Ruth Kelly ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER: Joyce Byrne ASSISTANT PUBLISHER: Andrew Williams MANAGING EDITOR: Bobbi-Sue Menard ART DIRECTOR: Charles Burke ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTOR: Andrea deBoer ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR: Colin Spence PRODUCTION MANAGER: Betty-Lou Smith PRODUCTION TECHNICIAN Brent Felzien CIRCULATION: Jennifer King CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Christa Broadfoot, Nancy Critchley, Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, Caitlin Crawshaw, Angela Dorval, Michelle Lindstrom, Cheryl Mahaffy, Omar Mouallem, David Odumade, Cait Wills CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ILLUSTRATORS: Nancy Critchley, Christy Dean, Dustin Delfs, Buffy Goodman, David Odumade, Aaron Pedersen / 3TEN, Eugene Uhuad ABOUT UNITED WAY United Way of the Alberta Capital Region inspires people to come together to make a lasting difference in our communities.
WE is published for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region by Venture Publishing Inc., 10259-105 Street Edmonton, AB T5J 1E3 Tel: 780-990-0839 Fax: 780-425-4921 Toll-free: 1-866-227-4276 firstname.lastname@example.org
Printed in Canada by Transcontinental Interweb WE is printed on Forest Stewardship Council ® certiﬁed paper Publications Agreement #40020055 ISSN 1925-8690 Contents copyright 2013. Content may not be reprinted or reproduced without permission from United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
Change of Focus
A big event requires a big venue. Inspired by local need, Cliff Higuchi of Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre was a founding force behind Homeless Connect
The Event: Homeless Connect is a
one-day event, held twice a year, that brings together necessary services in one place for Edmontonians who are near or experiencing homelessness. Dental care, tax preparation, vision care, mental health care and more are offered in a judgement-free environment at no cost to attendees in need. Between 1,400 and 1,700 people attend each Homeless Connect in either the spring or fall. The Venue: The Shaw Conference Centre draws attendees and customers from across Alberta, and the world, to Edmonton. The goal of the centre’s employees is to be a part of the economic growth of a city and traditionally, the audience they want to reach is outside the Alberta Capital Region. Homeless Connect changes the focus of the Shaw Conference Centre to an inside-the-community perspective. Cliff Higuchi is vice-president and general manager of the Shaw Conference Centre. He is a founding leader of Homeless Connect and one of its biggest champions. WE: When and why did you come up with the idea of Homeless Connect? Cliff Higuchi: In and around the summer
of 2007, we noticed there was a higher than normal number of people experiencing homelessness using the Shaw as a drop-in centre. In retrospect, there was quite a bit of construction in downtown Edmonton at that time. People were being displaced. At that point, my request to staff was, “You believe this is an issue, what are we going to do? What are some potential solutions?” WE: How was Homeless Connect developed? CH: We did an idea search and came across Homeless Connect in the United States. It looked like a trade show for people experiencing homelessness. Since trade shows are a component of the business at the Shaw, it was fitting. We took the idea to corporate management and then to social service agencies. WE: Was it really that simple to get Homeless Connect started? CH: At the time I was a little flabbergasted, we didn’t get an immediate response. It took us between eight and 10 months to
really get the idea out to agencies across the city. It was a real issue, we were constantly asked, “Why would you want to do this?” I suppose the process was a little bit backwards, usually the idea for an event comes from the agencies. We did receive a lot of initial support from United Way, Homeward Trust and the Edmonton Canadian Mental Health Association. That was enough to keep us moving forward until others understood our goals. WE: How do staff members at the Shaw Conference Centre participate? CH: Homeless Connect is very exciting for us at the Shaw. The staff likes that Homeless Connect is a significant opportunity to give back to the community. Many staff members come out, volunteer and lend suggestions about how to utilize the venue. There is a feeling of ownership amongst the staff. There is a big sense of pride for the Shaw Conference Centre to be the home of Homeless Connect. Learn more about Homeless Connect and a story that inspired Cliff, at www.wemagazine.ca
we • winter/spring • 2013
by UNITED WAY STAFF
CHILDREN’S RIGHTS RECOGNIZED IN EDMONTON
ON NOVEMBER 20 OF EACH YEAR, Canada and countries around the world celebrate National Child Day (NCD) as a reminder of our shared commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In Canada, it also marks two historic dates: the 1959 signing of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the 1989 adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The founding principles of the CRC include acting in the best interests of all children, genuinely considering the views of children in all decisionmaking that affects them and ensuring children have the right to primary consideration in all economic, social, and political decisions, policies, programs and expenditures that impact them. The CRC is the most comprehensive treaty in support of children in existence. It is signed and ratiﬁed by more nations than any other human rights document in history, attesting to its global signiﬁcance and the underlying universal values it upholds. Most importantly, it serves as a reminder that every child in our community deserves to grow up feeling happy, healthy and loved. Success By 6®, a community initiative managed by United Way, the City of Edmonton, YMCA of Edmonton, Edmonton Public School Board, Edmonton Catholic School District, Community Initiatives Against Family Violence and the Ofﬁce of the Child and Youth Advocate, with the generous support of FIRMA Foreign Exchange Corporation, came together in 2012 to celebrate NCD by raising awareness of children who experience marginalization in Edmonton and area. Research shows that there are currently 41,000 children in the Alberta Capital Region living in poverty. That’s enough children to ﬁ ll Rexall Place two and a half
Mayor Stephen Mandel proclaims National Child Day in Edmonton.
times. On NCD many people in our community came together to celebrate children’s rights which included a free swim at 14 pools throughout the city, courtesy of the City of Edmonton and the YMCA of Edmonton on Sunday, November 18. City of Edmonton’s Mayor Stephen Mandel and Franco Savoia, president and CEO of the YMCA of Edmonton, attended an event at Commonwealth Recreation Centre, where Mayor Mandel presented students from Clara Tyner Elementary School with a proclamation declaring November 20 as National Child Day in Edmonton. He promised to ensure Edmonton’s children and youth have the support, encouragement and respect necessary to reach their full potential. National Child Day is an opportunity we can not afford to miss to engage our community as a whole about the key issues affecting children in the Alberta Capital Region. As a city rich in children, it is important to recognize National Child Day, as we are all able to have a positive impact on the lives of children. For more information visit WWW.SUCCESSBY6EDMONTON.INFO/NATIONAL-CHILD-DAY/.
WE MAGAZINE HITS THE BIG SCREEN
WE , THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE of United Way of the Alberta Capital
Region, made its big-screen debut at the 2012 United Way Campaign Kick-off on September 18, 2012, with the launch of WE TV! WE TV brings to life the inspiring stories of people from right here in our community – people like Brittany Tyerman and Tyler Tollefson, who were featured in the Summer/Fall 2012 issue of WE Magazine. Brittany’s story is about a teen who got her life back on track after being referred to the Da Bom Squad, a paramilitary program that helps push youth beyond their physical and
emotional barriers. Brittany, along with Constable Michelle Horchuk, a former Da Bom Squad co-ordinator whom she credits for helping change her life, tell a real-life story of change, hope and success. Tyler’s story is one of volunteerism and dedication to community. Tyler, along with his wife and three young girls, are active United Way supporters and are ﬁrm believers that the only way to get what you need out of life is by giving back. To watch Brittany and Tyler’s stories, or to subscribe for future issues of WE Magazine visit WWW.WEMAGAZINE.CA.
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
UNITED WAY MAKES MUSIC
ON SEPTEMBER 18, UNITED WAY OF THE
Alberta Capital Region released its 2012 campaign video, United We’re Strong, featuring three musical performances by local artists. The video, a musical mash-up of three original songs that align with United Way’s focus on education, income and wellness in the Alberta Capital Region. Working closely with the highly creative marketing company PlanIt Sound, United Way brought together local artists, actors and ﬁ lmmakers to create this powerful and captivating music video that uses music and imagery to deliver a message of hope and unity for people in the community who may be living in poverty. The video tells the story from three different perspectives: a woman struggling with a mental illness, a man who suddenly ﬁnds himself unemployed and a young girl who gets involved with a bad crowd after school. Tupelo Honey’s lead vocalist Dan Davidson was joined by the charismatic 14-year-old singer Yasmeen Najmeddine and talented rapper Maigan van der Giessen. Each artist infuses the music video with his or her own unique style of rock, folk and hip hop. A sincere thank you goes to R.J. and Rowena Cui, of PlanIt Sound, Simon Morgan and his team at Lindisfarne Production and everyone whose talent and effort made this project a success. To watch United We’re Strong or download the three original songs, visit WWW.MYUNITEDWAY.CA.
RISING TO THE OCCASION
the RISE Awards has recognized the outstanding achievements and contributions of immigrants in our community and those who support them along the way. Coordinated by the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, the annual event brings together individuals, organizations, government and community to celebrate local success stories. Employers Awards are presented to organizations that demonstrate excellence A dancer at the 2012 Rise Awards in strategic leadership, mentoring, and recruitment practices through the development and implementation of policies that break down employment barriers for Internationally Trained Professionals. Community Awards are presented to individuals in the areas of arts and culture, community leadership, youth, and lifetime achievement. This year’s RISE Awards will be taking place on May 8th, 2013 at Northlands.
THE EMPLOYER AWARD CATEGORIES ARE:
Individual Achievement Award Outstanding Workplace Award Small Business Excellence Award
THE COMMUNITY AWARD CATEGORIES ARE:
Arts, Culture and Athletics Award Community Leadership Award (Organization) Community Initiative Award (Individual) Youth Achievement Award Lifetime Achievement Award
From left to right, Dan Davidson, Maigan van der Giessen and Yasmeen Najmeddine on set of the United We’re Strong video shoot in August 2012.
For more information on the RISE Awards or to purchase tickets visit HTTP://RISE .EMCN. AB .CA /.
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
KEEPING THE CAPITAL REGION WARM
IT IS THE GENEROSITY of the Alberta Capital
Region that has kept the Coats for Kids & Families program running for 21 years. Because of donations from all across our region, and the support of our partners and sponsors, together we continue to provide warm winter coats to individuals and families in need. The year 2012 marked new successes in support of the program. The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation and Global Edmonton joined the program as presenting partners, providing new opportunities to create awareness of the program in our community. As part of the launch event on October 23, 2012, PCL family of companies issued a challenge to the community to collect winter items for those in need. They unloaded a truckload ﬁlled with more than 4,000 winter items including coats, toques, mitts, work boots and other winter gear – all collected from the employees based here in Edmonton and area. Mayor Stephen Mandel was on hand to accept PCL’s challenge on behalf of the City of Edmonton and its employees. For the ﬁrst time ever, the Edmonton Oil Kings ran a collection drive for Coats for Kids & Families during the home game on October 28, 2012. The day was a great success, helping to collect many much-needed coats, toques and other winter items. We encourage you to get involved, too! There is a need for men, women and children’s winter wear. To date, close to 7000 winter items have been distributed through the program. Coats for Kids & Families ofﬁcially runs October to December of each year. Donations can be made year-round to United Way. For additional information, visit WWW.COATSFORKIDS.CA.
AT UNITED WAY, we believe that community members
and organizations will make decisions and take actions that strengthen communities, families and individuals when they have the opportunity to discover our work. We also believe that it is our responsibility as a community builder to connect people to the issues that surround us. United Way’s Discovery Speakers program provides opportunities for people to hear ﬁrst-hand the difference that is being made in the lives of families and individuals in our community. Our speaker group comprises people who have beneﬁted from a front-line program or service in our community. In 2012, 29 speakers made over 335 presentations to workplace groups throughout our region on behalf of United Way’s partner agencies. These speakers volunteered their time to thank our community and share the difference that our collective support has made in their lives. There is no greater testament to United Way’s community impact than a story from someone whose life has improved because of the work that we do.
To hear some of the inspiring stories of the Discovery Speakers, visit WWW.MYUNITEDWAY.CA/DISCOVER-SPEAKERS.
2012 DISCOVERY SPEAKERS For additional information, visit WWW.MYUNITEDWAY.CA.
Kris Andreychuk (NET), Elaine Comeau, Jean Cremer (Strathcona Shelter Society), Larry Derkach (Jewish Family Services Edmonton), Jenn Dermott (United Way of the Alberta Capital Region), Tamara Gaudet (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), Constable Michelle Horchuk (Edmonton Police Service), Dianne Jackson (Canadian Red Cross), Edgar Jackson (Canadian Paraplegic Association), Nimera Kalmbach (Connect Society), Emily Keating (Youth Empowerment & Support Services), Amanda Kokram (*BGCBBBS), Donna Lemieux (Centre for Family Literacy), Donna Mackey, Joshua Marshall (Bissell Centre), Brian McPherson (Canadian Paraplegic Association), Jimmy Morrison (Operation Friendship Seniors Society), Lincoln Nanaquawetung (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), Ross Norton (Canadian Paraplegic Association), Luke Ross (KARA Family Resource Centre), Gary Sampley (Edmonton Epilepsy Association), Lise Schitroth (*BGCBBBS), Kyle Schneider (E4C), Tanaura Seon (The Support Network), Pamela Spurvey, Jennifer Tairney (Terra Centre), Karen Unger (*BGCBBBS), Kerry Woodland (*BGCBBBS) and Judy Yawney (Edmonton Food Bank). *Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area.
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
Many Edmonton residents put in long hours for low pay
Edmonton has very low unemployment and
many working people receive excellent wages. But hidden in the wealth is a widening gap between the richest 10 per cent and the bottom 20 per cent of wage earners. A surprising number of working adults in Alberta earn less than $15 per hour and struggle to make ends meet even after a 40-hour work week. In November 2012, Edmonton Social Planning Council released a report titled Achieving the Promise, Ending Poverty in Alberta, which shows the difficult reality faced by the working poor.
by Bobbi-Sue Menard
EMPLOYMENT By the Numbers
Albertans Earning $15 per hour or less, by Age Group (April 2011 to March 2012):
45+ yrs 23%
15-19 yrs 22% 20-24 yrs 20%
25-44 yrs 35%
MYTH: A full-time job means prosperity.
“There are many thousands of Edmontonians who basically will work full-time for the full year but still live in poverty,” says John Kolkman, executive director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council. Kolkman says that while much of the report deals with Alberta-wide statistics, Edmonton closely mirrors the provincial reality. Children are especially likely to experience the effects of working poverty. The report details Statistics Canada research showing that, “In 2010, 51.6 per cent of children who live in poverty were in a household where one or more persons worked full-time for the full year.”
MYTH: If you have a job you don’t need to access services.
Kolkman points out that many families struggle in isolation and access social supports in an emergency. “Many people try to cut corners. If they really run stuck, they might have to go to a food bank once a month to supplement things and so they kind of struggle to get by.” As the economy improves, food bank usage has dropped slightly. But the Ending Poverty report contains a shocking fact uncovered by the Alberta College of Social Workers
and the Parkland Institute about Alberta’s reliance on food banks compared to the rest of Percentage of Alberta children in poor Canada: “Alberta has the families where one or more parent has a highest rate of food bank full-time, full-year job: use by those working full-time, full-year.” 60% Working in poverty 55% is precarious. Job loss, reductions in hours 50% worked and/or pay 45% cuts can immediately 40% drive a household below the poverty 35% line. Single parents, 30% especially mothers, are vulnerable to slipping 25% under the poverty line 20% and remaining there if they have weak links Source: Statistics Canada 2012 to the labour market. When facing uncertain or low-paying work, it is difficult to income transfers from governments, find adequate child care and act as is still inadequate to lift children out of primary caregiver to the child. dire circumstances.” Kolkman says the good news MYTH: The government is that income transfers from the provides for the working government, such as the Child Tax poor. Benefit, do help bring families above The Ending Poverty report shows the poverty line. that income transfers only go so far The bad news is that there are very when working for low wages. “Fullfew financial supports for people time work, even when combined with without children.
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 we • winter/spring • 2013
PHOTO: DUSTIN DELFS
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
ALFWAY THROUGH A LUNCHEON featuring Frank O’Dea, who went from being homeless to co-founding Second Cup, a few puzzle pieces clicked into place for Ken Franczek. First, O’Dea’s life story reminded the Crystal Glass general manager how important a hand up was for him many years ago, when home was no longer a welcome place and he desperately needed work. Second, he realized that the wellspoken young man sitting next to him was experiencing homelessness and in need of a job.
Before that luncheon ended, Franczek had conspired with boss Ed Bean, the community-minded founder of Crystal Glass and Crystal Kids, to offer the young man a hand up – a job, but equally important, mentorship and forgiveness for the small stuff during the tough transition from the street. After doing well at his job for several months, the young man disappeared. “He may have fallen backward, but he had taken two very solid steps forward,” Franczek tells me, his white shirt and smart tie testifying to his own rise in the glass industry. “And you don’t know what impact that one person you’ve helped today will have in the future. People say you can’t change the world, but you can change a life. And it’s like a tree – it grows exponentially.” Franczek’s story hints at some of the complex reasons unemployment and underemployment remain stubbornly high for those at the margins of work, even with unemployment at 4.7 per cent in Alberta – and why it makes dollars and sense to put concerted effort into matching everyone who can work with a job that fits. Even though the effort may, at first, seem unrewarded.
In the midst of a city-wide labour shortage, barriers to employment still exist. People can move from the margins of the labour pool to full employment — all it takes is community
by Cheryl Mahaffy
The Bissell Centre in inner city Edmonton serves people whose reasons for being unemployed range from mental illness to addiction to physical disability to life trauma to low literacy to criminal records to single parenting – and more. “Some are escaping violent situations, and some are aboriginal and endure pervasive prejudice, and some might be immigrants,” says CEO Mark Holmgren. “All those barriers bundled together make people start to feel crunched – and then a person says you’re a lazy bum.” The lineup outside the Bissell Centre every morning testifies that dozens are anything but lazy.
we • winter/spring • 2013
PLAYERS: Ed Bean, founder of Crystal Glass (L) and Ken Franczek, general manager, have informally worked to hire people with barriers to employment, including people experiencing homelessness.
A WILLING WORKFORCE
PHOTO: KEN ARMSTRONG
DOWNTOWN PROUD: The streets are no longer mean for Jerry, Glen and Warren (L to R). They are employed members of the Downtown Proud team, a social enterprise that provides meaningful jobs to people looking to re-enter the workforce.
THE WORTH OF A JOB
It’s nearly a decade since Jay Freeman helped turn an LRT station into a warming centre for people experiencing homelessness in bitter mid-winter, but he still recalls one group that insisted on being roused hours before sun up, so they could be ﬁrst in the temporary work line and not miss out on a job. “They were sleeping on the concrete ﬂoor of the LRT, yet they were going to get up at 5:30 a.m. and rush off to work.” That’s how much it means to have a job, adds Freeman, who has since become executive director of Edmonton’s Homeless Commission. And money is but the start of it. “What we are is so tied to what we do. To have to say, ‘Well, I don’t have a job’ is demoralizing. It’s embarrassing. It kills the soul.” Put positively, work enriches our lives with structure and purpose and social networks, says Alberta Health Services clinical supervisor Katherine Hay. “I truly believe if someone took away our jobs, most of us would end up unwell.” Employing people at the margins also reduces health, police and social service costs. Providing services for a person experiencing homelessness costs $130,000 a year, more than double the cost of a dedicated worker. A jail cell costs 10 times more than an apartment. Hay’s unit offers a continuum of employment opportuniWEMAGAZINE.CA
They’re here even in deep-freeze temperatures, hoping for a day’s work at $11 to $15 an hour. The Bissell Centre began running its own placement service 20 years ago because of a need in the community for things a casual worker might be able to do. The program also offers other services – a loaner pair of boots, a ride to the work site, or regulation gear. Bissell will make 13,000 casual placements in 2012, bringing close to $1 million into Edmonton’s economy. Seeking a win-win for both sides, the centre avoids employers who pay rock-bottom wages and stays in close contact with partner work sites to make sure each match works out. It also supplies free lunches, safety equipment, socks, gloves and other gear – typically donated. As Holmgren puts it, “Our model is to work with the entire community to put people to work.” Besides its casual labour pool, the centre runs pre-employment training, an accredited daycare and a Jobs First pilot involving intensive coaching in work and life skills. With multiple entry points to employment and staff who build trusting relationships, Holmgren says, “When a window opens, someone can suggest a route in.” An encouraging number go on to ﬁnd full-time work, including some at the Bissell Centre. “Suddenly they’re on a path where they can think of a future, not just about basic survival, and they’re less likely to harm themselves and others,” Holmgren says. “Employment is not a panacea, but it’s a bigger contributor than people often think.”
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
ties to Edmontonians living with addiction and mental illness: pre-employment training, working in a greenhouse at Alberta Hospital, staffing a bistro at the Northeast Health Centre, cleaning apartments and – for those ready for the challenge – marketplace jobs with supportive employers. Her staff worked with just over 400 people last year; given that one in five of us will experience mental illness at some point, many more could benefit, she says. “When people obtain satisfying employment that is individually matched, I really think that is one of the keys in recovery.”
days, doing tasks that don’t use their skill set. As soon as you carve out a job that somebody else is happy to have, you’ve upped the production and lowered the cost of getting another part of your work done. Easy to say, harder to do, Taylor adds. “People are so busy running their business that somebody has to tell them how. Rather than just banging on doors saying you’ve got to hire the disabled or people with other barriers, we need people who can go in and help get it done.”
THE BOOM EFFECT GOOD FOR BUSINESS
There’s no doubt that Alberta’s boom economy, coupled “There goes one of my Downtown Proud guys.” Jim Taylor, with the surge of retiring baby boomers, opens doors to executive director of the Downtown Business Association, applicants who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance. Agencies is keeping an eye on the street as we chat by phone when such as the Bissell Centre can serve as a bridge, identifying the object of our conversation swings into his view. the former inmate who holds promise despite her criminal More than 20 downtown businesses fund Downtown record and helping the man with mental illness make it Proud, which employs five through the tough spots. “We people with addictions, mental have a lot of talented people I truly believe if someone took health issues and other employhere,” Bubel says. “Employers away our jobs, most of us would ment barriers through Boyle are telling us they have such Street Community Services. high turnover that they see the end up unwell. Their mission: to keep Jasper value of our stepping in to help Avenue tidy. people stick around.” “We got them into housing and we got them support While the openings created by the boom are welcome, services and we only work them enough that it won’t afthe pace is not always ideal for Hay’s mental health clients, fect their government benefits,” Taylor says. Three of the many of whom perform best on reduced hours of work. original five have remained with Downtown Proud since it “Anybody who has a heartbeat gets hired part-time, but began three years ago; a fourth dropped out and the fifth then they’ll be called every day saying we need you to work launched a painting and contracting business. Instead of more hours. This may be one of your star employees, but suffering rude remarks for being on the street, the workers you’re better off sticking with part time rather than losing enjoy words of thanks, he adds. “It really changes a person them entirely.” when they start valuing themselves because of what they’re It doesn’t help that the federal government defines doing rather than feeling they have no worth at all.” employment at a level that discounts the progress made Downtown Proud is one of several supportive work crews by anyone working less than 12 hours a week, Hay says. around town. Drop in on Edmonton’s Waste Management Or that students with disabilities become ineligible for free Centre, Kids in the Hall, Jasper Place Health and Wellness education at the same age as everyone else. Or that compaand elsewhere, and you’ll find people hard at work who nies are recruiting overseas rather than getting the most would otherwise be jobless. A few crews operate as social out of what we have in our own backyard. “There are lots of enterprises – businesses whose mission is to break even by little things going on, but much more needs to happen over doing good. “When you don’t need to make a profit or your time to make the workforce reflective of our population.” profits are always invested back in your company, you can really make a difference,” Taylor notes. BEYOND FEAR That said, the corporate world can also benefit by hiring Reducing unemployment at the margins depends not from the margins, Taylor adds. Chains such as Tim Hortons only on inner city agencies and private employers, but on do it by “ job carving,” redefining roles so that people with neighbourhoods all over the city, says Franczek, who still particular barriers can fill certain jobs. You may have some wonders what pulled his protegé away from Crystal Glass. good employees who are being underemployed part of their “We need to create places outside the inner city where
wemagazine.CA we • winter/spring • 2013
A WILLING WORKFORCE
PHOTO: AARON PEDERSEN / 3 TEN
TRANSFORMING POWER: Shirley Sandul (L) executive director of P.A.L.S. and Frank are all smiles. Improving adult literacy boosts lifetime employment outcomes and improves individual standards of living.
people can be when they’re in transition. My dad used to say ‘Ken, if you hard it is to ﬁnd and keep work without a place to call home. want to be a dentist, don’t hang out with the garbage man.’ If we want people Edmonton’s 2010 homeless count found 2,421 people on to contribute to our community, we have to the streets, in shelters or surﬁng insert them into it and allow them to learn from couch to couch. With average rent If you don’t have a residence or give their environment.” eating up 65 per cent of full-time the address of one of our shelters on Franczek has seen the good that can come minimum wage and nearly half an application form, an employer from hanging out with the right crowd – not of Albertans living paycheque to only in his own life but in the downtown boxing paycheque, thousands more teeter is going to at least think twice about club where he volunteered for years among kids on the edge of eviction. “If you don’t hiring you. with rough lives, moulding negative energy have a residence or give the address into positive. “I can easily count 10 of those of one of our shelters on an applicayoung adults who have made it – who have jobs, who have relationships, who tion form, an employer is going to at least think twice about have put their lives on track,” he says. “Then they become positive contribuhiring you,” Freeman says. “And simple things about ﬁnding tors. And if you really want to take it full circle, they’re all going to need a and keeping a job become huge obstacles.” Waking up on windshield.” time, showering, putting on clean clothes, getting to work in a sprawling city – every step takes an extra dose of ingenuA TRIO OF BARRIERS ity. Not surprisingly, sleep deprivation is endemic among the homeless, he adds. “If you’re not sleeping properly, you’re not SLEEPING ROUGH going to be very productive at work.” “No home, no job. No job, no home.” That’s how Freeman sums up the close Edmonton’s Housing First program has placed more than link between life on the streets and unemployment. He sees ﬁrst-hand how 2,000 previously homeless Edmontonians in safe, sup-
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
ported, permanent, affordable housing in recent years. Some will never be able to work, but the vast majority can – and crave the companionship and sense of worth a job can provide, Freeman says. What’s more, they need the money. “When we go and visit their apartments, their fridges are still empty. They’re still poor.” Easing back into the workforce after years of “sleeping rough” is not easy. “The concept that when you say I have to be at work at 8:30 you really mean it – they’ve kind of lost those skills and need a compassionate employer,” Freeman says. Yet without work, the previously homeless all too easily spiral back down.” It’s absolutely critical they get reintegrated back into the workforce – and frankly the workforce needs them.”
a community support worker, aiming to give back while pursuing a lifelong dream of being in police work. His family takes pride in the new Frank, who’s now setting his sights on finishing Grade 12. “I never thought that was a possibility before,” he says. “I know now that I can do whatever it is I want.”
VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE DISABILITIES
How much would it cost to fit a person with a disability into your workplace? Employers in one Bank of Montreal study overestimated the cost by as much as $10,000. In reality, more than half can be accommodated at no cost and others typically require adjustments costing no more than $500, according to an employers’ surveyed by the Job Accommodation Network. In return, employers retain or gain workers who more often than not prove loyal and productive. LOW-LEVEL LITERACY Yet among the 350,000 individuals with one or more disTwo years ago, Frank was in hiding. Barely able to read, abilities in Alberta, only 67 per cent are employed; for those he’d found a job in security but with mental illness, the figure drops worried the reports he had to below 30 per cent. According write at the end of every shift to the Premier’s Council on the With low level literacy you’re more would find him out. At home, Status of Persons with Disabililikely in a low-paying job, more likely he was irritable and testy. ties, half of those with no work the first person fired and less likely to “It wasn’t just that I couldn’t want a job and believe they would take any further training or even be read, but that I didn’t believe be capable of full participation if offered it at work. in myself,” he says. barriers and disincentives were Frank is not alone. Forty permanently removed. People per cent of Edmonton adults with disabilities are an untapped don’t have enough reading, writing, math or computer source of “people power” in a group that includes lawyers, docskills to meet daily living needs, says Shirley Sandul, tors and engineers. executive director of Project Adult Literacy Society “It’s really important to think about people with disabilities (P. A. L. S.), which pairs adult students with volunteer as potential employees and focus on their abilities, because tutors to improve those skills. “With low level literacy they have much to contribute to the workplace,” says Iris you’re more likely in a low-paying job, more likely the first Saunders, executive director of EmployAbilities in downtown person fired and less likely to take any further training Edmonton. Her clients have hearing or vision loss, or menor even be offered it at work. And you have access to fewer tal illness, or developmental or physical challenges, but with resources because you can’t read and you don’t want to the agency’s support, 75 per cent find jobs. “Truly the biggest admit you can’t.” challenge – and you would think it would be the easiest – is the Literacy gaps limit potential so drastically that any myths that surround people with disabilities.” change has a huge effect, Sandul says, pointing to a Fifty-six per cent of small businesses in Alberta (and 44 35-year scan of OECD data that found a one per cent per cent across Canada) say they’ve hired a person with a disrise in average literacy translated into a permanent 1.5 ability, according to a survey conducted for BMO Financial per cent increase in GDP per capita. She would love to see Group. In the time-honoured tradition of “seeing is believing,” a comprehensive, community-wide effort to reach everyone successful match often leads to more. “Especially with the one with literacy needs. shortage of workers in Alberta, recruiting people with disabiliFrank is proof of the potential. After two years with ties makes good business sense,” Saunders says. “It increases P. A. L. S., he re-entered the market with new confidence, the size of the population you can choose from – and compalanding a job in a transmission shop. What’s more, he is nies with a diverse workforce are seen as more progressive taking courses at the Citizens’ Police Academy to become and dynamic.”
wemagazine.CA we • winter/spring • 2013
Brianna and mentor Nola
Caleb and mentor James
Mentor Lydia and Taylor
Mentor Cheryl and Alyssa
Ryan and mentor Anita
FACE TIME: Mentor Victor and Ben ﬁnd there is no substitute for spending time together. WorleyParsons’ employees and their protegés look forward to their weekly meetings.
Mentor Gennadi and Cassius
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
WorleyParsons’ mentorship program brings youth to the workplace and changes lives
by CAITLIN CRAWSHAW
Photography by BUFFY GOODMAN
HREE YEARS AGO, VICTOR LIN STOOD AT THE front door of WorleyParsons’ south-side campus, welcoming a gaggle of elementary school kids into the building for the first time: “I remember overhearing one of the kids, a little girl, who walked in the door and said, ‘Well, this looks like a nice place to work!’ ”
The logistics were simple. Once a week, BGCBigs would bus in two groups of kids – one from Menisa Elementary School and the other from T.D. Baker Junior High School – to the company’s head ofﬁce. For just one hour, mentors and protegés would spend time together in a casual environment and focus on having fun. “When we ﬁrst started, the caseworker brought this Tupperware box full of games,” says Lin, who’s also a mentor with the Lin still laughs at the precocious nine-year-old’s evaluation of elementary school side of the program. It was the perfect icethe Edmonton engineering company’s main ofﬁce but admits that, breaker and kids happily engaged with the adults over puzzles at the time, it was reassuring. After all, or games of Life. Over the course of the before the ﬁrst group of kids set foot at year, that container of treats began to The kids have been adopted grow, mysteriously. Soon, it was overWorleyParsons, no one really knew if the by our group – not just the pilot program would be a hit. ﬂowing (the treasure trove now takes up Months before, United Way had apan entire closet), and Lin discovered that people mentoring, but a lot proached WorleyParsons about a potential other WorleyParsons staff members were of other people. mentorship program between their staff quietly donating toys, puzzles, games and and kids involved with the Boys & Girls other fun stuff that their own kids had Club Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs) program in Millwoods. outgrown. “The kids have been adopted by our group – not just The idea was to bring protégés to their mentors, allowing the the people mentoring, but a lot of other people,” Lin explains. adults to squeeze volunteer time into their busy schedules. The game closet continues to be popular, but oftentimes menFor many years, WorleyParsons had been a keen supporter of tors and protegés have their own projects on the go. Lin and his several United Way fundraising and volunteering initiatives, and mentee, who participates in Scouts, tend to work on achieving the pilot program seemed like a natural ﬁt. Nevertheless, an innew badges. Other pairings do crafts, art projects, make cookies house mentorship program was unfamiliar territory. “At that point, and much more. “It depends on whatever spark of interest works in 2009, we’d never expanded into a mentorship capacity,” says for the mentorship relationship,” he says. Lin, a project manager with WorleyParsons who co-ordinates the There are also group activities from time to time. “We have the mentorship program. good fortune of having a two-storey atrium area, so one day we
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
Mentor Anita and Emma
FUN AND GAMES: There is a mix of group and one-on-one activities. The common goal is to have fun together.
decided to have an airplane competition,” says Lin. Adults and children the challenges of teenage life: peer pressure, puberty and designed and folded paper airplanes with speciﬁc goals in mind (such as self-esteem issues, among other things. having the plane hit a target or ﬂy through a hula hoop held by the menThis isn’t just conjecture. Lin has surveyed the kids to ﬁnd tor on the ground ﬂoor). To teach kids about the importance of safety, out how well the program is working. He recalls one comanyone on the ground ﬂoor was required to wear a hard hat, goggles ment from a former mentee that still makes him emotional and gloves. “We were over-teaching the safety element,” he laughs. years later: “My Big Sister is someone I can look up to. After a successful ﬁrst year, the pilot We talk about my future program became a permanent initiative and what is important to My Big Sister is someone I can look up between WorleyParsons and BGCBigs. me. When I talk to her, it to. We talk about my future and what is The ﬁrst group of 15 volunteers has reminds me that no matter important to me. When I talk to her, it grown to about 23, and the program now how tough life seems right reminds me that no matter how tough involves the company’s downtown ofﬁce now, everything will turn and a third school, Abbott Elementary out OK at the end.” After life seems right now, everything will turn School. “Three years ago, we planted the chatting with the girl’s menout OK at the end. seed and proved it could work,” says Lin. tor, he was sad to learn that In fact, thanks to WorleyParsons’ experithe girl’s family was divorcence, several other companies in town have decided to follow suit and ing and she’d been struggling personally. The mentor was host in-house mentoring programs with BGCBigs. Lin is excited at the shocked to learn she’d had so much inﬂuence on a young life. prospect of the program spreading throughout the city and helping more Like the protegés, the mentors come to the program for kids: “Imagine if all of the companies in Edmonton did this. We could different reasons, says Lin. “But, when it comes down to it, really cover a lot more of the mentoring need in Edmonton.” for most of them, it’s a karma thing. Someone’s helped them While it may seem like fun and games on the surface, Lin knows that in the past, and they want to give back.” While the experience there’s a profound beneﬁt for the kids, who come to the program for helps kids, Lin says it’s a personal development opportunity a variety of reasons. Some are experiencing major problems at home, that employees appreciate. And while the program takes up while others have simply been referred by teachers who ﬁgure they could work time, even the company beneﬁts, since happy employees beneﬁt from some extra one-on-one attention from a caring adult. For tend to be more productive and engaged: “When you put it all the junior high kids, quality time with a mentor can help them navigate together, there’s a three-way, win-win-win that happens.”
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
Mental illness affects people from all walks of life. Returning to work can be a challenge, but as understanding grows, stigma diminishes
by CAIT WILLS
t started with being tired all the time. That’s not unusual; busy professionals often feel like they need to catch up on their sleep. But as the days and weeks passed for Nancy McCalder, her fatigue didn’t get better, it got worse.
“I had very low energy,” she says. “I remember coming into work and, by noon, I felt like I was looking at the world through a black cloud. I was pushing to get through the day and I felt drained and exhausted. I worked in an environment where mental health is important, and I knew something was wrong, so I spoke to my doctor.”
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
“It’s a non-issue,” she says bluntly about the health status of her employees. While she says the goal as a supervisor is to manage employer-employee relations with ﬂexibility and enough rigour to meet operational goals, “You hire someone based on their skills and how they help you achieve your mission, not their mental health status.” Challborn admits, though, that the employer’s desire to support their staff wholeheartedly while managing operational needs, can be a challenge. “You hire someone to do the job, and because an employee may be afraid they are going to be discriminated against, they don’t say anything at the interview stage or beyond.” “If someone is employed and they have a [health concern], they may not say something, which makes support minimized and can negatively impact recovery.” What ultimately matters, though, says Challborn, is the individual’s recovery and it is critical for employers to learn all they can about mental illness in order to support their employee. “One in ﬁve people will suffer mental illness in their lifetime,” says Challborn, “so as an employer you are going to come across it. It’s illegal to discriminate against an employee who is suffering from mental illness, so it makes sense to be very well-educated about opportunities and what you can do.”
So what can employers do to support employees
McCalder’s physician promptly diagnosed her with depression and started her on a treatment plan to combat her symptoms and help her get back on her feet. “I was lucky. The treatment prescribed was helpful immediately,” she says. “I was given medication that was effective and took some time off work. By the time I returned, the medication had helped a great deal.” Today, McCalder is the executive director of the Support Network, which is the operating organization for three key assistance programs for people in Northern Alberta in distress. While she was lucky enough to recognize the symptoms and seek help, many individuals suffering from mental health issues may not have the ability to reach out for help, which can be debilitating, personally and professionally. while protecting the organization’s bottom line? First and most important, says McCalder, is where “the head of the organization walks-the-talk” by creating a non-judgmental and trusting work environment. That way, employees can instigate a conversation around their mental health diagnosis without fear of recrimination. “The individual’s immediate supervisor needs to know [what’s going on] so that they can support the individual,” says McCalder. “If an employee has communicated to you, you need to ask what it looks like when they’re in distress. What does it look like if, for instance, they’ve stopped taking their medication?” Second, she says, “We, as supervisors, need to invite the conversation. We need to be able to say, ‘I’m observing that you’re not doing well.’ ” After opening that line of dialogue, McCalder says, the supervisor should then make sure that the employee knows that supports are in place, in the workplace and in the community, should they want to take advantage of them. “Employee assistance programs are very important in this scenario,” she says. “They’re anonymous and have great support systems available.” Employees should also be reminded to contact organizations
Ione Challborn, executive director of the Canadian Mental
Health Association (CMHA), Edmonton region, wears several hats. She is the functional head of an organization that is one of 135 regional ofﬁces offering support to Canadians with mental illness, but she also has to run a business – a business with bills to pay, payroll to meet and staff to support. So how does she support employees with mental illness in the workplace while running a successful organization with 25 staff members and more than 100 volunteers?
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
like the CMHA, which has programs in place to help with coping strategies and mechanisms for recovery from a mental-health illness diagnosis. The Support Network also offers programs, including an information directory service, 211, and a 24-hour distress line. “If you have a friend, family member or co-worker in distress, call the distress line,” urges McCalder. “You can get some advice and receive coaching on how to ask the right questions,” which she knows from experience is critical to reaching an employee who may be suffering. “I had an employee who was suffering from postpartum depression, and I [initially] missed the signs,” says McCalder. But, because of her personal experience with depression, she says she was comfortable initiating a conversation. “I approached my employee and told her that I thought I knew what was going on because of my own experiences with depression. When she asked me what I knew about it, I shared my personal story with her.” McCalder believes that her personal experience helped her assist an employee who was potentially in crisis. “I recognize the symptoms and, as an employer and as someone who suffered from depression, I will do something,” she says. In order to balance supporting her employees’ mental health with her organization’s operational priorities, McCalder, like Challborn, believes the solution is simple: “I will speak out.”
Walk away from a vicious cycle He is soft-spoken and hesitant in his speech but very candid about where he is today and how he got here. Joseph (not his real name), works part-time at a large organization in Edmonton in an ofﬁce that focuses on supporting individuals in crisis within his workplace. He also works part time at the Canadian Mental Health Association, where he was formerly a client, providing practical supports to current clients. The work is meaningful and, most important, shows him that he is contributing. But that wasn’t always the case. “I was a client at CMHA for close to two years,” he says. Suffering from a form of depression that goes back to his time in university, there was a sense that friends were moving on with their lives, getting good jobs, while he was just sitting at home, unemployed. “It was a vicious cycle, and I didn’t see any way out.” Becoming a client at CMHA meant trying something new. Although he had previously had one-on-one treatment, the group-setting dynamic was uncharted territory for him: “It was really essential to have that structure and that dynamic. I met other people who were also struggling and I found it really helped to know I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t a freak.” The long-term aspect of the group setting was important because it provided a non-judgmental, positive environment. The results are measurable, Joseph says. “I think it’s been a gradual process, but I deﬁnitely feel better about things. I have made contacts and I have some friends. “I feel like I’m in a better position, although I still struggle with work issues.” The advice he would give to employers who may be struggling with how to support employees who are suffering from mental illness is simple: “I’ve met a lot of people who have had a hard time, and it helps that employers understand that people don’t necessarily ﬁt into a mould of the stereotypical ‘employee.’ “Have patience and concentrate on the strengths of the employee. Ask about their ideal working environments; that can make a big difference. Recognize each individual. Everybody, no matter the diagnosis, has certain strengths.”
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
LIFE AFTER ‘LIFE’
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
LIFE AFTER ‘LIFE’
Finding a job is an important step towards reintegration into society
by OMAR MOUALLEM Photography by EUGENE UHUAD
STANDING TALL: Daryl Clark in the kitchen at Lendrum Mennonite Brethren Church, helping prepare the food for an annual Christmas supper for former inmates.
HERE IS HOPE FOR PEOPLE RETURNING TO THE COMMUNITY after they have paid their debt to society in prison. Employment is the single best inﬂuence that reduces the rate of reoffending. Paid work gives purpose, resolve and resources to people striving to reintegrate into society. In return, employers, neighbours and the wider community gain a productive citizen.
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
LIFE AFTER ‘LIFE’
completes it in a month, he’ll be granted regular temporary absences from Stan Daniels to work. “I’m fortunate because I have a friend and he’s willing to ﬁnd me a job,” Sean says. “He’s already talked to his employer and she’s willing to take me on, ﬁrst as a cleaner, but she’ll put me through some courses to become a welding apprentice.” If it pans out, it will be his ﬁrst job ever. But fellow lifer Robert Perrault isn’t so lucky. At 72, he doesn’t have to work. He doesn’t have to walk in the freezing cold to lifers’ meetings either, but after 23 years in prison any unrestricted movement matters. “I want to work because I want to work, and that’s what it is,” he says. But what’s available is manual labour and, at his age and with his background, he’s not interested in pushing a broom. There was a time when society trusted Robert with its lives but those days are over for the former Air Canada pre-ﬂight inspector. “Try to get any of these jobs when you have a criminal record,” he says. “That’s the ﬁrst thing they ask you: ‘Do you have a criminal record?’ ” Exasperated, he says, “They don’t want you.” So for now, he volunteers 40 hours a week doing reception and data entry at HIV Edmonton. Steve Pellatt likens it to being a teenager again. “What are the options out there?” he asks. “We’re all at the same stage of life as these 16-year-olds. I relate more to my niece and her friends because I’m going through the same thing. I’m 53. I should be way beyond that. I should be getting ready to retire.” There is a mix of hope and hopelessness in the room tonight, but 10 blocks south it’s just hope. IF YOU DIDN’T come to the Edmonton John Howard Society just for a free cup of coffee – and many do – then the ﬁrst thing you’ll probably see is the wall with three bulletin boards under the capped labels: RESOURCES, EMPLOYMENT, HOUSING. The middle one is the biggest. There are more than 370,000 people in the Canadian correctional system and, statistically, almost all of them will live to see the outside world again. But to return to a productive life, they must ﬁrst ﬁnd meaningful employment. And for that, they come here. But even in Alberta’s strong economy that can be difﬁcult. According to the John Howard Society, 75 per cent of people admitted to federal prison struggle with employment before they come in contact with the justice system and nearly half are unemployed. When released from the system a job makes a deﬁnite positive impact. For those who ﬁnd a job only 17 per cent reoffend in the ﬁrst year. For those who do not ﬁnd a job in the ﬁrst year, 40 per cent reoffend. Every day at the John Howard Society, up to 40 people with criminal pasts are trying to beat the odds through a number of services helping them meet their most basic needs. They know that here they can get food bank or housing referrals, help obtaining photo ID, clean clothes for job interviews and, sometimes, just a Ziploc bag of Corn Flakes. Every obstacle beaten, even hunger, is another reason to avoid returning to crime. But it’s the job board that remains one of the most popular attractions. It’s tacked with laminated bright blue books ﬁlled with job opportunities in construction, mechanics and more, ranging from $12 to $30 an hour.
By most people’s deﬁnitions, Sean Munroe is a big guy. But sitting at a long meeting table, hunched in his heavy white winter jacket and gazing down at the bent white paperclip in his tattooed hands, he looks small. It’s the 37-year-old’s ﬁrst time at St. Leonard’s Society of Canada’s Peer Mentoring Program, and the only person he knows in the room is John, his escort from the nearby Stan Daniels minimum security prison. “We should open the blinds,” says John. “See the trafﬁc.” It’s a small luxury for his client. As the room ﬁlls with more people, there’s no judgment of Sean. They are like him: Lifers. Men and women who committed varying degrees of murder and are on the road to recovery, to redemption. Even Daryl Clark, the volunteer facilitator, is a lifer. But then Allan, an older, conﬁdent man in a black leather jacket enters. “You.” He points to a dazed Sean. “I knew I’d see you again.” Sean remembers him now. His old neighbour from Drumheller’s medium security prison punches him in the shoulder. “It’s nice to see people you know and they’re actually smiling,” says Allan. Sean has a lot to smile about these days. At 22, he was sentenced to 15 years for second-degree murder. He worked diligently toward recovery and got therapy however he could – woodworking, arts and crafts and In Search of Your Warrior, a rehabilitation program for young incarcerated aboriginal Canadians. When he
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
But there’s another slip of paper that they come for, a tip sheet on how to handle your criminal record on job applications and in interviews. “Even for construction jobs, you’re required to get a criminal record check,” says Claire Whittal-Williams, intake and employment counsellor, “but three, four years ago, anyone could walk on site and say, ‘Can I get a job?’ And you were usually told, ‘Yes. Get some work boots and work for us.’ ” But now, she says, the development market has cooled and new hires are closely scrutinized. Education, poverty, learning disabilities – all these factors can lead to crime, but once you have a criminal record, the mountain of obstacles gets taller. At an interview, the questioners quietly stewing from across the desk wonder if they can trust you with customers and co-workers. Will you steal inventory? Will you even show up on time? “We tell our clients that when they’re asked to disclose if they’ve had a criminal record, be honest and say you do,” says counsellor Sara Riddle. If you lie about your past, you’ll most likely be found out because your reference mentions it or your parole officer visits you at work. Or a lie could be discovered if time off is required for a rehabilitation program. Instead, John Howard trains its clients to emphasize the positive things in their lives – what they’ve learned and the steps they’ve taken to keep the past from repeating. And, says Whittal-Williams, “if you’re going to disclose that you have a criminal record, do it in the middle so that at the end you can say, ‘Yes that’s happened, it was a part of my life, but I’m going to AA meetings, or I’ve done skill-building programs.’ ” She adds, “Sell your skills.” And leave it to them to find those marketable skills in just about anything. “Say you had to do janitorial work in the institution,” proposes Whittal-Williams. “OK, so you worked on schedule, you made sure you met every requirement and you checked in with your supervisor until you were done. So you can follow protocol.” With dramatic pauses she emphasizes her point: “There. Are. Skills. In. Everything.” She laughs. “And they’re looking at you like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Of course they’re not, because half of the battle is restoring the client’s confidence. “In the institution the only decision they ever made was waking up,” says Riddle. “They’re told when they can eat, when they can go to the bathroom, when they can shower. And then they’re released. That power of self was taken away.”
Whittal-Williams points out that they can’t do it alone. Currently, employment counsellors help about 1,000 people, mostly men. Women often choose to seek help across the street at the Elizabeth Fry Society, which offers many of the same services as John Howard, but exclusively for women. Executive director Toni Sinclair says the employability challenges facing women are often greater. “We know that in our society it’s more difficult, in general, for women to seek certain kinds of employment than it is for men, that pay remains unequal and advancement can often be limited for women in certain fields,” says Sinclair. “For women with criminal histories, the landscape becomes even bleaker.” Many of the women seeking the society’s assistance are mothers. Single mothers. Add to that the challenge of regaining custody of your children and suddenly the task of finding time to write a resumé, send it out, get from interview to interview and then hold the job down becomes more complicated, more frustrating. But programs like Work4Women, which tailors the process for
There is something in their eye, a sparkle, and a spring in their step. People who find work after being in contact with the justice system are incredibly proud and simply transformed.
each woman served – from application to working – help ease the frustrations. Maureen Collins is executive director of the John Howard Society and she has seen the positive affect of meaningful employment in the lives of people looking for a chance to start over. “Somebody has to give you a shot. You need stable housing and you need meaningful employment where you earn a legitimate living,” says Collins of people who are moving through the process of returning to everyday life after prison. For Collins it’s the success stories that spring to her mind. For example, Chris, who after a series of stints in prison due to addiction-related behaviours, got clean and got on track. Chris worked intensively on personal development and after incredibly hard work he is now married, a father, an employee and the owner of a seasonal landscaping business. “That first chance is huge,” says Collins. Once the first job is a success, Collins says anyone can see the results. “When someone who has been in prison finds meaningful employment you can see it in their face. It is night and day. They look like a different person. There is something in their eye, a sparkle, and a spring in their step. People who find work after being in contact with the justice system are incredibly proud and simply transformed.”
we • winter/spring • 2013
MOUNTAINOUS JOB: George Seanor volunteers his weekends to clean outerwear donated by Edmontonians.
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
by Michelle Lindstrom Photography by BUFFY GOODMAN
Program brings new or gently used coats to those who need them
any United Way volunteers and supporters are surprised to hear that donations of men’s winter coats never quite meet the annual need in Alberta’s Capital Region. “[Men] are at the highest need and at the lowest donation, so year to year we’re always short of menswear,” says Jenn Dermott, Discovery program co-ordinator for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region. The ratio of men experiencing homelessness, or males in poverty, to women, is currently about 60/40 in our community.
Coats for Kids & Families is a well-known United Way initiative in partnership with Page The Cleaner that tackles the lack of warm outerwear many people face in this cold region because they don’t have the means to purchase enough for themselves or family members. Women’s coats are generally more plentiful because women tend to shop more frequently than men and also have more than one coat in their closets – therefore,
more opportunities to donate new or gently used coats to the program. Additionally, children grow so rapidly that a winter coat usually only fits for one season, meaning an abundance of small coats make their way to Edmonton-and-area Page The Cleaners to be cleaned and shipped to community depots for distribution on United Way’s behalf. George Seanor is a long-standing Page The Cleaner employee of 35 years, and United Way volunteer. For 21 years, Seanor has been dry cleaning the donated coats that come to his location. He’s been at the main Page The Cleaner location – 11416-142 Street in Edmonton – for about 10 years and cleans donated coats after hours or puts in full Sundays to keep up with the volume. Roughly 11,000 coats per year are distributed to Capital Region families through the campaign, and most garments pass through Seanor’s location for cleaning. “I put in a fair bit of extra time but that’s OK; it’s not a problem,” he says.
we • winter/spring • 2013
“We’re talking certiﬁed work boots,” says Christa Broadfoot, Discovery director for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region. “That’s the difference to somebody who may have secured work outdoors and they need the proper certiﬁed equipment to maintain that job – that’s really expensive when you don’t have any money.” Those needing a coat can call 2-1-1 to ﬁnd out which community depots distribute to the public at large. With that call, a 211 representative will let the person know where the closest depot is to his or her current location, the times and dates the depot distributes coats and what coats were provided to that depot to give out. Twice a year, there’s another initiative in which United Way takes part in order to provide people experiencing homelessness and those on the cusp of homelessness with coats, work boots and care kits. Homeless Connect is an event that started up in 2008 and has now been held eight times at Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre. It isn’t run by United Way but is instead a large community collaboration between multiple partners and service providers in Edmonton. The biannual event (spring and fall) offers attendees warm coats, haircuts, dental checkups, a good meal and information on housing, taxes and other resources – all in one day, at one location. United Way has been a part of the event since its beginning and witnessed October 2012’s Homeless Connect become an even greater success than previous years because Parlee McLaws LLP came on board as a sponsor. Parlee’s three-year commitment to Homeless Connect secured United Way’s ability to provide more than 1,700 people living in poverty with standardized kits full of personal care items including shampoo, deodorant, and razors. “Prior to that sponsorship, everything was generated solely based on community donations, so there wasn’t the same number of every item or some things would be different,” Broadfoot says. There are 400,000 Albertans living in poverty and 123,000 of them fall within the Capital Region’s boundaries. Coats for Kids & Families and Homeless Connect are just two of the many initiatives United Way of the Alberta Capital Region and its Discovery team oversee. Dermott says it’s important to know that even with long-standing programs in the community such as Coats for Kids & Families, each year there’s still a need for donations, volunteers and public awareness.
HIGH VOLUME: The commercial cleaning equipment at Page The Cleaner operates extra hours to handle the volume of donated outerwear.
“Edmonton’s such a good community when it comes to volunteering and for donating,” Seanor says. “The amount of coats we get is just incredible.” He can include himself in that “good community” considering he began helping United Way with the program from the start. And he volunteers his time and expertise simply for the satisfaction that people in need, like friends from his childhood, who he recalls shivering each winter, will be better-equipped for Alberta’s harsh weather. United Way’s main campaign, or peak coat donation time, runs each year in late October to early December and has done so for over two decades. “We try to time [the campaign] when people might be going through their closets as the weather starts to turn,” Dermott says. United Way will accept jackets year-round, though, if somebody’s closet is bursting with winter wear and they just can’t wait until the fall to clear it all out. Work boots and other cold-weather gear – toques, mitts and scarves – are also items United Way gladly accepts for Coats for Kids & Families.
See http://coatsforkids.ca and www.homelessconnect.ca for more information.
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
FORT SASKATCHEWAN LAMONT COUNTY ST. ALBERT
STRATHCONA COUNTY EDMONTON PARKLAND COUNTY
by ELIZABETH CHORNEY-BOOTH
GREATER SERVICE AREAS
OST UNITED WAY OF THE ALBERTA
Capital Region supporters know about the great work that the organization does with people from all walks of life in the city of Edmonton, but the need for United Way funding does not stop at the city limits. United Way funds groups in municipalities in the Capital Region, which it refers to as Greater Service Areas, or GSAs. The funding is distributed for three reasons: people
in GSA communities contribute to United Way campaigns, each community has a strong relationship with Edmonton and the mission of United Way is an important part of regional health. GSAs located in Fort Saskatchewan, St. Albert and Strathcona County all run their own Community Investment Committees (CICs), which each include various local ofﬁcials, members of the community, and a member of United Way staff.
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
FORT SASKATCHEWAN COMMUNITY INVESTMENT COMMITTEE
Fort Saskatchewan CIC: Established 1998 Funding distribution approach: Provide funding to a broad range of programs
United Way has a long-standing relationship with Fort Saskatchewan’s Community Investment Committee, dating back to 1998. The committee was formed after a group of local citizens became concerned that many donations that originated in the Fort Saskatchewan area were being funnelled into Edmonton-based projects even though there was plenty of need in the local community. Since its inception, the Fort Saskatchewan Committee has funded over 20 different community groups, ranging from recreational services for kids and youth with disabilities to a restorative justice program focusing on youth and community involvement. Fort Saskatchewan Community Investment Committee chair April Jennings says she appreciates that United Way allows the committee to direct funds in ways that speciﬁcally serve the needs of the population of Fort Saskatchewan, rather than trying to mimic programs that exist in Edmonton. “Smaller communities have unique needs and different needs than a larger community,” Jennings says. “One example is we don’t see a great deal of homelessness in Fort Saskatchewan. That’s an issue that Edmonton is dealing with on a huge scale. We’re ﬁnding that that’s not something we’re dealing with, but our family violence statistics are higher than other communities.” Fort Saskatchewan’s CIC is allocated $50,000 from United Way each year. The money is typically awarded through two annual granting cycles. Jennings says the impact on the local community at large has been huge. Even an initiative like the Next Steps Senior High Breakfast and Lunch Program, which addresses the nutritional needs of a select group of young people, ultimately affects the entire Fort Saskatchewan community. “When we support groups like that, we ﬁnd that the graduation rate is increasing,” Jennings says. “So we’re putting more citizens into our community that have a high school diploma and are going out there with basic nutritional information so they can keep themselves healthy throughout their adult years. It’s hard to pinpoint, but the trickle effect is huge.” The Fort Saskatchewan CIC has chosen to distribute its United Way funds among as many groups as possible so as to impact a greater number of citizens. Jennings says that the needs of the greater community are varied, which is why the committee tries to spread the wealth. “The money is being put towards prevention so that later on down the line our community and our government doesn’t need to put those dollars into intervention situations,” Jennings says. “We can tap in at the root problem and help before it gets into a crisis situation.”
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
ST. ALBERT COMMUNITY INVESTMENT COMMITTEE
The St. Albert Community Investment Committee was established in partnership with United Way in 2007, but the committee’s roots go back much farther. The CIC grew out of the existing St. Albert Strategy And Mobilization (SAM) Committee, which had already been funding a limited number of community projects. Since SAM already had programs in place to take care of some of the community’s needs, the committee felt it could focus United Way funding to pay for a single program year after year. “This particular community investment only addresses one function, which is an outreach worker that tries to work with the homeless, poverty and at-risk individuals in the community,” says Scott Rodda, director of Family and Community Support Services in St. Albert and member of the local CIC. The outreach worker position is funded by the money that United Way directs to the CIC, and that individual distributes rent supplements that are provided by the City of St. Albert. It’s a great example of the GSA’s ability to partner different agencies together for the beneﬁt of vulnerable citizens. The outreach person is also available to those who need extra support and information or access to counselling, therapists or other services. Currently, approximately 30 families beneﬁt from the efforts of the outreach program. Rodda says that while 30 families out of a population of over 60,000 people may not seem signiﬁcant, to those 30 families, the outreach worker makes an immeasurable difference. He also notes that at-risk families and individuals often don’t stand out in smaller communities, making them more difﬁcult to identify and help. “Smaller communities might sometimes have a harder time identifying those who are vulnerable in parts of the community,” Rodda says. “They can be pretty obvious and visible in a larger community. It’s not as obvious in some of the outlying communities.” The beneﬁt to doing outreach work in a smaller community, however, is that there is often better communication between agencies and workers, which is why the program in St. Albert is so valuable. Rodda credits United Way with respecting the processes of the CIC and letting local voices determine where the funding is best spent and understanding that funding a single outreach worker is more important to St. Albert than spreading funds among several competing groups.
St. Albert CIC: Established 2007 Funding distribution approach: Provide consistent funding to a specific program Program: Outreach worker who works with people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
STRATHCONA COUNTY COMMUNITY INVESTMENT COMMITTEE
Like the St. Albert committee, the Strathcona County Community Investment Committee grew out of an existing social services advisory committee that had been operating for over 25 years. Since 2006, the CIC has been working in partnership with United Way. Strathcona County takes an approach that falls in between the committees in St. Albert and Fort Saskatchewan. It has chosen to fund two different organizations on an ongoing annual basis. After much thought and discussion at its inception, the CIC decided to support an outreach worker at the Boys and Girls Club and another at the Saffron Sexual Assault Centre’s Secure Connection Program, which provides educational programming for youth, parents and educators on the topics of Internet safety and cyber violence and bullying. The current plan is to continue funding these two programs as long as they need ongoing support. “The committee decided that because ongoing dollars are the most difﬁcult dollars to get that it didn’t make sense to reallocate those dollars and give a variety of groups one-time funding,” says Jackie Winter, director of Strathcona Country Family and Community Services. Winter says the two programs the committee has chosen to fund were selected because of the impact they can have on a variety of people in the local area. United Way funding allows the Saffron program to visit schools throughout the county, thus affecting young people who may not even consider themselves at risk. The Boys and Girls Club is an accessible program open to anyone who feels they could beneﬁt. Since many view Strathcona County as a fairly middleclass community, Winter notes that vulnerable families and individuals are often hidden in plain view. “I think smaller communities, and especially in middle-class communities, the problems are more hidden,” Winter says. “We don’t have an inner city. But do we have at-risk youth; do we have at-risk families; do we have abuse? Of course we do. Do we have low-income families? Absolutely. It’s just not as obvious.” Winter’s comments echo those of Scott Rodda in St. Albert, but with subtly different implications that are speciﬁc to Strathcona County. This is why all of the local representatives believe it is so important that United Way encourages each GSA to address the speciﬁc needs of its community through its own CIC. It’s that trust and communication that allows these relationships to continue to thrive.
Strathcona County CIC: Established 2006 Funding distribution approach: Consistently fund two programs with different targets Programs: Boys and Girls Club and Saffron Sexual Assault Centre Secure Connection Program
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
Walking in the shoes of low-income community members creates empathy and understanding
by MICHELLE LINDSTROM
T CAN BE DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE WITH A
Imagine every eight minutes having a new life
circumstance thrown at you that looks something like this: You’re a father of a teenage son and daughter, who has a daughter of her own, and you just got paid from your job. The plan is to buy groceries after you cash your cheque and then head home. But eight minutes have passed and “circumstance number one” is handed to you: The bank is closed. You don’t have a credit rating and, therefore, do not have a
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
solid ﬁnancial base to empathize with the relentless pace of difﬁcult decisions faced by community members who live in poverty. United Way of the Alberta Capital Region is seeking to increase poverty awareness with a live-and-learn experience for community members to step into the day-to-day lives of the region’s less fortunate.
NOT YOUR REALITY
REALITY CHECK: Participants were asked to imagine a world where choices and circumstances are consistently difﬁcult.
bank card to use the bank machine. Waiting for the bank to open tomorrow minutes of real time simulated one week in the is not an option; your family needs food tonight. You decide to go to a 24program.) “I believe the people of Edmonton look out hour cash store and see if you can afford to cash your cheque there. You lose for each other and what I learned was that people need from ﬁve to 20 per cent of your cheque to processing fees but at least you have to know how to look out for each other,” she says. enough money to be able to buy food for the week. Then you catch a bus home. Karina Hurtado, community investment specialist Another eight minutes pass and you’re given “circumstance number with United Way, serendipitously got the ball rolling two.” You get home and your son hands you a list of school fees due Friday for Edmonton’s poverty simulation. In 2007, an of this week. You just spent a good chunk of your paycheque on groceries Edmonton public school principal invited her to take and you still need to pay rent – you don’t have enough money to cover the part in a similar program and she found the idea was school fees. You tuck your stereo under your arm and walk to the closest too good not to pursue it further. pawn shop. It’s cold outside, but you don’t want to waste another bus ticket Hurtado says reports and statistics are the go-to because you need them to get to work for the rest of this week. Your boss methods of informing people about poverty and, doesn’t care what your reasons are – he’s heard enough. You’ve been warned although they are helpful, they’re not always memorable. that if you miss one more day, you’ll be ﬁred. “This poverty simulation The bell chimes as you enter the small store full allows participants to I believe the people of of miscellaneous items on overloaded shelves. experience the stress of Edmonton look out for each You know your year-old stereo (a present from a living with a low income and other and what I learned was friend) is worth $200, but you bite your tongue empathize with someone that people need to know how when the pawn shop owner offers you $50 for it. who is in that position.” to look out for each other. That red bill handed to you, after you slide your In May 2012, Hurtado and stereo across the counter, is all you have to keep her supervisor, Joanne Currie, your son in school. You don’t have another option. director of ﬁnancial stability and independence at United That’s the persona and set of realistic, low income-related roadblocks Way, participated in a Calgary-run poverty simulation. A Liz O’Neill took on for an hour, similar to what 42 other participants did at few months later, with the ﬁnancial support of EPCOR, United Way’s pilot poverty simulation project on November 1, 2012. O’Neill, they purchased the tool from the Missouri organization executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters Edmonton that founded it. In consultation with United Ways in and Area, says the simulated four weeks of poverty she experienced was Calgary and Winnipeg, the original version was modiﬁed, accurate to what 123,000 Edmonton households face each month. (Fifteen from its American realities to a Canadian context. Hurtado
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
became the poverty simulation project co-ordinator and spent two months adjusting the details before Edmonton’s pilot version ran in November. Hurtado followed the basic framework of the original poverty simulation that was built to accommodate 88 participants, creating roughly 26 families that will use 12 different community agencies such as banks, daycares, an employment centre, homeless shelter, community centre, payday loan and more.
In downtown Edmonton, many participants didn’t know what
to expect that fall morning when they walked into the Royal Glenora Club. It’s understandable because the program was completely new to Edmonton and fairly new to Canada – United Way in Calgary, Winnipeg and the Peel Region of Ontario also have the tool. Mack D. Male, software engineering manager with Questionmark Computing and former EPCOR Community Essentials Council (ECEC) member, says he went to the Edmonton simulation as a participant without much background of what he got himself into. He says he liked it that way – no preconceived notions. It did take him a minute, though, to understand that he was to assume the persona of Diana Duntley, a 14year-old girl who wasn’t very motivated to stay in school and whose father just left the family that consisted of her brother and unemployed mother. “When breakfast was done, we met our ‘family’,” Male says. “Each family had this little package to explain the situation and a bit of background.” He looked around the room and saw all the services along the perimeter and thought with a bit of panic, “Where should we start?” “One of the best comments one of our ECEC members made was, ‘Well, that was month one. What happens in month two?’ ” Male says. “You spend all this time trying to figure out how you’re going to pay the
bills for the one month in the simulation, and maybe you’ve pawned some stuff, but you have to do it all over again in the second month and it’s not like it’s going to get any easier.” Hurtado says the future of Edmonton’s poverty simulation is still under discussion but the feedback for the pilot version was extremely positive. Many participants told her the tool will facilitate a better understanding of life for low-income families. There is a debriefing session following the simulation where United Way members explain to participants how to get involved and what they can do next in the community with their new-found knowledge. That information varies from group to group – company owners versus employees, for example – based how the network participants connect with and help others. After working her way through the simulation, O’Neill has empathy for the tough choices many community members face. “People get up in the morning and they just want to do their very best, but sometimes we’re lacking the knowledge in order to perhaps turn left instead of right.” Her hope for United Way is that the poverty simulation will be made available to those who want to help others in the community, but are unsure how to begin. Hurtado’s hopes align with O’Neill’s. She’d like the public approached in a non-traditional way to sensitize more people to the reality of families living in low-income situations.
we • winter/spring • 2013
L EADING EDGE
STABILITY AND COMFORT: Sable Souliere has found a home at StART House.
A new brand and vision draws new attention to YESS
by BOBBI-SUE MENARD Photo by CHRISTY DEAN
IT CAN BE INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT FOR ADULTS TO
cope with family relationships in upheaval and crisis. But for a teen who may be on the cusp of adulthood, lacking the resources to address problems effectively, a family crisis can put him or her on the street with no recourse. For 30 years, Edmonton’s Youth Emergency Shelter Society (YESS) has been providing emergency services to teens, covering a long-standing gap in provincial funding. YESS recently rebranded itself as the Youth Empowerment and Support Services (keeping its YESS acronym) to reﬂect its evolved purpose in the community.
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
It was about a year ago when the executive
director of YESS, Deb Cautley, met with senior staff members to discuss some of the hard truths that come with being an established not-for-profit organization. Donors and funders weren’t aware of what YESS offered, and some of the organizational spark was fading with time. “When you say ‘Youth Emergency Shelter,’ the name does not imply everything that we do,” explains Cautley. “People didn’t have a concept of what we do and who we serve.” It didn’t help that the YESS logo and brand were a bit dated, too. YESS needed to develop an effective way of communicating with the broader community in order to explain everything the organization offered. Its offerings included the mainstay services like immediate crisis care and shelter for teens in emergency, and stable, longer term services including StART House. Cautley says most of the teens that come to YESS want to move forward with their lives. It is a common goal for youth who have experienced sexual and emotional abuse, been a victim of human trafficking, or are on the road to recovery from chemical dependency. It is that mix of yearning to move forward and diverse demographics that inspired YESS to become more than an emergency shelter and broaden its menu of programming. “We talk about kids coming from difficult realities; where they want to go is where we step in to help them,” Cautley says. Sable Souliere lives at the YESS-operated StART (Stabilize, Assess, Refer, and Transition) House. It is her full-time mediumto long-term home and haven after spending several weeks at the Hope Mission. It wasn’t what the Grade 12 student had ever expected, but because of challenges with her home life, there was no other option for her. “When I was at the shelter, it was hard to sleep [Hope Mission has mats on the floor as sleeping accommodations]. I was falling asleep in class and had a hard time keeping my grades up. When I found out that I could come here to StART, it was a really good thing. I can finish high school in the same community as my sisters.” Now Sable expects to graduate on time and pursue her goal to be a professional photographer, with post-secondary schooling at NAIT. She holds down a part-time job at Second Cup and with programming offered at StART she is saving money for the future. Despite being off to a bit of a rocky beginning at StART, she now calls the home “comfortable” and can see the benefits it offers her. “I am learning a lot of independent life skills here,” she says. The purpose of StART is to offer teens a stable environment to help them progress towards their goals. The average client stay is eight months. If the teen has a job, they pay rent on a sliding scale and earn a rental reference to take with them in the future. Part of the paycheque must go into savings so they have a nest egg for their next life steps. “This is a client-directed program in that we ask, ‘How can we work with kids in this program?’ ” says Erin Forbes, StART program supervisor.
After months of work with InSight
Marketing Solutions, an Edmonton firm that donated countless hours to the effort, YESS unveiled its new vision, mission and values statement to staff, donors and the broader public. The launch was a ground-breaking, projected holographic presentation on May 8, 2012, that highlighted the new logo and brand for the organization. The launch’s visual elements – a striking, stained glass bird – and the new vision made an instant impact on attendees. “It was difficult to do, but you really can’t do it halfway,” Cautley says. Feedback to the rebranding has been positive, indicating YESS made the right move to better describe what it is and does now. “Some of the rebrand is about looking closely at our programs and how we can tweak them to get that sustaining energy,” explains Cautley. “If you don’t work on culture at the same time, [the effects of] the rebrand will fizzle out.” Another change involved breaking down the walls between staff and clients. Every staff member now works with a teen, in some capacity, at least once a month. Sue Keating, associate executive director at YESS, says employees have embraced the idea of “remarkable experiences” with renewed excitement about the organization. “We want to offer our clients remarkable experiences,” she says. “We think that through remarkable experiences, they get the learning they need to go out into the world.” For a person who is not in crisis, getting a clean set of clothes, new school supplies or landing a job interview can seem runof-the-mill. Yet those same experiences can be extraordinary for a teen that hasn’t experienced a healthy home life for years.
we • winter/spring • 2013
Two Edmonton businesses find a way to give back
by BOBBI-SUE MENARD IN PERSON: FIRMA Foreign Exchange employees volunteered at local pools. HANDS ON: Michael Sharp, a lawyer at Parlee McLaws, helps build a care kit.
Children and families are vital to the success of our community: it’s a core
value at FIRMA Foreign Exchange, a global currency exchange firm that got its start in Edmonton. The company maintains a charitable fund and, when it came time to decide how to invest that money, the team looked to those core values, says FIRMA Foreign Exchange HR assistant Bridget Gryschuk. “The No. 1 goal of the FIRMA Charitable Foundation is to support Edmonton children and families,” she says. “This is something that is very important to us.” In exploratory meetings, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region showed Gryschuk and the team several options of how to get involved in the community that aligned with FIRMA Foreign Exchange’s goals. The FIRMA Foreign Exchange team chose to sponsor a National Child Day activity. On November 18, 2012, YMCA and City of Edmonton pools around the city hosted a free family swim, sponsored by a donation from FIRMA Foreign Exchange. In addition to the financial support, 10 FIRMA Foreign Exchange employees volunteered at various pools to help the event run smoothly. “A free swim is pretty rare, and we
were excited about getting kids into the pool to have fun,” Gryschuk says. The free family swim was an event that would have suffered without the support of a sponsor, says Angela Dorval, communications advisor with United Way. “Without FIRMA Foreign Exchange, we wouldn’t have had the resources to host as successful an event,” she says. “The sponsorship made a big difference. In fact, there was no other budget to pay for the day, and I can’t believe the success we’ve had.”
To help determine the best way to give back to the community, Edmonton law firm Parlee McLaws undertook a process to prioritize its charitable donations and efforts. The firm’s committee decided to focus its efforts on abating homelessness, poverty and hunger, explains Jerri Cairns, managing partner of Parlee McLaws. The firm made a three-year commitment to the causes. Once the areas of focus were defined, Parlee McLaws decided the best way to pursue its goals was through Homeless Connect. The twice-a-year Homeless Connect event provides services such as dental care and haircuts to event
attendees who are homeless or likely to become homeless. Everyone who comes to Homeless Connect is given a care kit full of personal hygiene products and other necessities. Care kits are vital to people living in dire poverty, says Christa Broadfoot, director of Discovery at United Way. “For many people, personal hygiene products are not a reality,” she says. To stretch donation dollars and provide the highest value inside the care kits, supplies are purchased for the kits with complete three-year funding from Parlee McLaws through United Way’s In Kind Exchange at volume discounts and then assembled by the teams of volunteers. Staff and partners from Parlee McLaws helped with assembly and distributed 1,800 care kits at the event. “The number of people who need assistance is always staggering,” says Cairns, who participated in assembling and distributing the care kits. “The number of families and children living in poverty is shocking.” Efforts such as those of FIRMA Foreign Exchange and Parlee McLaws help ease the burden on families in Edmonton and area.
we • winter/spring • 2013
L ASTING EGACY
COMMUNITY PILLARS: John and Barbara Poole were passionate supporters of Edmonton.
A LIFETIME OF GIVING
ARBARA POOLE, ONE OF EDMONTON’S MOST passionate philanthropists, passed away on December 17, 2012, at the age of 83, leaving behind a long legacy of giving.
Barbara and her late husband John were an inspiration to many, not only for the millions of dollars they donated to a myriad of causes, but also for their genuine desire to help others and strengthen their community. For this, in 2004, the Poole’s became the ﬁrst joint recipients of the province’s highest honour, the Alberta Order of Excellence. They were passionate advocates for many local causes. In 1989, John and Barbara Poole, along with George and Rae Poole, and Robert and Shirley Stollery rejuvenated the Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) with a gift to the Community Fund of $5 million on behalf of each of their families. Since then, the ECF has allocated more than $139 million back into the community, a portion of which has provided funding to United Way and its partner agencies. Within our local business community, the Poole family is well known for launching a venture that would evolve into Canada’s largest construction company. Poole Construction Ltd. was founded by John’s father, Ernest E. Poole, in 1906 and after seven decades of operation was sold to a group of senior managers in 1977. The resulting organization – the PCL family of companies – continues to foster the community-minded roots instilled by its founders. In 2011, PCL’s Edmonton ofﬁce made a record-breaking $2 million dollar donation to United Way of the Alberta Capital Region; surpassing their preceding record of $1.6 million dollars in 2010. As part of its 2012 campaign, PCL will reach another signiﬁcant milestone by becoming the ﬁrst ever organization in the 70-year history of United Way to achieve a cumulative $10 million in donations in our community. The Poole family’s legacy will continue to inspire countless people within and outside our community; and Barbara, who has often been referred to as “Edmonton’s First Lady of Philanthropy,” will be greatly missed. Her generosity has not only been a beneﬁt for our community, but a shining example of how one person’s life can change the lives of many.
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
The workforce is an ocean and the Water Wings program helps Edmontonians learn to swim
HE HAND-CUT YELLOW PAPER LETTERS ABOVE the door of a classroom in Edmonton’s Boyle Street Community Services building spell Water Wings. But inside, clients aren’t just trying to stay aﬂoat – some are getting ready to soar.
Clients like Zeny Marte, who sits against the back wall, focused in front of a PC. She’s learning computer and other ofﬁce skills after an injury prevented her from continuing her physical labour job. “This place is amazing. Other programs cost money. I would not be able to afford it,” she says. The warm temperature and atmosphere in the room today is a stark contrast to the frigid December day outside in the City’s downtown north. It’s crowded here as students of a broad mix of ages and ethnicities sit around tables in the middle of the room or, like Marte, in front of computers along the perimeter walls. “It’s a little tight,” admits Water Wings program coordinator Joe Pillay, who’s one of three instructors. “We’ll soon be moving to the larger classroom next door.” Founded in 1971, Boyle Street Community Services works with people who face multiple barriers including mental illness, addictions, racial discrimination and social exclusion to help them transition from survival to greater stability and independence. Water Wings began in January, 2010. It’s an employment readiness program that helps homeless and unemployed individuals prepare for the workplace. Some come to create a resumé, learn job interview skills, or send out applications. Others are working towards completing trade entrance exams or achieving safety tickets like the Construction Safety Training System course.
Getting their wings: Boyle Street’s Joe Pillay helps clients like Zeny Marte achieve their career goals.
EPCOR’s Community Essentials Council (ECEC) donated funds to Water Wings in 2011, and 2012. Made up of community leaders and EPCOR employees, the Council launched in 2011 and it focuses on initiatives that provide food, shelter and safety, and education. It has given $700,000 in grants to date. A key portion of the ECEC’s donation is used for bus tickets. This helps clients travel to and from Boyle Street, job interviews, and exams. “Simply getting to these appointments is a big step towards helping people get back on their feet,” explains Pillay. Last fall, nearly 2,800 bus tickets were distributed to over 200 clients. Boyle Street deputy executive director David Berger says funding for programs like this ensures there is prompt and accessible support to best serve each particular situation. “We could not have done this without the help of funders like EPCOR’s ECEC,” he says. Other major supporters include Alberta Human Services, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, and the Edmonton Oilers Foundation. Since February 2012, 52 clients have secured placement in jobs such as labourers, truck drivers, apprentices, cooks, and cashiers. Others like Marte are steadily building their wings one feather at a time. “Our goal is for them to become role models and truly make a difference in their community and families,” says Pillay. “We want them to come away believing that they can – and will – accomplish great things. Don’t ever be afraid to strive for more.”
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013
City of Edmonton employees have a new United Way campaign to rally around
by BOBBI-SUE MENARD BUILDING EXCITEMENT: Mayor Mandel takes to the podium to introduce a fashion show fundraiser for United Way at City Hall.
FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE
City of Edmonton has a United Way of the Alberta Capital Region campaign for both unionized and non-unionized employees. Events of all kinds are being held at City Hall and other City of Edmonton locations to give employees the chance to participate in the campaign and give back to the community directly. Mayor Mandel is solidly behind the initiative. “It has always been my position that the City should be a leading supporter. The union [Charitable Assistance Fund] has done a great job in supporting the United Way, but there needs to be a city-wide campaign and, now that there is one, I am incredibly proud of what we are doing,” says Mandel. Unionized City of Edmonton employees have made valuable fund-
ing grants to the United Way through the Edmonton Civic Employees Charitable Assistance Fund (ECECAF). Founded in 1941, the ECECAF was originally called the Civic Employees Welfare Chest Fund. The ECECAF is funded through pay cheque deductions from over 9,800 unionized employees from nine different unions and associations. “Our whole mandate at ECECAF is impacting lives and promoting healthy communities,” says Brenda Waluk, volunteer chair. “It is so satisfying to us to see that as an organization we are helping the community and making a difference.” In the past 15 years the ECECAF has donated over $8,000,000 to a broad spectrum of organizations in Edmonton including United Way. “The organizations we donate to are
all important to the community,” says Waluk. The 2012 United Way Campaign at the City of Edmonton is an opportunity for every city employee and manager to give back to the community and take part in a dedicated campaign. It is an opportunity for city employees, as an organization, to come together as a team and support the community. To help build excitement for the City of Edmonton United Way campaign and establish long-term expectations, Mayor Mandel has promised to personally match $10,000 in donations. “We have been doing all kinds of things for this. It is dynamic and exciting. In the next ﬁve to 10 years, the City of Edmonton should be the No. 1 campaign for United Way in Edmonton.”
WE • WINTER/SPRING • 2013