Oxford Properties and the Holiday Gift Wrappers
This past holiday season Boyle Street was honored to be chosen as the featured charity of Oxford Properties at Edmonton's City Centre Mall. This campaign included ongoing collections of winter gloves and other donations, two events, as well as a Gift-Wrapping Station run by Boyle Street. Though an exciting opportunity, I would be lying if I said we were not a bit nervous about this responsibility knowing the amount of manpower and organizing a booth like this requires. But before we could say "wrapping paper" our amazing Ambassadors once again stepped up to the task. Over 40 Ambassadors volunteered their time and gift-wrapping talents to provide this service from December 3rd right up to December 24th. They not only represented Boyle Street with their kind and generous nature but because of them, the Gift-Wrapping Station raised over $3,000. The entire City Centre Mall Holiday Campaign raised over $8,000 and collected over 400 pairs of winter gloves. All will go to support the work and clients of Boyle Street Community Services.
Thank you to Oxford Properties and thank you to our Gift-Wrapping Ambassadors. What an amazing embodiment of the spirit of the season.
Edmonton Islamic Academy & Prince Charles School Partnership
Clients and staff alike had a wonderful time with some of our younger Ambassadors: the students of Edmonton Islamic Academy and Prince Charles School. In collaboration, the schools organized a meal which fed over 300 people, distributed socks and winter clothing, and provided pre-lunch entertainment. While the students of Edmonton Islamic Academy helped served the meal, Prince Charles School students performed a violin concert that had people up on their feet dancing. Following their time at Boyle Street, we were invited to their annual Peace & Goodwill Breakfast to celebrate partnerships with neighbours, and we were honored to attend.
Each school has pledged a commitment to sharing and celebrating with each other their cultural differences and working together in prioritizing community outreach. This remarkable friendship has taught the students how to be service leaders, and we at Boyle Street have benefited from their leadership as Ambassadors.
Thank you very much to both schools, their teachers and the students.
A remarkable young Ambassador to be recognized is Ashlynn Quilty, a 9-year-old grade 4 student who organized, collected, and distributed 200 "Bags of Hope". No stranger to philanthropy, Ashlynn has taken on fundraising endeavours in the past, but this was by far her biggest. Inspired by her teacher who told her class about a friend whose son died living on the street, Ashlynn knew she had to do something to help. I sat down with Ashlynn and her mother, April, to ask a few questions:
This morning before you came to Boyle Street, how were you feeling?
Ashlynn: I was quite nervous about who I was going to meet, but I was also really excited at the same time.
What was your first impression as you came into the building?
Ashlynn: My first impression was, "Wow, this is a big place". I thought it would take maybe one to two weeks to hand all the bags out. I did not think there would be this much space and this many people. I thought there would maybe be 100 today, and then you guys would hand the rest out. (*It took under 2 hours for Ashlynn to hand out all 200 of her "Bags of Hope")
How did you feel when you then started handing out your bags?
Ashlynn: It was a lot different than what I thought. Some of the really nice things people said, it just made me feel so amazing.
What was your favorite part of the whole experience?
Ashlynn: Everything has been so amazing and unexpected. I think meeting some of the people and what they have to say has just been awesome.
What advice would you give to people who want to help out, but don't know how to start?
Ashlynn: I would say maybe find a friend and do this together. Slowly start working your way to asking others to donate and work your way up. It talks a lot of teamwork.
Mom, do you have anything to add about the whole experience?
April: It opens your eyes because there is a stereotype to homelessness and the type of people that they might be. I think doing something like this you do realize that they are people, and they are good people who have fallen on a hard time and need a little help. It opens your eyes and it does humble a person.
Will you come back and visit us again?
Ashlynn: Ya, I have a feeling I will do this again next year. It's just I know what it is like now and I really want to help people again (April: We can do it bigger and better!)
Thank you, Ashlynn. All your hard work made a huge impact on our community. I continued to see the "Bags of Hope" hanging off people's shoulders even weeks after they were handed out. Ashlynn shows that we can all look up to a 9-year-old, and big things truly do come in small packages.
**PS. Ashlynn finished handing out her bags just as our community lunch began. Seeing this, she asked her mom if they could stay longer so she could help serve lunch. In the blink of an eye Ashlynn and April were behind the counter and stayed to volunteer their time for the duration of lunch.
Wayne and Pamela Schafer
Wayne and Pamela Schafer are two loyal Ambassadors who make an impact in a unique way. The following is a letter from Wayne describing their journey to becoming the Ambassadors they are today:
My brother in law is the co-founder of a charity based in Red Deer called A Better World – Canada. Through that organization, he does amazing charitable work in Africa, Tibet, Central America, Afghanistan and elsewhere. His organization also organizes and promotes some local Central Alberta projects for those in need.
For Canada's 150th birthday, he instituted a project were citizens would do "one good deed" for the community each month for all of 2017. These volunteer projects would be reported to A Better World – Canada and they would be tracked for so as to inspire others.
I heard about the project and Pam and I decided that, as we both work downtown, we would do something for one of the shelters/drop-in centres in Edmonton's downtown core.
In January 2017 we started with Pam purchasing 150 pairs of heavy socks. We put them in big bags and then wondered what to do next!
I have known Judge Robert Philp for several years and he had invited me to lunch during the week after we had bought the initial batch of socks. As he is a man with many connections, I asked him over lunch what shelter or drop-in centre might find 150 pairs of socks of some use. He immediately advised me that he was on the Board of the Boyle Street Community Centre and, as I work in the EPCOR Tower just across the street from the Boyle Street Community Centre, he was certain that their clients would be the perfect recipients of our socks.
Robert suggested that we put the socks in big bags and take them to the canteen in the back part of the Community Centre where someone would take them and deal with them.
I did as instructed and took over the socks in January of 2017. The next month we bought mitts and winter hats and then more socks the following month. Generally, I would just walk over to the canteen and tell the person in charge that I had a donation. The bags would be taken and that would be the end of it.
However, on my third trip to the Community Centre, the gentleman in the canteen asked where the donations were coming from. I told him it was just a donation from my wife and me, but it got me thinking that perhaps I should introduce ourselves and let the Boyle Street Community Centre know who we were and what we were doing.
In April's donation bags I put in a note of introduction. That lead to a very kind note of appreciation being mailed to us by Brent Guidinger. That note lead to a meeting with Brent and the initiation of an excellent contact at the Community Centre.
Brent's involvement morphed into Pam inviting him to give a lecture at NorQuest College where she teaches nursing. It also lead to Brent and Robert coming over to the Department of Justice to give a presentation to about 30 lawyers and staff which resulted in a number of volunteer hours being provided to the Boyle Street Community Centre by those who had heard the presentation.
Over the last 20 months Pam and I have donated a variety of items as diverse and useful as feminine hygiene products, bus tickets, cat food, winter hats, summer hats with sun visors, suntan lotion, bottled water, toothbrushes and toothpaste, socks, underwear, face cloths with bars of soap as well as gently used clothing.
The process is simple - I generally contact Brent a few weeks in advance to find out what is needed and then Pam sets out to find the best deals in the city for our monthly donation budget of between $150 and $200.
Once the requested items are obtained, we package them and then I meet Brent at the front of the Community Centre and drop them off.
This little routine and program started off as a celebration of Canada's 150th birthday for 12 months. It has grown into a routine that we both enjoy and that we intend to carry on for as long as we live in the Edmonton area.
It is a very small way of giving back to the community in which we are very privileged to live and work.
It is our pleasure!
Wayne Malcolm Schafer, Q.C. and Pamela Dawn Schafer, B.Sc.N, R.N.
Thank you to both Wayne and Pamela Schafer. Your impact reaches so much further than the donations themselves. It is in your friendship and support that is cherished above all.
Nvenn Hair and Beauty Bar
We love when our Ambassadors make an impact by sharing their unique skills and talents with our community. The team at Nvenn Hair and Beauty Bar did just this when they came into the Boyle Street Drop-In and provided free haircuts. In roughly two hours, 40 people were shaved, sheared and pampered. The ability to get a haircut is one of those things that can easily be taken for granted. In fact, much of what is done at Boyle Street is connecting folks with services that most people take for granted. Like many basic activities, a haircut to most people is not considered a luxury. But to a person who cannot afford to prioritize the maintenance of their appearance over other more pressing needs, a haircut is a rarity.
More than just personal hygiene, a person's appearance reflects the way they wish to present themselves to the world. A fresh haircut may seem minimal, but don't be fooled. It can provide a person with confidence, self-worth, and the dignity of feeling like themselves again. And beyond the service, Nvenn Hair and Beauty Bar brought in 2 full carloads of essential and much-needed winter clothing, all having been donated by their staff and clients.
Thank you so much Nvenn Hair and Beauty Bar. Though your haircuts looked great, your generosity was the most beautiful thing in the room.
Impact Session Participants
Some of the most important work an Ambassador can do is to help address and combat the societal stigma that exists against people who are experiencing poverty and homelessness. Knowledge is power, and by speaking the truth about the realities of poverty and leading by example, we can together change hearts and minds.
Quarterly, all Ambassadors are invited to join exclusive informational events called "Ambassador Impact Sessions". The Impact Sessions are part of our commitment to provide Ambassadors with information to keep them well informed about the challenges and opportunities faced by those experience poverty and homelessness in Edmonton. Empowered with this knowledge, our Ambassadors can further spread this information throughout their own networks. This is how we will achieve true societal change that will be the greatest benefit to those we serve.
Thank you to every Ambassador who has taken the time to attend an Impact Session. Your curiosity, drive, and passion are incredibly encouraging, and we value your involvement more than we can say.
McClure United Church Women's Group
There is no criteria or age limit to being a Boyle Street Ambassador. This is shown by the wonderful women who make up the McClure United Church Woman's Group of which I had the privilege to be invited to speak to about Boyle Street Community Services. This group of women, many over the age of 60, is truly inspirational. With a long history of social involvement, this group shows no sign of slowing down. Every person was exceptionally engaged with lots of questions, a great willingness to participate and open minds. Though the increasing age of the group has somewhat limited their mobility, these passionate women continue to educate themselves on the issues that face their community and help in any way they can.
Thank you to the McClure United Church Women's Group for being motivational role models of what life-long involvement looks life, as well as being amazing Ambassadors for our community.
RE/MAX Elite "The Face of Resilience Gala"
From volunteering to serve a meal at the Community Centre to being the driving force behind Boyle Street's first ever gala event, the journey we have taken with RE/MAX Elite over the past year has been nothing less than remarkable. The folks at RE/MAX Elite share the same values we live by at Boyle Street, making them wonderful Ambassadors.
Quickly connecting with our community and uniquely understanding the importance of having a home, the team of RE/MAX Elite wanted to do more to support people who are experiencing poverty and homelessness. Along with putting together an awesome summer BBQ, RE/MAX Elite took on the monumental task of partnering with Boyle Street to present the inaugural "The Face of Resilience Gala". With the money raised from the gala, the Community Centre's kitchen got a brand-new commercial stove and dishwasher, and a desperately-needed accessibility ramp will be built. But the gala was a success because of the platform and opportunity it gave us to feature the beautifully resilient people we serve each day.
A highlight of the night was the fashion show where RE/MAX Elite relators walked the runway side-by-side with Boyle Street clients. You couldn't tell who was who, and that was the point! Homelessness can affect anybody, and every person is unique and deserving to be seen as an individual, not defined by their housing situation. The night was full of laughter, music, a sense of community, and it could not have been done without the dedicated people of RE/MAX Elite.
Thank you to RE/MAX Elite. The team's ingenuity and enthusiasm are infectious and create truly admirable Ambassadors.
Ride for Refuge
This year was the second year the Boyle Street Community Services was a participant charity in the bike-a-thon "Ride for Refuge". In the first year, we raised just short of our goal of $15,000. We decided this year to set our sight high with a goal to raise $25,000. We knew this would not be an easy task, but that's what we do at Boyle Street, we go for it!
90 amazing Ambassadors made up 14 teams, all of which pledged to run 5k, or ride their bike 10, 25, or 50 kilometers for donations. The teams of Ambassadors were made up of staff, volunteers, friends, and family. Each and every person was an important asset, and together in a nail biter-finish we not only achieved our goal but surpassed it! Our final donations total was $26,747. An outstanding effort that was relished with a snowy bike ride on an early September morning (remember that crazy weather last fall!).
Thank you to every single person who participated in the Ride for Refuge. What an awesome display of leadership, teamwork, and perseverance; all qualities we celebrate in our Ambassadors. Start thinking about putting your Boyle Street Ride for Refuge team together now… I know we are.
The Nook Café and Urban Tavern
Ambassadors are not only individuals. There are many amazing businesses in Edmonton who have huge hearts and consider their social impact a serious responsibility. We have been very fortunate to build strong relationships with The Nook Café and Urban Tavern.
Over the course of the year, but specifically during the holiday season, both The Nook Café and Urban Tavern were gracious hosts to Boyle Street's Holiday Hangout events. By giving of their space we were able to connect with other Ambassadors and the general public to speak about the organization and answer questions. We have said many times that a critical part of our work is engaging with people to have meaningful conversations about the complex issues of poverty and homelessness, and both The Nook Café and Urban Tavern allowed us to do this in our own unique way.
Thank you to The Nook Café and Urban Tavern for continuing to be invaluable community partners and Ambassadors.
Darren McGeown, the owner of Arcadia Bar, has shown endless generosity and a genuine concern for the wellbeing of the clients of Boyle Street. Always looking for an opportunity to help out, he and his establishment have time and time again supported the most marginalized people in our city.
Over the past year alone, Darren and Arcadia have made numerous in-kind donations, volunteered many hours, hosted multiple events in support of Boyle Street (including Belts for Boyle Street, The Campaign of Hate Free YEG, and our Summer Block Party), and have gone above and beyond for our community.
A stand-out moment this summer was when Darren reached out to singer/songwriter Frank Turner who was in Edmonton on his international "Be More Kind" tour. He not only got Frank Turner to play a private show in the Boyle Street Drop-In, but Mr. Turner also gave out free tickets to Boyle Street clients for his concert that night and collected donations for Boyle Street at the concert! To top all that, Darren also reached out to the City of Edmonton and was the catalyst which led to Mayor Iveson to proclaim September 11th as "Be More Kind Day" in Edmonton. Aside from the big events, on regular basis Arcadia always has "A Buck A Beer" special where one dollar from a particular brew goes towards Boyle Street Community Services.
Darren is a stand-out example of what an Ambassador can achieve, and an amazing example of how one person really can make a difference. Thank you for continuing to inspire people on a daily basis with your passion and unwavering principles.
The Grizzlar Coffee and Records
At Boyle Street, we celebrate the diversity of skills that our Ambassadors bring to the table to support our community. An incredibly unique contribution comes from Drew McIntosh, owner of The Grizzlar Coffee and Records. Upon the opening of his new coffee shop just this last September, Drew made the decision to donate over 12 pounds of coffee a week to our Drop-In! And when I say coffee, I mean GOOD coffee. The Grizzlar roasts all of their own beans and creates their own unique blends, meaning our clients at Boyle Street are able to enjoy high-quality cups of coffee.
VueWeekly's Doug Johnson writes:
"According to McIntosh, fair-trade coffee has some fantastic benefits - especially in the countries from which it is sourced - but on the consumer end, the additional quality and ethics mean prices that can be prohibitive for some."
"Sometimes we come back to Canada with it, we roast it, and then it's delivered in a very classist context which removes access. You're in the fair-trade coffee business, but you're not meeting the needs right in from of you in your community…Corporate coffee keeps people down."
To date, The Grizzlar Coffee and Records has provided over 10,000 cups of coffee to the clientele of Boyle Street Community Services. Thank you Drew for being a leader in socially conscious business, an honorable community builder, and an irreplaceable Ambassador.
MacEwan Nursing Students
Once a week we have the privilege to have the second-year nursing students of MacEwan University volunteer in our kitchen to prep and serve a meal to our clients. A wonderful friendship has developed between the MacEwan University nursing faculty and Boyle Street Community Services as we share many of the same values including the importance of medical professionals being educated to the challenges faced by those living in poverty and homelessness. The students and teachers bring so much energy to our Community Centre, and we hope that we impart them with an experience that will shape the kind of nurses they will become in the future.
Thank you to every student and teacher who has volunteered with us and for taking the initiative in shaping our future health care professionals to be people of kindness and understanding. To have Ambassadors in the health care profession spreading our values of compassion and community is a true gift.
CSL Student Community Cook Book
Boyle Street Community Services knows the immense value in having strong partnerships and collaboration with the community around us. We have been a long-time participant with the University of Alberta's Community Service Learning: a program where students are paired with an organization on a specific project to receive hands-on learning in a real workspace environment.
This fall two students from the Food Security and Sustainability class took on a project to create a Community Cook Book. This cookbook was meant to be a low-barrier food resource for the vulnerable families accessing services with Boyle Street's Family Program. Through interviews, meetings, and their own research, the students were able to put themselves in the shoes of our clients and were successful in creating a truly beautiful book. Full of tasty meals, important facts, and a grocery resource guild, the Community Cook Book is a fantastic tool for anyone who might be struggling with food security. This important resource will add so much value to many of the people we serve, now and into the future.
Thank you to CSL Program and to all the participating students for being Boyle Street Ambassadors. It is a privilege to work with the creative minds of different perspectives in our shared goal of community wellbeing.
EllisDon Golf Tournament
A company that has been a long time Ambassador is EllisDon, and an event that we look forward to every year is the EllisDon Annual Subtrade Appreciation Golf Tournament. Though we are always honoured to be the featured charity of the tournament, this year was extra special because it was the first time we brought along with us the Boyle Street Food Truck. Part of Boyle Street Ventures, the Boyle Street Eats offers employment opportunity to the youth of our community. We had an absolute blast serving up poutine to all the golfers and sub-contractors who have also been fantastic supporters of Boyle Street.
Thank you EllisDon for being a fabulous Boyle Street Ambassador, and always being willing and excited to engage in any way possible. Your support continues to make a long-lasting impact on our community.