Jesse Willms: Why I Support The Bissell Centre

Posted by Jesse Willms on October 29, 2010

bissell-centre-jesse-willmsI wanted to take a minute to tell you about my most recent charitable partnership.

This week I donated $10,000 to the Edmonton-based Bissell Centre and will continue to donate another $10,000 to them each and every month. When I first started out my philanthropic efforts last summer, I focused on large global anti-poverty organizations like Kiva and World Vision.

bissell-centre-2-jesse-willmsNow, however, I’ve decided it’s time to also support worthy local organizations. I’ve told you before about how and why I’m supporting Santas Anonymous here, and now, the Bissell Centre is my second local charitable partnership. The Bissell Centre is an Edmonton institution. It was started 100 years ago because its founders believed that neighbors should reach out and help their neighbors. At first, they were dedicated to helping the emerging Ukrainian immigrant community. But, over the years, Edmonton’s needs changed, and the Bissell Centre adapted with the times. I found out how wonderful this center was when I toured it last week!

Today they are a large community outreach program. They help the homeless find places to live. They provide people still on the streets with shower, laundry and toilet facilities as well as safe spaces to read and watch movies. They also provide counseling for addictions, new mothers and families. One common thing they give out to new mothers is baby packages filled with formula, diapers and information on being a mom!

Personally, the Bissell Centre’s employment initiatives are what really impress me. They match jobless men and women with companies that need day labor. At the same time, they have educational initiatives that offer basic job skills such as resume writing and interview techniques. I found out recently that they have given out over $200 000 in safety tickets, so their participants can find good jobs, mostly in the construction field.

I am also fond of their program to help young mothers who have never entered the workforce learn the skills they need to get a job. All in all, this means that the Bissell Foundation not only provides for people’s basic needs today, but helps them develop the skills they need to be self supporting in the future. That’s the kind of community activism that I think really works. In fact, it reminds a lot of the Kiva Foundation and their efforts to help people around the world find ways to earn their way out of poverty.

This is why I’m going to continue to work with the Bissell Centre into the future, both by providing them with money and by publicizing the good work they do for the Edmonton community. I’m also encouraging other people to support them by donating their time or money to the Centre. If you cannot do so, at least help me spread the word about how the Bissell Centre works to be a good neighbor and community member.

Bissell Centre Success Stories

Story 1

A woman joined the program because she needed to renew her Safety Tickets. She has been working for the same company for almost a year when her tickets expired. They told her that she was a great worker but they would be unable to keep her on unless she renewed fer tickets.

She heard about the casual labour services at Bissell Center so she came down to register. During the registration process she was told about the Strengthening Our Spirit program. She then set up an interview and was accepted.

She is now back to work with the company and feels very content knowing that her position is safe as all of her tickets are good for three years.

Story 2

A woman joined the program in pursuit of learning new skills, finding out about different career options, working on her resume, and getting her forklift ticket.

She heard about the program while registering for a different program at Bissell Centre. She decided to go with the Strengthening Our Spirit program because of the length and the opportunity to get her forklift ticket. She had worked as a cashier for numerous years and knew she could no longer continue to support her family on the wage she was making, so a career change was necessary. She took full advantage of the Career Fair and was able to find the inspiration she was lacking to get out and try a new career.

Currently she has been offered a full time job as a forklift operator.

Story 3

One man entered the program with the goal of updating his Safety Tickets. He had been working full time but had been recently laid off due to a work shortage. He then enrolled in the Strengthening Our Spirit program, worked on his resume, updated his tickets and went back to his Union to seek full time employment.

Because of his updated Safety Tickets his union found him full time employment for him almost immediately, and he is currently working for the oil and gas industry in Northern Alberta.