View Full Version : Engage:Special Report on AB's voluntary & non-profit sec

10-06-2007, 10:38 AM
Engage: A Special Report on Alberta's voluntary and non-profit sector

June 10, 2007
Edmonton Journal

10-06-2007, 10:42 AM
Help wanted
Edmonton's non-profit sector is struggling as the city's booming economy lures newcomers looking for work

Shari Narine, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

There are more than 8,000 non-profit/volunteer organizations in Edmonton, but still there are needs going unmet.

"In some areas, the needs have increased a lot," says Meisha Kolbuk, a team leader with the Support Network, or TSN.

TSN generates quarterly reports listing the unmet needs of people who phone 211 for referral services. High on that list for the six months ending March 31 was the need for housing.

By distributing the information within the sector, TSN hopes the non-profits can step up and expand their services.

But "there's such a large unmet need for housing that anything that can be done now will only be a drop in the bucket," Kolbuk says.

Other gaps in services include shortages of affordable child care, transportation and food.

This is the reality that Edmonton's booming economy has forced on a growing number of its residents, in particular the newcomers.

This special section of the Edmonton Journal provides an indication of where the city would be without the non-profit sector, which is struggling to keep up with demands.

"There is a misconception that seniors are doing very well," says Fran Matthews, executive director of the Seniors Outreach Network Society.

Matthews says people notice only the seniors who live in large condos or drive large recreational vehicles. But that doesn't mean all seniors have the same economic means.

Some say that misconception applies not only to seniors but to many other groups of Albertans as well.

Jim Gurnett, executive director of the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, says that over the last two years the pressure has been "much more intense" not only on organizations like his that deal with immigrants, but on others that deal with battered women, abused children, street people and people who need low-income housing and social services -- in other words, the growing number of disadvantaged in Alberta.

People are coming to Edmonton thinking it's the new Utopia with jobs aplenty and economic advantages. But the message they're not getting is that although jobs may be easy to find, there are huge gaps in services.

"People come not prepared," says Sandy Ericson, team leader with homelessness outreach for the Boyle Street Co-op.

As the non-profit sector struggles with recruiting staff and volunteers and acquiring funding, Alberta's employers are working to attract even more people to the province to fill the labour and skills shortage. And those efforts will further affect the non-profit sector.

The retail marketing industry has submitted to Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry its 10-year plan to meet its workforce demand.

One strategy calls for increasing the integration of immigrants into the retail workforce "by encouraging the expansion of formal and informal ESL (English as a second language) training for workers."

Another calls for partnerships between training providers and community agencies working with "under-represented groups" to develop "cultural diversity and multi-generational training programs" for the retail industry. The goal would be to "improve the retention of under-represented groups in the industry."

Those community agencies are the non-profit sector, says Val Mayes, executive director of the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.

As Edmonton grows, it becomes clearer that a healthy non-profit sector will be needed to improve the quality of life. This section of The Journal offers a glimpse at the value of the non-profit/voluntary sector and a reminder that Edmontonians need to pitch in -- through volunteering or monetary and other donations -- to allow all residents a chance at the "Alberta Advantage."

[email protected]

Shari Narine is an Edmonton-based freelance writer who covers the non-profit sector for The Journal's Engage feature, which appears twice monthly.

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 10:44 AM
Labour 'crisis' hits non-profit groups
Economic boom, funding shortfall leave organizations scrambling to find qualified staff, volunteers

Tom Barrett, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

Alberta's not-for-profit and voluntary sector is facing an unprecedented labour crisis, says Val Mayes, executive director of the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.

As the energy boom grows, a shortage of workers is causing problems across the province's economy. No sector is harder hit than the not-for-profit organizations, whose massive contribution to the community goes unnoticed by many.

Some not-for-profit day cares have closed because they can't find enough staff and some organizations are hiring staff that don't meet the usual qualifications because they can't find anyone to work overnight shifts. Other groups have had to cut back on or delay services.

Mayes says some staff members are so pinched financially they are even turning to the Edmonton Food Bank to help make ends meet.

"I now have no hesitation in using the word 'crisis,' " she says.

"Organizations are working with increasingly small staffs, and stress levels are high."

There has always been a gap between the salaries and benefits paid to staff in this sector compared with what they could earn from private companies or from government. That gap has become more of a chasm as Alberta businesses have produced ever better packages in their recruitment bids.

"The truth is some doors are closing," Mayes says.

"It's hard to recruit and keep staff when they can earn far more somewhere else."

There are other issues, particularly financial ones, but the difficulty finding qualified workers is the dominant one for Edmonton's 8,000 not-for-profit organizations.

Janice Bell, executive director of Volunteer Edmonton, regularly hears stories about the crippling effects of the labour shortages.

"I know of one organization that has gone through three communications directors in a year because they can earn $10,000 to $20,000 more in the private sector," Bell says. "Front-line people are using the word crisis and I don't think it's a stretch."

It's also getting harder to find volunteers because people are working harder and longer in their paid jobs and simply have less time for volunteer work, she adds.

"I know a young woman volunteer who has had to take a second job because her rent has increased from $500 to $900," Bell says.

Jim Gurnett of the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers notes that the best of times produced by the boom results in the worst of times for many.

"As the economy generates better salaries and benefits elsewhere, not-for-profit people are being increasingly lured away by better-paying positions," Gurnett says.

"What they leave behind is the rising cost of recruiting and training their replacements."

It has been estimated that people working for not-for-profit organizations are paid 30 to 40 per cent less than they would be to do similar work for the government

"Operating costs are going up across the board: rent, utilities, transportation and more. And during the 'best of times' some people actually have greater need, which demands a corresponding increase in services from providers like the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers," Gurnett adds.

He says volunteer activity is also down because many people are working longer hours. That is cutting into some services the Mennonite Centre offers, such as tutoring newcomers in English.

Ginny Gillen, executive director of the Northern Alberta Brain Injury Society, says labour shortages have affected service in Northern Alberta and to a lesser extent in Edmonton.

The people contracted to work one-on-one with the brain injured are not paid that well and many are going elsewhere because of money.

"Even my staff in Edmonton is pushing me for increases because it is very hard for them to live on their wages," she says.

"We're trying to pay the same wages as two or three years ago and some people can't afford to work for us."

Gillen says government grants haven't kept up with the rapidly rising cost of living.

Jason Maloney, a spokesman for Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry, says the provincial government definitely sees that labour shortages are a big problem in the sector.

"We're working closely with the not-for-profit/ volunteer people to address the issue."

One example is a temporary summer employment program in which the government pays $6.05 an hour, added to what the organization pays, so young people can find out if they are cut out for that kind of work.

The not-for-profit sector only has one card to play in the struggle to find qualified employees and volunteers, says Ross Tyson, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Edmonton.

"What keeps people coming through the doors is our mission and our values," he says.

"There are people who are drawn to this kind of work. Otherwise we couldn't survive. People feel that they are serving the greater community."

You can't put a monetary value on work satisfaction and the feeling that you are making the world a better place, he says.

The problem is there are only so many people who are powerfully drawn to this kind of work and there are a lot of not-for-profit organizations that need them.

"There are only a certain number of people in the pond and there are all of these organizations circling around it, all looking at the same people," Tyson says.

Staffing levels at the Boys and Girls Club have improved from 65 per cent of desired staffing levels to 82 per cent in recent months, partly because the organization doubled its recruitment budget and plans to double it again this year.

"These people are hard to find," says Tyson.

"They need a variety of qualifications, such as a two-year diploma, work experience, CPR training, aboriginal training."

To get the inside track, agencies go to the colleges, connecting with students in the hope that will improve their chance of recruiting them after graduation.

"We haven't had to close down any services but we are looking over our shoulders because other agencies are having to close doors," Tyson adds.

[email protected]
The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 10:45 AM
Charitable giving in Alberta

The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

A national survey, done in 2004 and released in 2006, by Imagine Canada offers some insight into charitable giving in Alberta:

- 93% of Albertans made either a financial or an in-kind donation to a charity or non-profit organization.

- 79% of Albertans made a financial donation. The average donor gave a total of $500 for a grand total of more than $1 billion.

- 82% of all financial donations came from just 25% of donors.

- One-third of donors supported religious organizations and contributed nearly half (49%) of all the money donated by Albertans.

- 59% of donors contributed to health organizations.

- Donors generally give for altruistic reasons, i.e. they feel compassionate about those in need (88%), believe in a worthwhile cause (88%), want to contribute to their community (76%).

- Albertans are more likely to give spontaneously than to plan their giving, but those who plan ahead make larger donations.

- Donors do not give more because they cannot afford to do so (70%) or because they feel their donations are sufficient (66%).

- Barriers for not donating at all were that they were not approached and did not know where to make one.

- Some donors did not give more because they did not like the way the request was made (40%). This relates to the tone of the request (44%) or the frequency or volume of requests (51%).

- Albertans are most likely to make a donation as a result of being asked to sponsor someone in an event (35%), door-to-door canvassing (32%), church collection (32%) and mailed requests (27%).


10-06-2007, 10:49 AM
Looking for volunteers outside the box
Agencies target four groups in bid to recruit new help

Shari Narine, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

They are out there: volunteers the agencies haven't given much thought to. But with the challenge the non-profit sector is facing in meeting the demand for services, these groups of people have become the sector's hot new targets.

Each of these four groups presents its own set of challenges for organizations that want to engage their services and time.

"Organizations are struggling to find volunteers. It's an ongoing issue," says Janice Bell, director of Volunteer Edmonton. The need is there "to get people to think a different way."

And thinking outside the box could make all the difference for the growing number of organizations as they vie for a limited pool of mainstream volunteers.

Research is showing there are four key groups that organizations should be trying to engage: families, the highly skilled, immigrant women and youth.

"Not all agencies are a fit for all areas, so they need to do an environmental scan," says Bell.


"We need to shift from 'family volunteerism' to 'involving families,' " says Nadine Maillot, a consultant and trainer in volunteer management, based in the Calgary area. "Parents want to introduce the concept of community and giving back (to their children)."

Organizations need to take the initiative and buy into the family concept in order to embrace that opportunity. They also need to determine whether engaging families will help them meet their mission.

- hen a family phones to volunteer, organizations need to be ready -- and that could mean having a "menu of ideas" of what could be accomplished from home.

"Usually parents have a pretty clear idea of what they want to achieve," Maillot says. "It's important to have that conversation from the get-go."


Fay Fletcher, who did contract work for Changing Together: A Centre for Immigrant Women, notes that many immigrant women arrive in Canada with post-secondary degrees, having been quite involved in their home countries.

"The challenges non-profits face are in placing immigrant women," says Fletcher, an associate professor in the University of Alberta's Faculty of Extension.

That challenge is two-fold: not only do immigrant women not think to volunteer outside their own cultural communities, but mainstream organizations don't think about involving immigrants as volunteers.

"They both shared a little bit of not thinking about it and then, if they thought about it, how to make it happen," says Fletcher.

She has received support from the City Regions Study Centre, recently opened in the Faculty of Extension, and is teaming up in a pilot project with Jewish Family Services, a non-profit settlement organization that received funding from the City of Edmonton. Immigrants, mainly women, will be matched as volunteers with mainstream organizations.

Fletcher hopes the project will be just the beginning of efforts to tap into the strengths that immigrants can offer as volunteers.

"We often underestimate what (immigrant) volunteers can contribute in terms of knowledge and expertise in their skills but also their passion and commitment," she says. "Often they've come from a very stable society that hit some kind of crisis that really shakes the ground under them and they come to a new country and they want that stability here for their children because this is their home. ... So they're very passionate about making their environment as strong and as stable as they can."


There's controversy over volunteer work that youth are required to do to earn high school or university credits, but, "It can be seen as an opportunity or a missed opportunity," says Joelle Fawcett-Arsenault, who runs a consulting agency that contracts with the non-profit sector.

"Youth who have a great experience with a mandatory volunteer placement will likely return."

Changing demographics are making it necessary for organizations to seriously think about engaging youth. "Volunteers are getting older and leaving or retiring. Youth are our next leaders," says Fawcett-Arsenault.

Revising job descriptions, showing appreciation of youth and allowing them to make decisions and take responsibility can help to attract and retain them as volunteers.

"Even if youth don't continue with your organization, they're likely to go to the next organization and volunteer there. It's not a loss if youth have positive experiences and move on to the next organization," says Fawcett-Arsenault, pointing out that organizations can work together to create a legion of youth who've had good experiences and want to continue giving.


Engaging highly skilled volunteers (often baby boomers and professionals) means non-profit organizations will have to do what most shy away from: develop a volunteer position that specifically fits the skilled volunteer.

"Organizations need to embark on a new way of thinking about how they design work and need to be willing to do more of a volunteering-by-contract approach," explains Maillot.

Highly skilled volunteers want work that is relevant and most don't want to be tied down to long-term commitments such as serving on boards or committees.

- while "it will take a lot of time and energy to manage (highly skilled volunteers) properly," it's worth it, Maillot says, because they bring expertise, affluence and contacts.

More skilled volunteers are coming forward, but their experiences aren't always stellar.

"Capacity (to work with them) is a really big problem ... ," Maillot says. "But there seems to be an emerging readiness in organizations to understand what it's really all about."

[email protected]

Shari Narine is an Edmonton-based freelance writer who covers the non-profit sector for The Journal's Engage feature, which appears twice monthly.


10-06-2007, 10:51 AM

The following is from an April 2005 study by Volunteer Alberta (www.volunteeralberta.ab.ca):

- Albertans are more likely than other Canadians to volunteer (39% vs. 27%). Only Saskatchewan has a higher percentage of volunteers (42%).

- Alberta volunteers contribute a significant number of hours to volunteer service -- 139 hours per person per year, although this is less than the Canadian average of 162 hours.

- Collectively, Albertans contribute 127 million hours of volunteer service per year -- the equivalent of about 76,000 full-time jobs.

- Four out of 10 Albertans volunteered either formally, with an organization, for activities such as canvassing, organizing events or delivering food to the needy; or informally, on their own, in activities such as babysitting, doing yardwork or driving someone to an appointment.

- Alberta-based organizations report a total membership of nine million people, meaning the average Albertan is a member of three non-profit organizations.

- Sports and recreation organizations are the most common type of non-profit organization in Alberta (26%), followed by religious organizations (19%); grant-making, fundraising and voluntarism promotion organizations (11%); and arts and culture organizations (10%). Although hospitals, universities and colleges represent only 1% of organizations, they account for more than one-10th (11%) of total revenues.

- Virtually all non-profit and voluntary organizations in Alberta use volunteers, either as board members or to help carry out activities. In fact, the majority of non-profit organizations (58%) are completely volunteer run with no paid staff.

- In Alberta, volunteers tend to be concentrated in mid-size and larger organizations. The 35% of organizations with annual revenues of $100,000 or more account for 66% of volunteers. Conversely, the 43% of organizations with revenues less than $30,000 account for just 11% of all volunteers.

Volunteer Alberta is a non-profit provincial association that works with the volunteer centres throughout the province. The centres in turn work with non-profit organizations to help them establish good standards of practice that allow volunteers to have a good experience. Volunteer Alberta also co-ordinates also facilitates programs for the volunteer centres to improve volunteer experiences.

Here's some information from the Canadian Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, 2004:

- Alberta's "super volunteer" is a woman between 35 and 54 who is married or in a common-law relationship. She likely has a university degree, attends religious services weekly, has school-age children and lives in a household with a yearly income of at least $60,000.

- Albertans 65 and older were the least likely to volunteer, with a rate of 34 per cent. However, this group contributed the most hours on average, at 254 per year.

- - -


Here are some 2003 figures from Statistics Canada about volunteer activity in various Alberta sectors:


- 1,950 organizations

- 5,280 paid employees

- 166,500 volunteers

- $500 million in revenues


- 1,610 organizations

- 34,000 paid employees

- 122,010 volunteers

- $2.181 billion in revenues


- 2,084 organizations

- 3,450 paid employees

- $699 million in revenues


- 574 organizations

- 68,000 paid employees

- 96,160 volunteers


- 3,687 organizations

- 9,330 paid employees

- 292,340 volunteers

- $625 million in revenues


- 1,798 organizations

- 24,900 paid employees

- 199,030 volunteers

- $942 million in revenue


- 4,970 organizations

- 19,770 paid employees

- 532,080 volunteers

- $940 million in revenues

-- Statistics Canada

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 10:53 AM
Family violence on the rise
Special committee studies collaboration among agencies to improve service

Shari Narine, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

Karen Reynolds is on the front line for Catholic Social Services.

As manager of its counselling and family living programs, Reynolds knows first-hand about the increase in family violence.

"The severity is greater. The struggle people have is greater."

Alberta's booming economy has brought more money into Edmonton, but more money isn't the answer for people who "don't have the ability to manage more. You can have lots of money, but if you can't relate or you have trouble getting along, money can't fix that," says Reynolds.

Eighty to 90 per cent of the counselling done in Reynolds's program is related to family violence. Counselling can range from helping couples who are just beginning to get abusive in their relationships, all the way to carrying out a safety plan to get a woman and her children to a shelter.

Violence toward elders seems to be on the rise, she points out, and so is family violence against spouses or children.

The increase has pushed the creation of a domestic violence working group.

"One of the issues we deal with is the need for more collaboration," says Reynolds.

"Collaboration within an organization can sometimes be a challenge. Collaboration with other agencies can also be a challenge."

Sandra Mintz, director of family services for Catholic Social Services, is a co-chair on the domestic violence working group, which started as an advisory body about two years ago.

"The focus of the collaboration would be to have one centre where all of the services -- or a high number of the services -- can be co-housed. Someone comes in who's experienced family violence and all the services would be under one roof," explains Reynolds. This would give families access to a wide variety of services such as medical care, housing, managing children, counselling and policing.

"We know that what is so effective is building a community collaborative response," agrees Jan Reimer, executive director with the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters.

Reimer uses working with women and children as an example. "Agencies working together and wrapping services around the woman and her children -- it's just being able to find the resources."

Reynolds points out there are many non-profit organizations in Edmonton that deal with various aspects of family violence.

One of the roles of the working group is to do an inventory to determine which organizations offer which services. "Everybody has areas of expertise. The more we work together the better services on a larger basis will be."

Reynolds sees collaboration as a way for clients to get "quick, good service." She believes there are people falling through the cracks because they don't have the energy to seek the help they need from a variety of organizations.

"People decide it's more of a challenge than they're emotionally or psychologically able to take on at that time."


10-06-2007, 10:54 AM
- - -


- It's one of the larger non-profit organizations in Edmonton, employing 1,200.

- There are 1,800 volunteers.

- Services are wide-ranging and include individual and family counselling; group care and foster care; home care; residential and outreach programs for people living with HIV/AIDS; immigration and settlement; rehabilitation; substance abuse programs and corrections.

- To get involved, phone 432-1137 or check out the website at www.catholicsocialservices.ab.ca.


Volunteer with other non-profit organizations providing services for family violence:

Zebra Children Protection: 421-2385

Edmonton John Howard Society: 428-7590

Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton: 423-4102

WIN House: 471-6709

Alberta Council of Women's Shelters: 456-7000

- - -

Non-profit/voluntary organizations that deliver family violence programs face a number of issues:

- Fully funded shelters: Twenty per cent of the beds in women's shelters remain unused because there is not enough funding from the government to operate these beds. As well, the lack of transitional housing means women and their children must return to the abusive relationships. "We can't raise our own funds for those 20 per cent unfunded (shelter beds)," says Jan Reimer, executive director with the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters. "What's funded by the government doesn't cover all the costs."

- Income support: Social assistance has not been increased for a long time, says Reimer. This means that a woman fleeing an abusive relationship may not have the financial resources to support herself and her children.

- Support to shelter workers: Many workers suffer vicarious trauma, says Reimer. "Hearing the stories they hear, what's happening in homes, it's hard to live, hard to hear." Support is limited and not specialized.

- - -


It's a rare 23-year-old who spends Friday nights at a group home, teaching a teenager how to take engines apart. That's what Sterling Sparshu has been doing for two years as a volunteer with Catholic Social Services. He has worked with two boys, and has made great strides with their personal growth. He harnessed the energy of the first boy, who often took apart the appliances in his group home to keep his hands busy, by providing him with old toys and broken appliances. But it's Sparshu's work with a boy who was once withdrawn that has amazed staff and himself. He reached out to "Mark," helping him open up by showing him "things in life and things to look forward to." Says Sparshu, "With these kids you can't expect a thank you or a hug. The biggest reward is seeing them grow and come into their own."

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 10:56 AM
Abused women, children face housing crunch
Affordable accommodation in short supply

Shari Narine, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

A lack of affordable housing is causing a "major crisis" for abused women and their children, says the executive director of Wings of Providence.

Wings is a non-profit agency that provides "second-stage" housing, where women and their children can go after leaving an emergency shelter.

But where do they go after Wings?

"There's no affordable housing available once they're ready to leave Wings," says executive director Pat Garrett.

That means Wings is forced to extend the length of time women stay at the facility, already at six months. That, in turn, means "women in emergency shelters can't transition into second-stage housing, so it's backlogging the system."

What's needed, says Jan Reimer, executive director with the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, is two to three transitional beds for every emergency shelter bed. "There's a huge shortfall for Edmonton."

There has been a steady increase of women and children seeking shelter over the past couple of years. Garrett thinks those increased numbers are due to a combination of factors: more education and awareness surrounding family violence, more families coming to Edmonton, and increased pressures created by the province's economic boom.

"With the hot economy and people's lower income, it presents more barriers to affordable housing. This can lead to stress and it can lead to more family violence and more (substance and alcohol) addictions," says Garrett.

In a move to address the increased need, Wings expanded its facility and services three years ago. The organization operates a 20-apartment facility, where the units are empty only long enough to be cleaned. In a single year, Wings provides shelter for 60 women and about 80 children. Wings has a $1-million operational budget with 40 per cent of its budget covered by the provincial government; the remainder is through fundraising or grants. There are 20 staff (not all full time) and about 200 volunteers.

Wings has begun working with similar organizations to get more affordable housing. "Every apartment building is turning into a condo. It's harder and harder to find affordable rental accommodations. The three levels of government need to be at the table to help facilitate this process."

Wings is also trying to increase its profile in the city. Notes Garrett, "A lot of people don't think about homelessness as it relates to family violence, but when women and children go into a shelter, they are potentially homeless after their time in the shelter."

Women sometimes seek accommodations for themselves and their children with family and friends, but if that's not available they might return to the abuse they fled.

"Because of the lack of housing and resources, women are returning to the abusive situation," says Reimer. Statistics from 2006 indicate that 72 per cent of women returned to the abusive situation, a 50 per cent increase over the previous year.

- - -


When Pat Garrett, executive director of Wings of Providence, spoke at Jill Tomanek's Fort Saskatchewan Rotary Club, she made such an impression on the retired travel agent that Tomanek contacted Wings of Providence and started volunteering. That was 10 years ago. Tomanek still provides child care for children four years and younger, allowing their mothers to get group counselling at the shelter. "When you go in and there's a new family, the kids are scared and withdrawn. But because they stay for six months, you get to know them over an extended period and the kids seem to blossom." Tomanek's passion has caught on and now her curling club does an annual food drive for Wings and her yoga club donates food and presents at Christmastime. Tomanek is also a yoga instructor. "I felt the women at the shelter could use the benefits that yoga brings." She offers a class monthly.


Other services offered by Wings of Providence:

- Providing clothing, furnishing and kitchen ware when women and children move out to new accommodations

- Providing counselling for women and their children

- Working with schools to raise awareness about violence and bullying

To get involved, phone 426-4485 or check out the website at www.wingsofprovidence.ca.

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 10:59 AM
Seniors agency adds services as demand grows
Safe housing program shelters abuse victims

Shari Narine, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE) is leading the charge on a topic that many people don't want to think about: elder abuse.

"We're adding programs and services, expanding how we meet the needs of seniors," says executive director Roger Laing.

"There are more seniors with unmet needs in the community that we are addressing."

The group's safe housing program for abused seniors began as a pilot project. "Now it's an ongoing program," says Laing, "and we've increased our funding to it."

The group's shelter has seven suites, where seniors can live for up to 60 days. Its occupancy rate is 85 per cent.

"Unfortunately there's a real need for a shelter for abused seniors," Laing says.

SAGE counsellors work with the residents to develop a plan for their safety.

"The good news is that 85 per cent of our clients don't go back to their abusers," says Laing.

Sheila Hallett, executive director with the Edmonton Seniors Co-ordinating Council, says another group at risk is immigrant seniors.

They face income issues as they have no access to government programs for 10 years after arriving.

If they do not speak English, they also face the challenge of finding English classes. "They don't connect with people and become very isolated," Hallett says.

"What we've done in the last couple of years is bring together some of the immigrant-serving agencies and some of the senior-serving agencies to try and look at ways to get more services for these seniors into the mainstream services."

The council doesn't work directly with seniors, but it connects the organizations that serve seniors.

SAGE contracts with the Multicultural Health Brokers Association to link isolated seniors in four communities (Kurdish, Spanish-speaking, Korean and former Yugoslav) with mainstream programs.

Faced with a growing number of seniors with increasing needs, SAGE has doubled its budget in the past four years to $1.3 million.

It receives funding from all levels of government. The provincial and federal governments contract services and supply some grants while the City of Edmonton pitches in with money from Family and Community Support Services. The local United Way contributes toward specific programs.

This funding accounts for 45 per cent of SAGE's budget, with the balance coming through casinos, donations and the annual SAGE awards, which honour the contributions of seniors to the community.

Government money is dependable; "It's just not enough," says Laing.

"We work with the money we've got to provide the best services we can with that and when necessary we augment it with our own revenue."

SAGE also hopes to raise its own dollars through social enterprises -- businesses with a social objective.

"SAGE is looking at a number of social enterprises in order to both fulfil our mission and to generate income that we can channel toward our charitable activities," Laing says.

[email protected]


Kelly Watmough knows the magic attraction babies and seniors have for each other, so when it came to deciding how she could spend quality time with her daughter Rose and continue to volunteer, SAGE came to mind. "Seniors love little babies. Being able to do this is a benefit both ways," says Watmough, whose duties include visiting seniors, running errands and shopping. Rose is only seven months old, but Watmough says she wants her to accept volunteering as part of their lifestyle. Watmough grew up in a Christian family, taught Sunday school and was most recently a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Above, she and Rose visit Marge Boyce at the SAGE seniors centre in Sir Winston Churchill Square.

- - -


Facts about the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton:

- Its seniors centre offers programs and clubs on a cost-recovery basis.

- Social workers help seniors and families deal with issues.

- It has a support group for caregivers.

- It counsels seniors about housing requirements, helping them remain in their homes longer or find affordable housing elsewhere.

- It provides a list of screened home service providers.

- It helps family members apply to court for legal guardianship of a dependent adult.

- It has a volunteer nurse and a site for foot clinics.

- It produces and distributes two publications: a directory of services for seniors and a housing guide.

- It has a cafeteria

- To get involved, phone 423-5510 or go to www.mysage.ca.


You may volunteer with SAGE or these other non-profit organizations providing services to seniors:

- Alberta Caregivers Association: 447-9301

- Edmonton Meals on Wheels: 429-2020

- Jewish Drop-In Centre: 488-4241

- Lifestyle Helping Hands Seniors Association: 450-2113

- Seniors Driving Centre: 732-1221

- Society for Seniors Caring About Seniors: 465-0311

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 11:01 AM
Volunteers needed for transportation
Problem becomes more serious as families settle elderly parents in outlying areas

Shari Narine, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

Some seniors move into big, new retirement homes. Others drive expensive recreational vehicles. But that doesn't tell the full story, says an official with a seniors group.

"A lot of people read about the abundance of new condos for seniors, they look at the prices and assume all seniors are doing very well," says Fran Matthews, executive director of the Seniors Outreach Network Society.

"But they aren't. Most of the elderly cannot afford Miss Daisy (a driving service for seniors) or taxis, but they also have limitations on going on a bus."

The need for reliable, accessible and supervised transportation is one of the largest issues facing seniors.

Seniors need transportation for medical appointments, grocery shopping, banking or even to take part in a program at the local seniors centre. And a lift sometimes isn't enough: they may need someone to go with them to the doctor or to do their shopping.

The need for transportation is greater now as families settle their elderly parents in outlying areas.

"Seniors become isolated and if they're low-income, they can't afford transportation to do anything."

The issue will grow as the population ages, says Matthews. Seniors agencies, which depend on volunteers, are struggling to meet the need for transportation.

Competition for volunteers has become more intense, Matthews says. "Volunteer numbers have gone down and it's become more difficult to recruit."

The Seniors Outreach Network Society serves 30-40 clients in north Edmonton. It operates with two staff members (one is part time) and 50 volunteers, but could easily use 15 more.

Sheila Hallett, executive director with the Edmonton Seniors Co-ordinating Council, says seniors transportation is in a crisis.

The council acts as a "communication hub" for organizations that serve seniors. Last November, Mayor Stephen Mandel initiated a round table on the issue with representatives from seniors agencies, the municipal transportation sector and provincial and municipal funding agencies attending.

"It was acknowledging that there was a huge need and lots of gaps in services," says Hallett. "A new model has to be put forward. We need to map out what we have and look at other models, then what would be feasible."

A steering committee was formed with strategies and recommendations to be made to the municipal and provincial governments.

"For our agency, we believe in respecting the senior's choice," says Matthews. "An inability to pay shouldn't be a barrier to services."

Matthews also believes seniors should be allowed to stay in their homes as long as they want to. That means support services must be available in their communities.

[email protected]

- - -


- Seniors are assessed in their homes by a registered social worker. Referrals are made, information and continuing support are provided.

- The society carefully matches volunteers with seniors to provide transportation, light housework, grocery shopping and yard work.

- Funding comes from two sources: City of Edmonton's Family and Community Support Services and casino revenue.

- To get involved, phone 451-4589.

- - -

Madeleine Prince, a retired teacher from St. Paul, began volunteering with the Seniors Outreach Network Society when she moved to Edmonton a year ago. "I was looking around to see if there were any needs. In the paper, it said something about a woman needing help. I thought it didn't look too hard to do." Prince (above right, shopping with Pearl Earle) is building relationships with Earle and another elderly woman who lacks family support. She shops for them, unpacks groceries and drives them to the bank. "I feel good when I get back. I've done something for somebody who really has a need." She adds, "This has been an eye-opener. I find myself wondering if this is what's ahead for me. I don't know if society will have enough people to get around (as volunteers). ... I find myself thinking if I were in this situation, I'd like other people to be there to help me."

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 11:04 AM
Habitat in search of humanity
Home-building group hopes for charity from residents fighting project

Shari Narine, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

In a time when affordable housing is in short supply, the "not in my backyard" or NIMBY philosophy is becoming more prevalent.

"Nimbyism has always existed," says Wanda Dennelly, director of community and family relations with the Edmonton chapter of Habitat for Humanity. "Habitat never really faced it on any scale (before) because normally we built only a few homes in a community."

That changed recently. The deficit of land in the city and the increasing number of families needing affordable housing led Habitat directors last year to adopt a policy to build only multi-unit dwellings.

Nimbyism raised its head with the proposal to build 23 duplexes -- 46, 1,000-square-foot living units -- in the Bergman-Beacon Heights area of east Edmonton.

"People are just very self-interested," says Cam McDonald, president of the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness. "They should be self-interested, but they should also be informed."

Members of the community have suggested Habitat build single-family dwellings that resemble the homes already in the area. "The market value of the house would be $400,000 and that would no longer be affordable to anyone," says Dennelly.

Multiplexes built by Habitat in the communities of Montrose and Kirkness resulted in little or no outcry. Dennelly feels the issue is fear. "People are concerned about their families. We're concerned about their families, too, but also about Habitat families."

Habitat helps families break the poverty cycle. People who get Habitat homes put up to 500 hours into building the home, working with volunteers.

Habitat hopes Bergman residents will show charity and understanding and accept the project. Two open houses have been held with residents. A "small core group" is still unhappy, Dennelly says.

"We're trying hard to find a balance between what the community wants and what Habitat wants."

It is about dispelling myths, agrees McDonald. "(Communities) need to know that these projects won't be a detriment to their neighbourhoods or draw down property values."

If the original families move out of the units, they must sell the property back to Habitat, which ensures the units remain affordable for others.

[email protected]

- - -


Neil Calhoun recently led a group of 10 volunteers for five days to build two homes in New Orleans. This kind of volunteer work keeps him "well grounded," he says. "It does a respectable job of keeping me humble." He's been rolling up his sleeves since 1999 to build houses in Edmonton, Mexico, Nicaragua and New Zealand and is past chairman of the board of the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. "I'm a Christian and wherever I can do God's work, it makes me feel very good to do that." Calhoun, a partner and salesman with J.J. Barnicke Real Estate, adds, "There's a sense of satisfaction, being productive and impacting someone's life, even just a wee bit."-


About the group's Edmonton Chapter:

- In 2006, 2,500 volunteers contributed 58,000 hours.

- Habitat employs 18 staff.

- ReStore, a building supply store operated by Habitat for Humanity, accepts and resells new and used building materials. It employs 16.

- In 2006, seven families were moved into homes; 12 more homes were started.

- In 2007, 20 new families will be housed.

- The goal over the next five years is to house 100 new families.

Other issues facing organizations that deal with homelessness:

- Support to help people move out of shelters and transitional housing: Federal funding was provided to build housing for the homeless, "but what failed to come alongside with the capital project was ongoing operating funds," says Cam McDonald, president of the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness. "Shelters are just a place to stay in. People need support to help overcome (for example) their addictions."

- Commitment: Money for shelters or to provide affordable housing for a few years doesn't solve the problem. "Adequate shelter is a basic human right," McDonald says. "Government has the moral responsibility to make it a long-term commitment."

- Shelter allowance: The shelter allowance supplied for people on social assistance "does not come close to what market housing is asking," says McDonald. Rent supplements don't begin to fill all the needs.

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 11:06 AM
Housing crunch forces workers to camp out in valley
Newcomers can't find a place to stay

Shari Narine, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

In the wee hours of winter mornings when many Edmontonians were tucked into bed, the Boyle Street Co-op warming van was making the rounds of city streets, meeting homeless people.

The number of homeless people in Edmonton is rising, but more surprising, perhaps, is the type of people in this group, for which the van provides soup, warm bedding or a ride to a shelter.

"Our largest numbers are European males in the 40s-50s," says Sandy Ericson, team leader for a co-op homelessness outreach program.

These people have come to Edmonton with skills that can net them jobs paying $20 to $25 an hour, but they can't find accommodation.

"People hear there's a huge boom in Edmonton. They come here not realizing how hard it is to get housing," Ericson says.

"They come not prepared. Guys come with money in their pockets and job skills. But they can't find a place to stay. Money goes fast when they're paying for hotels, and they end up out on the streets."

With the disruption that comes from having no place to sleep, they end up losing their jobs.

This is the third year the co-op has operated the warming van. During the winter, it criss-crosses the city. In the spring and summer, most of the time is spent in the city's parklands and river valley.

Last year, 800-l,200 people were working in Edmonton and living illegally in the river valley. "They get evicted by the park rangers, but they just move further into the bush," says Ericson. "I think the numbers might be bigger this year."

Along with providing some physical comforts, Ericson's team of four full-time and three part-time staff and a handful of volunteers creates trust.

"It's a lot of relationship-building conversations, looking at their situation and how we can help them make some changes."

May 1, more than 300 indoor sleeping spots in the city were closed, pushing more people out on the streets. The mat program, operated by such organizations as Hope Mission and the Salvation Army, allows homeless people to sleep on floors in shelters. But with the warm weather, more homeless people are on the streets.

"People don't care as much when it warms up. In the winter, there's a chance (homeless people) will freeze to death. In the summer, I don't know," sighs Ericson. "I do get depressed, but it's the (homeless) people most of the time who are much more positive than I am. They're survivors."

Ericson has been with the warming van since it started operating; she's been with Boyle Street Co-op for 16 years.

While the co-op doesn't provide housing, it does advocate with landlords, helps parents and children maintain their housing and helps locate housing for single people or couples.

The co-op employs 120 and operates with a $4.5-million budget, 90 per cent of which comes from all three levels of government. Sixty to 100 volunteers help the co-op deliver its programs.

[email protected]


Just over three years ago, Rick Ritchie was drinking coffee and eating lunch at the Boyle Street Co-op. Now he's a volunteer. "I started by going there myself and then they asked me to help out," he says. Weekdays from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Ritchie can be found pouring coffee and juice in the downtown facility. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he helps with lunch. "The people who come through the door are like everybody else. They're always polite. They're good." Over the years, Ritchie has seen the same faces and has formed friendships. "It keeps me busy. I like helping out in general. I like lending a hand."
- - -


Other services delivered by the Boyle Street Co-op:

- Drop-in centre

- Family support programs

- Mental health, youth and adult outreach

- Residential services for children and youth at risk

- Streetworks, to reduce HIV risk

- An adult literacy centre

To get involved, phone 424-4106

Other non-profit organizations that provide services to the homeless and use volunteers:

Hope Mission: 422-2018

E4C: 424-7543

Edmonton Food Bank: 425-4190

Edmonton YMCA: 429-5701

Youth Emergency Shelter Society: 468-7070

The Mustard Seed: 426-5600

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 11:08 AM
Community sports groups short of funds, volunteers
Organizations don't qualify for charity status

Theresa Lightfoot, Freelance
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

Without volunteers, sport just doesn't happen at the community level, says Gary Shelton.

The executive director of the Edmonton Sport Council has seen a serious decline in volunteerism.

It's been happening for some time and seems to be exacerbated by the boom.

But the root of the problem is a lack of operating funds, which creates the need for volunteers.

The problem is compounded by the fact that community sports organizations are usually not eligible for registered charity status. That basically rules out getting donations or matching grants from the provincial government.

It doesn't appear the government's new Community Spirit program will provide any extra money at the grassroots level.

Its aim is to help non-profit and charitable organizations, but since most community sport groups do not qualify for registration with the Canada Revenue Agency for charitable status, they will be left out of the loop.

It's not surprising. In the past, Alberta sports and recreation organizations derived about 12 per cent of their revenues from government. But most of the funding went to provincial and national organizations, not community ones, says Shelton.

The council received funding through the City of Edmonton's community investment grant operating program in 2006, but only about $440,000.

The city also subsidizes field and facility use by children and youth. That is appreciated, but it's considered a small start toward meeting the requirements.

Charitable bingo and casino proceeds don't even begin to compensate, Shelton says.

"Sport groups with a youth component are the largest benefactor of bingos, but bingo proceeds continue to fall, and it's just a matter of time before they become completely unavailable."

The result is that the biggest source of funding still has to come from the individual participant.

Increasingly, however, participants don't want to pay the increased user fees or can't afford them.

The rising cost of living is making it difficult.

At what point, with operating costs continuing to mount and users squeezed or falling off, does an organization simply say, 'I quit?' asks Shelton.

Confronted by all these issues, he fears many community sports organizations are finding themselves on a tightrope, without a safety net, and one step away from a serious fall.

Theresa Lightfoot is an Edmonton-based freelance writer

- - -


Fitness trainer Debbie Sonego is one of the volunteer instructors that the Jamie Platz YMCA in Edmonton's Callingwood district relies on to deliver its mandate to the community. "It's intensely rewarding to know that I am helping someone make positive changes in their lifestyle and fitness," says Sonego. "Above all, I like to make the classrooms social and interactive." The YMCA provides housing programs, recreational sports and fitness, camping programs and licensed child care. It has been helping the community for more than 100 years, with the motto that no one should be unable to use the Y because they can't afford it. The YMCA can give tax receipts for donations and qualify for matched funding from the provincial government. Director Frank Savoia stresses that funding is important, but not as important as finding volunteers to help with the programs. The YMCA is a member of the Edmonton Sport Council.


Issues for Edmonton community sports organizations:

- Lack of capital for staff

- Drop in number of volunteers

- Participants being charged higher user fees

- Participants resisting higher user fees

- Lower-income families being excluded

- Lack of funding for facilities and equipment

- Government not clearly addressing the funding issue

- Lack of charitable status an impediment to matched grants

- Potential for community sports organizations to shut down

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 11:10 AM
Oilers Community Foundation: still a stellar team
Some hockey fans might be giving up on the Oilers after a dreadful year, but support for the club charity remains strong

Theresa Lightfoot, Special to The Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

Last year was terrific for the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, with the incredible excitement generated by the hockey team making it into the Stanley Cup finals.

This year, the team fell far short of the playoffs, and foundation administrators were concerned community support would drop off too.

But so far in 2007, community support continues to be strong, fuelling essential programs the foundation uses to help other charities.

There is more money in the province, but that doesn't mean everyone is benefiting, says the foundation's executive director, Darryl Lindenbach. "There is a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. All of a sudden the typical family is seeing stress on their finances where it didn't use to be. The charitable organizations are experiencing this as well."

Most of the foundation's funds are derived from event-related programs, such as sales of 50-50 tickets in the bleachers. Charities receive part of the proceeds in return for selling tickets.

"It's not the casino," says Lindenbach, "but at the end of an evening charitable groups will walk away with $18,000 or more to support their own programs. Each game sees about 50 volunteers roving the bleachers selling tickets."

Lindenbach also sees another trend lately: individuals and corporate sponsors walking into the office to donate, completely unsolicited. It helps that donors get a tax receipt.

The remarkable community support is motivated by trust in the Oilers brand, he says. People simply trust the foundation to place funds where they'll help the most.

He cites its new Legacy program. It helps inner-city youth stay in school and assists with health appointments, housing and other basic living needs.

Last year the foundation gave about $160,000 to benefit the Canadian Breast Cancer Society, the Christmas Bureau and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Other beneficiaries include the Stollery Children's Foundation, the Edmonton Food Bank and Breakfast for Learning.

Growing from a small seed fund, the foundation now donates more than a million dollars a year to community causes.

The foundation began six years ago when the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club owners renewed their vow to keep the team in Edmonton.

At the same time, they dedicated the foundation to help in "Oil Country," extending north to Fort McMurray, south to Red Deer, east to Lloydminster and west to Grande Prairie.

With Doug Goss as chairman and others like Cal Nichols and Patrick LaForge on the board, the foundation has had an immensely dedicated team, says Lindenbach.

Says Goss: "Our foundation is the embodiment of just how much the Oilers organization and everyone associated with it love and believe in our community. We are excited to not only share our passion for building great communities across Oil Country, but also to give back in meaningful ways to impact as many charities, and help change as many lives as we possibly can."

Theresa Lightfoot is an Edmonton-based freelance writer

- - -

As past chair of the Breakfast for Learning Alberta advisory council, Kaye Joyce advocates for nutritional programs in Alberta schools. "The need for nutrition programs in our schools is ever increasing," she says. "I am passionate about providing this service in an attempt to change the future for these children, their parents and communities." Breakfast for Learning received $25,000 from the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation this school year, and the foundation has committed itself to make the same donation for an another two years. The donations will support school programs in the Edmonton area and north, helping schools buy more fresh fruit and vegetables and improve the health of students. Above, Joyce distributes food for inner-city high school students in the Boyle Street Community League gym. Darryl Lindenbach, centre, is executive director of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation.


Issues for the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation:

- Keeping community support

- Supporting the right causes

- Anticipating changes

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 11:12 AM
Donations help hospitals keep pace
Foundations use funds to buy equipment, recruit new staff

Theresa Lightfoot, Freelance
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Building health-care teams is like building hockey teams," says Myrna Fyfe, executive director of the University of Alberta Hospital Foundation. "If you want to attract the stars, you need to have discretionary support to recruit and retain the very best."

Hospitals need funding for the latest technology and research, "and that's where the community makes a huge difference," she says.

Although governments provide a lot of money for health care, many communities rely on foundations to keep on top of advances.

Fyfe says the foundation has noticed the impact of the boom in Edmonton, receiving generous donations through special events like live auctions and gaming events.

The recent Full House Lottery sold out two weeks earlier than expected, led by an advertising campaign that promised women they would never have to see their husbands again, the prize show home was so huge. "We hope that wasn't a statement about the way women are feeling about their husbands these days!" quipped one ticket purchaser.

The donations help the hospital keep up with the explosion of advances in technology and research.

"'We raise dollars to keep on top of that, and these donations help with cost sharing, seed funding, recruiting and retaining the best people," says Fyfe. "This all helps to maintain the competitive advantage of our University of Alberta hospital site."

Fyfe says there is lots of competition among the city's six hospital foundations, but there are so many donors who want to give to a specific cause that it's a matter of matching the right donor to the cause. Usually donors are grateful for the care they, or a family member, have received from their hospital of choice.

"They understand the goal of attracting the best in each field, and they will be helping support us in that particular area, such as diabetes or heart research. We now have a research competition, and that will make a huge difference for recruiting and retaining young researchers here."

The foundation also raises funds for the cutting-edge Mazankowski Alberta Heart Centre.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation in downtown Edmonton is equally hard at work raising funds for several causes. Its main project has been the Lois Hole Hospital For Women, contained within the new Robbins Centre.

The foundation recently raised more than $12 million in less than a year of direct campaigning. Community leaders like Lynn Mandel, Dale Sheard and Anne McLellan dived in to rally people to the cause. And community businesses and individuals continue to come up with innovative ideas, such as the Epicurean Experience, where more than 50 city restaurants host lunches with proceeds going to the Hole hospital.

The Robbins Centre has a chapel that was built at the request of donors William and Mary Jo Robbins. They wanted to provide a place where people of all denominations could go to reflect and pray, especially in difficult times.

Popular causes among donors to the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation are ophthalmology and neonatal intensive care.

Donations might go toward equipment, lectures or cuddly stuffed animals to keep premature babies company in their incubators.

Volunteers are donors of their time. Both foundations make a special effort to match donors to their interests, "but finding volunteers to work incredibly hard is a challenge of our age because both family members are often working," Fyfe says. "We have lots of ways to engage volunteers here, though, including through our Friends group."

Joan Patton, the Royal Alex foundation's volunteer co-ordinator, says, "Our volunteers are definitely community-minded people who have a special love for the Royal Alexandra Hospital and want to ensure it continues as a leader in health-care excellence.

"They may come from all walks of life and backgrounds, but their fondness for this incredible hospital and the work it does is a common link that ties everyone together."

Patton says Edmonton's economic boom has not diminished the number of volunteers or the number of projects they support.

Theresa Lightfoot is an Edmonton-based freelance writer

- - -

Issues facing Edmonton's hospital foundations:

- Maintaining a competitive edge with technology and skilled staff

- Recruiting and retaining the best staff

- Drawing young researchers

- Matching the donor to the cause

- Keeping up with rising equipment costs

- Attracting volunteers

- - -

Volunteer Mary Jurak hands out information sheets to visitors at a public health talk at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. The health talk series is attended by hundreds of people each session and is part of the hospital's strategy to raise awareness about disease prevention and other issues. Volunteers help with parking, refreshments and greeting people at the door.

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 11:14 AM
Boomers drive need for palliative care
Aging population raises concerns over access

Theresa Lightfoot, Freelance
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

The bulge in the baby boomer demographic is a big issue in palliative care.

"There is definitely a growing awareness of and demand for hospice palliative care services," says Anne Marie Neilson Griffin of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association.

"The boomers are a generation of people who are accustomed to getting what they want ... and who wants to live their last days in pain and discomfort?"

She cites Statistics Canada figures that show more than 259,000 Canadians die each year. That number is projected to increase by 33 per cent by 2020.

The palliative care association estimates that only 25 per cent of those who need it now have access to hospice palliative care.

In an effort to help Edmonton's only voluntary free-standing hospice, Pilgrims Hospice, volunteers met to launch their Hike for Hospice Palliative in downtown Churchill Square, co-ordinated with the Great Human Race.

Participants could walk five kilometres or run 10 to raise money for the hospice.

"Pilgrims Hospice has been providing support to people living with life- threatening illness, their families and ultimately those children and adults who suffer the loss of a loved one," says executive director Catherine Yuill.

"We support them through the dying process in a non-institutional, caring setting."

The race, held May 5, launched National Hospice Palliative Care Week, May 7 to 13.

"The Canadian Hospice Association is working toward ensuring that more Canadians, especially in their own communities, receive the end-of-life care they wish for," says Neilson Griffin.

That care includes helping with pain and medication to manage the illness, giving spiritual support, transportation and a home-like place of comfort. It also includes bereavement support for family members.

Pilgrims Hospice includes an arts program for grieving children and teens.

In Edmonton, hundreds of volunteers support the program, not only with one-to-one care for people who are dying, but with cooking, advocacy, fundraising events and marketing.

A group of staff from another organization joined volunteers and staff from Pilgrims Hospice in the Great Human Race to raise funds for the Pilgrims Hospice and build awareness of the growing need for hospice palliative care.

Donalda Farwell, area director in the Edmonton office of Bayshore Home Health, says her organization is the country's largest provider of home and community health-care services, with more than 40 locations and 6,000 employees in eight provinces.

Its specialties are in-home nursing, personal care and home support: "enhancing the quality of life, dignity and independence of Canadians in their homes."

Farwell says these programs are offered directly to consumers and also delivered through government care programs, personal and group insurance plans and workplace safety insurance.

Its caregivers provide about five million hours of home care annually to 40,000 clients in Canada.

Theresa Lightfoot is an Edmonton-based freelance writer

- - -

Volunteers gather at Sutton Place Hotel to prepare for an annual fundraising run for the Pilgrims Hospice. The run, which was part of the Great Human Race, included volunteers from Pilgrims Hospice and staff from Bayshore Home Health. "The race enables us to get out in the community, support a cause that's close to our hearts and raise much-need dollars for local hospices," says Donalda Farwell of Bayshore Home Health. "Our livelihood comes from the communities we serve, and this event allows us to show our appreciation by giving something back to them." Last year's race raised more than $675,000 for hospice palliative care. In Edmonton, the Great Human Race occurs on the same weekend as the National Hike for Hospice Palliative Care, so Bayshore and Pilgrims Hospice joined the event and directed all their funds to the hospice.

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 11:16 AM
Immigrants trapped in employment 'ghetto'
Educated newcomers can't find the right job

Shari Narine, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

Immigrants arriving in Canada are better educated than ever, but they're also living longer than ever in poverty, says Jim Gurnett, executive director of the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers.

"All the poverty issues are more severe with immigrants, and have been much more intense in the past two years in Edmonton," he says.

The number of immigrants making Edmonton their home has increased dramatically as Alberta's economic boom draws them to the capital city from other parts of Canada and from overseas.

Two years ago, the Mennonite centre was working with 6,000-8,000 people.

Now it serves 8,000-10,000 annually, including people who come back over the years for support.

The centre is one of five organizations in Edmonton and 20 across the province that are members of the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies.

The centre takes a "holistic integrated approach," Gurnett says.

"This model recognizes whole people who are part of whole families and whole communities."

But government funding is based on the premise of providing help for only one or two years after an immigrant has arrived.

"When you have only a trickle of funding in the early months or (first) year, then you increase the chance that people get trapped at the bottom and can't get out of it."

Another issue is the difficulty immigrants have landing jobs similar to what they left behind.

"Right now we're trapping immigrants in an underemployment ghetto. Having the dignity of a decent job that pays you properly and that you love to do affects every other aspect of your life," says Gurnett.

"There's a small window to let these people move forward and far too many of them are not able to.

"We need much more funding to provide services that would get people employed not just in any job but in the jobs they are capable of."

[email protected]

- - -


Volunteer David Poon, tutors Sudanese high school student Paul Bany at Trinity Manor, which provides housing for refugees and is operated by the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. Poon is a pre-med student at the University of Alberta and is one of 200-250 volunteers for the Mennonite centre. They spend a total of 10,000 hours a year volunteering. Poon tutors Bany in a number of subjects including math, chemistry, biology and physics. He's also helping him apply for a medical laboratory technician program. "People at Trinity Manor are eager to learn," says Poon, one of two students who live at U of A's international house and help weekly at Trinity Manor. "Many of us are interested in global education."

- - -


Services offered by the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers:

- Language services: English as a second language and courses to improve English proficiency; ESL courses for seniors

- Community services: Working with families and youth; helping ethno-cultural community groups develop their own programs; helping to increase newcomers' access to health services; and refugee support

- Employment and career development services: Workshops and clinics; counselling; employment resource centres; job clubs; basic computer classes; specialized training

- Hosts the annual RISE (Recognizing Immigrant Success and Excellence) Awards, which recognize contributions of immigrants

- Employs 100 staff, operates four centres and temporarily rents space in other buildings to deliver programs

- To get involved, phone 424-7709 or go to www.emcn.ab.ca

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 11:19 AM
Group pushes for more funds to help immigrants learn English
'If they have language barriers ... they're not going to be as productive.'

Shari Narine, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

In today's booming economy, finding a job shouldn't be an issue. But it is for immigrants who don't speak English.

"If you have the right qualifications and they're accepted and if you know the language, it's not difficult to find a job, but most immigrants need (English as a second language, or ESL) training," says Harchand Grewal, president of the South Asian Humanitarian and Resettlement Association.

Since the province is trying to attract workers in almost all sectors, Grewal is frustrated that more money hasn't been put into ESL programming.

"The Alberta government should provide more funding so people can improve their language skills. The government is trying to attract people to come and work here," says Grewal, who adds he doesn't fault employers for wanting good staff.

"They want workers who can produce. If they have language barriers, they lack in some other skills, they're not going to be as productive."

But the province has provided no money to help non-profit organizations like the resettlement association offer more ESL programs. In fact, the group depends on two volunteer teachers to deliver its ESL program.

Although it has operated for 10 years, the group received its first government funding only last year. The Wild Rose Foundation grant of $50,000 is helping cover the costs of a program co-ordinator, the first paid staff the organization has had.

Before that, Grewal and 30 other volunteers were running the office and delivering programs.

"We applied before," says Grewal. "Our first two or three years, our membership wasn't big enough. Then they thought we weren't doing significant work."

Membership has since increased.

"Funding is our main issue," says Grewal. "If we could hire another person it would make us more effective."

The association is looking at other ways to bridge the funding gap. Collaboration with other agencies could be the answer.

"We're talking to one organization right now. They have a casino and we have a casino. We're not going to become one organization because then (the government) will take away (one of the casino) licences," says Grewal. "We'll keep separate identities but work together on some issues. At least this way they will have some source of revenue and we will, too."

The group's annual operating budget is $35,000, 90 per cent of which is raised through casino revenue. Non-profit/voluntary organizations can only be awarded casinos every two years.

Shari Narine is an Edmonton-based freelance writer

- - -


Dr. Munawar Chaudhry and Yash Kalra are longtime friends and volunteers with the South Asian Humanitarian and Resettlement Association. Both recall arriving in Canada -- Chaudhry from Pakistan in 1972 and Kalra from India in 1963 -- and not having much support. "We had to depend on ourselves and our friends. Something like (the resettlement group) would have been really good," says Kalra. "Organizations like (these) have a tremendous effect on newcomers," adds Chaudhry. Kalra is a soil chemist and Chaudhry is a retired teacher. They help with casinos and other fundraising. Chaudhry, who speaks Urdu and Punjabi, also helps to translate for immigrants. "We feel joy that we can do something for society," says Kalra.


Services offered by South Asian Humanitarian and Resettlement Association:

- Credentials approval: Helping immigrants get their credentials approved or upgraded so they can return to the career they left when coming to Canada.

- ESL classes: Conversational English is taught.

- Education: Educating government agencies and the public about issues regarding immigrants.

- Operating a drop-in centre at 9338 34th Ave.

- To get involved, phone 414-1053

The Edmonton Journal 2007


10-06-2007, 11:22 AM
Lack of funding leaves artists feeling left behind in 'Dark Ages'
Many face high costs, lack of studio space

Theresa Lightfoot, Freelance
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2007

The dramatic view is of an artist like Picasso burning his sketches to keep warm, or a Modigliani forgoing comfort and wedded bliss to live in a hovel and paint. The artist suffering for the Muse is almost an archetype, and perhaps we've come to take it for granted.

For an artist in the 21st century living in Edmonton, however, reality can be cruel, especially when the economy is bursting at the seams.

The boom pours money into some pockets and takes it out of others. Artists too often fall on the dark side of this equation.

Take studio space, for example. Artists rely on space to work, learn, create, show and sell their creations. In Edmonton, suitable space disappears rapidly, and what is left costs a lot -- too much for most artists.

John Mahon, executive director of the Edmonton Arts Council, is worried about the impact.

How can quality of life be maintained if there's no space? With escalating costs for transportation, housing, food and supplies, he sees potential for a hand-to-mouth existence.

The arts council has a mandate to support the arts through non-profit programs including Tix on the Square and ArtsHab.

Mahon describes another issue: artists are the primary supporters of other artists, attending productions and fundraisers, volunteering and buying. What happens when the cost of living rises and they no longer have time to volunteer, or money to purchase tickets or art? It has an impact on the entire arts community.

Edmonton's non-profit Harcourt House, a member of the arts council, has 44 active, low-cost studio spaces for rent, at $7 to $9 a square foot. But these days, the spaces are all booked with a waiting list of more than 60 artists.

Executive director Victor Gaspari says this is a sign of a growing trend in transience among his renters/artists, at a level only seen before in Edmonton in some retail sectors.

Gaspari is determined to keep rental costs low at Harcourt House even though upkeep costs on the aging building are rapidly rising.

He knows his tenants can't afford a rent increase.

Gaspari doesn't want to contribute to another growing trend that he calls marginalization: Artists move into an area in need of revitalization.

Once the area is improved and animated, others feel it is safe to move in. Landlords raise the rents, forcing the artists to move out.

Gaspari says some artists in this situation seem to be moving right out of the province.

He wants to see more arts apprenticeship programs in the city to provide an incentive for artists to stay.

He wants long-term solutions and innovative leadership from government and the private sector.

His recommendation: "Turn over surplus buildings and pump in some real dollars to create serious art centres that we can be proud of. Don't just hand over derelict buildings up for eventual demolition. That's no way to lift up a community that claims to be the cultural capital of Canada."

Meanwhile, Gaspari faces a deadline for filling out grant applications. Harcourt House is just one of hundreds of the province's arts organizations competing for funding to operate.

These issues show the need to raise the perception of the value of the artist. John Mahon says, "As our city becomes more and more cosmopolitan and other industries are thriving, we shouldn't be leaving our artists behind in the Dark Ages."

If we are to have an arts sector that is diverse, excellent and sustainable, it requires government investment, he says.

"The province is increasingly aware that the arts industry is not, and should not be, Alberta's poor little sister."

Theresa Lightfoot is an Edmonton-based freelance writer

- - -


Volunteer and sculptor Keith Turnbull, sits on the boards of the Edmonton Arts Council and Harcourt House. "I believe that the arts represent the heart and soul of a society," says Turnbull, whose sculptures are in private collections in Alberta and Saskatchewan. "My goal is to create figurative sculptures that portray people in all their diversity. Our real heroes are not those who receive riches and awards, but those who modestly work, raise children, create art, share their knowledge and continue the struggle for a human society."
- - -



- Lack of work space

- Rising cost of living and supplies

- Fewer artists able to participate and to support other artists

- Marginalization

- Transience in work space, accommodation

- An almost complete lack of apprenticeship programs

- Serious competition for funding

The Edmonton Journal 2007


Ken Chapman
10-06-2007, 11:38 AM
This section in today's Edmonton Journal is a great piece of public service and serious news. Congratulations and thanks to the Journal for running it.

One of the big issues facing many voluntary organizations is the rising cost and complexity of police background checks. These due diligence checks are necssary to protect the voluntary sector clients, orgainzations, Boards of Directors and the volunteers themselves.

Too much money is being diverted from important programs to do this background checking work. It is not standardized in the province either.

We did a study of the situation for the sector through Volunteer Alberta and it has been sent to the province. The major recommendations were that police background checks be standardized, centralized and organized in a way that costs are controlled and not a burden on the voluntary sector.

They could be funded by the province or the grant system will have to be changed to provide specific additional funding to the voluntary sector to do this important work.