Blog Archives

11 Years of Pancakes: Friendship, Gratitude, and Community Partnerships

Eleven years is an awfully long time, and a whole lot in our world has changed since 2006. New programs were introduced, a new CEO arrived, and the community in which we serve continued to grow. One thing that has remained constant, however, is our annual Community Pancake Breakfast—a give-back event set aside for community-building, networking, and the celebration of the people who support us in our efforts to make Alberta a more inclusive, welcoming province.
Given its impressively long history, our Pancake Breakfast is always well-attended, and draws guests from all imaginable walks of life. We can usually count on a few hundred hungry people including families, politicians, and local partners. This year, for example, Councillor Tony Caterina made a speech, the Highlands branch of the EdmontonTony Caterina giving a speech Public Library set up a table, and the Alberta Federation of Labour made an appearance. Friends, neighbours, partners, supporters, clients, and members of the general public flock to our yearly breakfasts in anticipation of delicious free food, fun outdoor activities and, of course, the chance to show their support to us and the people we serve every day. Proud as we are of our work here at DECSA, this is a time for recognizing the efforts of our surrounding community.
First, we give thanks to our volunteers, who took photos, served food despite intense heat, helped supervise tables, and made themselves useful in every way they could find. We could not hope to succeed without exceptional souls who donate their time freely and gladly. A special nod to a dozen students from CDI College is in order, as they all arrived bright and early and were chiefly responsible DECSA volunteers from CDI college serving food to the guestfor ensuring the breakfast ran smoothly.
Second, we must recognize our wonderful guests, who skip the chance to sleep in to eat, laugh, and enjoy the sunshine with us. We could not ask for a better neighbourhood, community, or city. We are truly blessed to be surrounded by such lively, active support from so many.
Finally, we express immeasurable gratitude to our sponsors, without whom we could not have hosted our breakfasts at all. Northlands has been our chief sponsor for years, and this year was no different. We thank them for helping us provide food for the breakfast, as well as the equipment used to prepare and serve it. Without a contribution from Northlands, our Community Pancake Breakfasts wouldn’t be possible. We must also acknowledge Re/Max, who lent us tents, a bouncy castle, and other equipment to ensure all our attendees would have everything they need for a comfortable and enjoyable morning. Edmonton’s Food Bank, which has been a loyal partner and provides ongoing and essential support to DECSA on a consistent basis, enhanced our breakfast by  DECSA guest are enjoying their breakfast in front of the RE/MAX tents providing beverages for all the guests. Given the high demand for food bank services across Canada and in Edmonton itself, we are doubly grateful for this assistance. We must also mention CIBC and Sun Life Financial, as staff from both companies have been long-time friends of DECSA and can be counted upon to lend us support during important events and milestones. Last but certainly not least, we owe many thanks to the kind community member who donated his petting zoo. The animals were a welcome addition to the event, and their gentle dispositions allowed us to give our young visitors an especially memorable experience.
And so, for now, we put the photos away, and move along to other exciting events planned for the coming months. Next year, though, we hope to see you all at our 12th Community Pancake Breakfast. Help us keep this treasured tradition going for another 11 years!

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We’re Serving Holiday Spirit (And We Need Your Help)

Throughout the year, our staff and clients are focused on hard-won progress. Breaking down barriers is never easy, and overcoming trauma and other challenges is tiring. So, when the holiday season approaches, we like to take time for reflection, appreciation, and joy.

On December 14, we’ll be hosting a Christmas luncheon for anyone who is or has been a client in the past year. By preparing and serving a holiday feast for our clients, we remind them that we acknowledge, admire, and respect their efforts and progress. DECSA would not be the same without them, and we owe them our gratitude. This is just one way we can demonstrate how much our clients mean to us, and also allows us to sit down and simply enjoy fun, unstructured time with them outside the daily routine.

All the food for our luncheon is generously provided by Edmonton’s Food Bank, and it will be prepared and served by our staff. Still, we need help to obtain catering supplies, such as chafing (heating) dishes, serving utensils etc. Without these, the event cannot take place, so we’re reaching out to you—supporters, family, friends, neighbours, partners—to help us ensure our clients can enjoy a delicious holiday meal. For many of our clients, who live in low-income circumstances, this turkey dinner may be the only gift they are given this year. Help us make their holidays a little brighter.

If you’re interested in donating, please visit our campaign’s page, where you can see how much we’ve raised so far and contribute your own gift toward our goal. Remember that even if you can’t give at this time, we will still benefit from a share or two. Please share our campaign on your social media page, and tell all your friends!

We thank you for your generosity. We know you’ll help us serve some holiday spirit for those who need it most this season.

The Holidays are a time of celebration and reflection, especially for individuals facing barriers. Support our GoFundMe campaign so we can host, feed, and bring joy to our clients!

 

Good Night and Good Luck! Congratulations to our Ventures Graduates

Emotions ran wild at DECSA last Thursday! Ventures program clients wrapped up their six-week long curriculum, undertaking a gratifying ceremony in which many were left in wistful tears of jovial congratulations and farewells. The best part? Audience members were gifted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness splendid entrepreneurial pitches provided by none other than the blossoming businessmen and women who took on the program. For those who missed the chance to see the presentations first-hand, here is an in-depth account of the event—documenting photographs, quotes, business ideas, and raw reactions from the attendees!

What is the Ventures Program?

DECSA’s Ventures program serves people who are eighteen and older, live in Edmonton or surrounding areas, have a visible or invisible disability, and have a viable business idea they want to make happen. Those who take part are provided with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement their own small-time businesses.

photo2.jpgThe program is managed and facilitated by Sherree, along with her talented and hardworking team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the Help

The ceremony began with a shout-out to two very special volunteers who were integral to the program’s success:

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Mona first found DECSA at a volunteer fair. She said the only agency that stood out to her was none other than DECSA! Thanks to our very own and incredibly articulate Aimee, who was able to rattle off a five-second pitch for DECSA, Mona knew immediately that the organization was right for her! “DECSA would be nothing without people like Aimee,” she said. Mona helped out the Ventures program every day and was essential to this year’s success.

 

 

 

 

 

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Denis is a graphic designer; he taught the science of branding and logo design to the class. He thanked his mom and dad. He “wouldn’t be here without ‘em!”

 

 

 

 

Pitches from Our Entrepreneurs

These are some of the graduating students of our June 2016 class.

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Kimberley was first up, and featured a very unique presentation using assistive technology to demonstrate some of the services she will be providing in her business. She’s planning on providing life & career counselling services to blind customers. Her compatriots admire her humour most; when helping Kimberley find her lighter Sherree asked for its colour. “How would I know what colour it is? — I’m blind!” Kimberley joked.

 

 

 

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Janet was next up. Her business provides hand and machine-sewn traditional Aboriginal clothing. She attributes her greatest inspiration to her grandmother; after her grandmother’s passing, Janet was reminded of her by a blue butterfly on her windowsill. “Let them go, let them be free,” she reminisced.

 

 

Brandon took on the notoriously awkward “elevator pitch.” After reciting a 30-second pitch to Sherree, Brandon gave us a tour of his website. Brandon offers graphic design services to artists and businesses, and promises to keep the industry and goals of his clients in mind when designing their logos.reu5rue

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Dustin believes that safer, alternative analgesics should be available for everyone. His business plan is to provide cost-efficient and donation-driven medical marijuana services to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dayna is a passionate artist who desires to provide low-cost digital and printed artwork to private buyers and businesses. She is currently working to establish her company, but wishes to soon be able to help others with disabilities achieve their goals.

 

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Congratulations to our Graduates!

Developing a start-up can be tough, but with the skills learned in the Ventures program these clients are better prepared for the challenging journeys that lie ahead. Good luck to all our graduates! Stay persistent, and remember to apply the skills you’ve learned here!

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What’s exciting at DECSA this summer?

#1 Free 10th Annual Community Pancake Breakfast

20150708_095937(1)Our 10th Annual Community Pancake Breakfast is coming up on July 6, from 7:30 to 10:30! As always, it’s completely free and open to everyone, so come by with or without kids to savour some fresh breakfast, join in organized games, leap around the bouncy castle, and tour a firetruck with local firefighters, or just chat with friends. And all this free fun is made possible only through donations from Northlands/Bellevue Community League and Re/Max Edmonton & Area Associates, to whom we are very, very thankful.

#2 Accepting new clients into the Assets for Success program

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All summer we’re accepting new intakes for Assets for Success, a program for people with disabilities who are seeking employment. Through this program we provide employment preparation workshops, one-on-one career counselling, and direct connections to employers, so if you have a disability, you’re looking for work, and you’re between 15 and 30, call us at 780-474-2500 to learn more.

 

#3 Down to Earth: Gardening with Youth At Risk

gardenThis summer, youth at risk will get outside to learn skills, make friends, and receive mentorship as they plant, grow, and harvest non-GMO vegetable seeds in plots on our grounds. This is a great opportunity for youth to have fun, take ownership of a project, and reap the benefits of their efforts! We’re still looking for support to cover costs, so check out our GoFundMe campaign to learn more and donate!

We hope to find you among the faces coming in and out of our doors this summer! If you’re looking for an excuse to stop by, consider volunteering! We’re searching for helpers for the breakfast, Down to Earth, and a few other projects this summer. If you’d enjoy volunteering with us, call our front desk at 780-474-2500 to learn more about our opportunities. Enjoy the warm, green months while they last!

Art Turns Lives Around: Story of Art Instructor at DECSA

Who knew that pencil crayons could turn your life around?

EmmaIf you told Emma a year ago that today she’d be a thriving artist and the instructor of Try Angles – an art class under the umbrella of the Community Linking Programs, Wellness Network – she wouldn’t have believed you. She wasn’t an artist, she was a business woman, and drawing and painting weren’t even on her list of things to do for fun.

It was through some dark times that her inner artist began to emerge about a year ago. Struggling in an abusive relationship and facing overwhelming depression, Emma attempted to take her own life. When she woke up in the hospital, getting a box of pencil crayons was the first step to a complete life change for Emma. She’d never done much art before, and she found that it was exactly what she needed. “It was therapy for me, and it was amazing,” she says. “Art is so relaxing! It doesn’t let my mind wander into the past or future. I am in the moment – now. Yesterday I can’t control. Tomorrow hasn’t come. Now is the only time I can control.”

Art became a doorway into good mental health for Emma, and she started attending Try Angles, an art class for adults living with mental health or addictions. She soaked up every class and even started creating art at home.

Now, a year later, she is teaching two Try Angles classes and creating all sorts of beautiful artworks in her free time. “I am very, very happy for the first time,” she says. “My life is good. I never thought I’d stay that, but it is.”

Emma is now bringing the Try Angles art class to DECSA on Tuesdays from 1:30 until 3:30, and you are welcome to join us. Come with two dollars for supplies and all your artistic enthusiasm!

The Try Angles art class is under the umbrella of the Community Linking Programs, Wellness Network. These programs are available on a drop-in, non-referred basis for adults living with mental health and addictions. Please contact Cathy at 780-342-7765 or visit www.WellnessNetworkEdmonton.com for more information.

Lillian in Assets Finds Work, Home and Hope

Lillian had been homeless for twelve years when she arrived at DECSA exhausted and discouraged. She was facing mental and emotional health challenges, and she was more than ready to find some stability. “I was broken, and I was trying to hide it, but I felt like I wasn’t worth anything,” she says.

Through our Assets for Success program, Lillian started to find her feet again. “Everyone at DECSA believed in me. They kept telling me I deserved something better, and I could get there.” The Assets team worked with her to gain several certificates and credentials that would show employers her credibility and open doors for Lillianconsistent work. She completed training in First Aid/CPR, ProServe, construction safety, Workplace Hazardous Materials, Medical Administration, and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills.

Then, with guidance from the Assets team, she found work as a Personal Care Aide in a group home for children, so now she is using her skills and strengths to serve kids who face challenges.

Lillian received the financial aid she needed to rent an apartment, and she has been able to furnish it through donations from one of DECSA’s connections. Now Lillian is settling into her new life.

“I get up in the morning, and I look out my window, and I’m facing a lake! Last year I was homeless. Now I am in awe, and I’ll be grateful forever to DECSA because I’d lost hope in myself and they kept telling me I could get on my feet again. They believed in me, and I feel like they gave me back myself.”

We are so proud of Lillian, who has showed herself to be brave, determined, hard-working, and very capable. Congratulations, Lillian!

Researchers Say, “Being vulnerable improves mental health.”

Dark FaceEvery day at DECSA, we work with people who are living with shame because of differences they have, experiences they’ve had, and choices they’ve made.
We all live with shame, and it’s frightening to be vulnerable about the weak and damaged parts of ourselves, so we keep our secrets hidden.

But Brene Brown, a researcher who has been studying shame and vulnerability for over ten years, says, “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable…If we speak shame, it begins to wither.” Her research has shown that people actually become mentally healthier when they are vulnerable, and other researchers agree. Ziyad Marar, another scientist who has studied vulnerability says that the “shared and forgiving sense of frailty” that comes from being honest “is redemptive in a way that nothing else can be.”

At DECSA, we’re creating a place where people can honestly share their stories and find mental and emotional healing through vulnerability and acceptance because we know people need a place to be real.

In conclusion, we’d like to challenge you to ask yourself two questions today: “What parts of myself am I hiding?” and “Who can I be real with?” By being vulnerable, you free yourself to be yourself, and you give others courage to do the same.

Learn Business Free from Your Couch

Managing your own business takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of learning, and quick, convenient online information can save some of that time and energy. Through years of supporting entrepreneurs with disabilities to build and expand their businesses through the Ventures program, DECSA staff members have discovered that Edmonton Public Library offers excellent online resources for business professionals.

So take a seat on your couch with a snack and get ready to learn:

Lynda.com is one of North America’s most respected sources of online educational videos about business, software, and technology. You can use this site to learn about a wide range of topics from marketing techniques to website design to finance fundamentals and more.

PressReader provides free online versions of newspapers from Edmonton, Canada and all over the world, including the Edmonton Journal, the Edmonton Sun, the Toronto Star, and The Washington Post. You can search for local and international business news from many sources on any topic.

eBooks are also just a click away, and many you can read in your browser without an e-reader. A couple great ebooks to start with are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Win Friends and Influence People.

How do you access these resources?

  1. Go to www.epl.ca.
  2. Sign in using your library card number and password.
  3. Click on “Digital Content” at the top of the page.

    • To access Lynda.com: Click on “Learn,” then “Lynda.com.”
    • To access News: Click on “Newspapers & Magazines,” then “PressReader.”
    • To access eBooks: Click on “eBooks,” then “OverDrive,” then type a topic or title into the searchbar in the top right corner of your screen. Note: OverDrive also offers audiobooks. All e-books have an image of an open book in the top right corner, while audiobooks have an image of a pair of headphones.
  4. Type in your library card number and password again, if required.

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For more information or help accessing these resources and others, call the Edmonton Public Library at 780-496-7000, and enjoy using the fantastic resources it provides.

 

Aaron – Assets for Success Program

AaronDECSA is proud to announce that Aaron, a client in the Assets for Success program, has been hired at Tim Hortons; and after just two weeks, the store owner was so impressed that he increased his responsibilities. Aaron has gained a lot of self-confidence and is happy to be working at Tim Hortons. He was also able to obtain new work shoes free of charge through our partnership with Mark’s.

In addition, since coming to DECSA and participating in the program, Aaron discovered he has a passion for heavy duty equipment operating. To support Aaron’s long-term goal, the Assets for Success team has linked him with High Velocity Equipment Training and is assisting him to obtain funding to attend school there in the future.

Congratulations, Aaron!

Elaine Berglund’s Art at DECSA

Elaine Berglund is an Edmonton artist who has art displayed in DECSA’s Community Hub and halls. Today, she spoke to us about her work. “The pieces are really based in nature – the peacefulness of nature, the connectedness of nature,” Elaine said.

The pieces use mixed media and range from depictions of Alberta nature, to medicine wheels, to a series on the four winds.

Several of the pieces feature massive leaves cut from poplar saplings (seen right, click to enlarge). “These leaves are just the beginning of the sapling,” Elaine noted. “I find that very remarkable.”

“The pieces are really based in nature – the peacefulness of nature, the connectedness of nature.”

Two of the largest pieces feature in our entrance and in our Community Hub. “These are medicine wheels. The actual structure of these medicine wheels comes from ones that were found archaeologically,” Elaine said. She explains that one piece, Spiral of Phi (seen below, click to enlarge), shows the “dynamic vitality of life – a kaleidoscope of interactions.”

 

ViewAlso in our Community Hub are two pieces that depict a “limited view” of the sky (seen left, click to enlarge). “These ones aren’t as detailed,” Elaine noted. “If you go out into any field and lay down, you only see part of the sky. Whatever your view, it’s totally unique.”

The artwork is for sale for very reasonable prices. We hope you will stop by, check out her art and see how it speaks to you! Thank you to Elaine for the interview.