Local Rotarian joins international polio fight
Bissell Centre Thrift Shoppe down but not out due to fire
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 14, 2013 06:00 am
There is now only one degree of separation between Rotary Club of St. Albert member Wayne McCutcheon and such world-famous humanitarians and celebrities as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Jane Goodall, Jackie Chan and Bill Gates. They all star, albeit briefly, in a newly released video commercial to help promote the eradication of polio.
End Polio Now produced The World’s Biggest Commercial. The rather long video focuses on the phrase, “We are this close to ending polio,” as the smallest distance between the thumb and forefinger nearly pinching. Hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters from around the world appear in rapid succession as they each demonstrate how close the world is to eradicating the disease by making the hand gesture.
McCutcheon, the local club’s Rotary Foundation chair, said that the exaggerated promotion is an excellent way of bringing the cause of eradicating polio back to the public consciousness.
“Rotary has been at this polio eradication program since 1985,” he began, remarking that more than 2 billion children have already been immunized. It has been reduced by 99 per cent in the effort. In 2011, only 700 new cases were reported.
“We’re really so close to getting this completed. It’ll be a nice feat to have done.”
The international organization has set a target date of 2018. Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, is a viral infectious disease that inflames tissues in the spinal cord, causing muscle weakness and paralysis. An epidemic in the early 1900s affected thousands of people, mostly children, throughout North America, but it has been present throughout all of human history. McCutcheon said that even one of his cousins had polio but still survived.
The development of vaccines has saved countless thousands of lives, but the virus keeps adapting, allowing polio to continue on.
“We’ve had some reoccurrences in some of the countries that we thought we had clear.”
The collaborative international effort involves Rotary, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also just gotten on board to help with fundraising.
McCutcheon firmly believes that eradication is possible and that all of these parties are really “this close.”
“We’re getting there.”
To view the video or to learn more about the effort, please visit thisclose.endpolio.org/en/submissions/35192. McCutcheon appears at the 3:41:30 mark.
Bissell Centre picking up the pieces
A recent fire at the Bissell Centre’s Thrift Shoppe in Edmonton has put a damper on spirits but hasn’t stopped the staff’s resolve to help people in need.
Last Monday, a fire broke out in the receiving area of the store located at 8818 118 Avenue. While there were no injuries, the entire inventory had to be thrown out. Damages have been estimated at $650,000 so far and the store is expected to be closed, likely for at least six months. Layoffs of some staff are also expected.
St. Albert resident Kyle Goertzen is the communications and development officer with the organization. He said that morale is still good, all things considered.
“We’re doing OK. We’re most concerned about the thrift store employees obviously. It’s a direct impact to all of us, our programming, our services and our budget, but it’s of the most direct impact to those employees.”
“We’re not going to try to stop working to try to eliminate poverty in Edmonton and area. We’re going to do our best to get up and operational as quick as we can and move forward from there.”
The Thrift Shoppe helps to bring in $70,000 monthly, all of which helps to support the Bissell Centre’s work to help approximately 6,000 people every month.
For those who want to help, donors can only make drop-offs at the southside centre or to the Thrift Shoppe itself at 8818 118 Avenue. Goertzen added that cash donations would be most helpful at this point.
He said that they hope to announce soon whether or not the organization can set up a temporary store location to satisfy customers and donors alike so that they can all continue to help people in poverty. It offers a variety of programs and services including child and family resources, victim services, mobile assistance, and housing help among others.
People can learn more by calling the Bissell Centre at 780-423-2285 or by visiting www.bissellcentre.org where people can make online financial contributions as well. The website (and the centre’s Facebook page and its Twitter account) will feature blog updates about the recovery process.