Two local groups in tight spots

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Special Olympics recruiters have reached their volunteer quota

YESS has been hearing ‘no’ for a few years now, and it has really taken a toll.

Edmonton’s Youth Emergency Shelter Society had its sights set on bringing in $1 million in donations over its most recent six-week fundraising campaign. It failed to meet its goal in 2010. It failed to meet its goal in 2011.

It failed to meet its goal this time, too, only bringing in approximately $632,000. Associate executive director Sue Keating now says the other shoe has finally dropped: some positions are being cut.

“We’re having a bit of a rough patch, that’s for sure,” she admitted. “We’ve got two positions that we were interviewing for that we’ve shelved. That’s really the only place in our budget where there’s anything that we can control.”

YESS is now in its thirtieth year of operation, providing programs and services for at-risk and homeless youths aged 15 to 21. Keating says it’s the only one of its kind in North America, and its uniqueness means that it always has to struggle.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of value in what it does. Last year, it helped 3,000 people learn life and work skills, and find housing. That was an increase of almost 1,000 from the previous year.

YESS has three facilities, allowing it to also operate a 26-bed overnight emergency shelter and two long-term residential programs to help give youths the motivation and experience to become successfully independent. It offers this help to youths in the metro Edmonton area, including St. Albert.

It does all of this on a budget of $5 million, only one-quarter of which comes from reliable sources like the provincial government and the United Way.

“The real difficulty for us is that it’s really hard to keep pace from a funds development point of view – with the constantly increasing need of the kids. There are just more and more kids coming to the door.”

To make up for the shortfall, Keating hopes that new fundraisers will get greater public attention. There’s a poker party and gala dinner at the River Cree Casino that takes place on March 3.

To learn more about YESS or to make a donation, call 780-468-7070 or visit www.yess.org. YESS is located at 9310 82 (Whyte) Avenue in Edmonton.

BLESS prays for more members

Pat Collins, president of the Big Lake Environment Support Society, says that the group is doing okay for members, even seeing an increase last year, but it could always use a few more.

“Most definitely” was his enthusiastic response.

He said that a really good time to join and get immersed in the group’s activities takes place in one week.

BLESS’s annual general meeting is on Wednesday Feb. 8 at Sir George Simpson junior high school, located at 50 Grosvenor Boulevard. Memberships can be renewed or purchased for $10 before the meeting begins. Family memberships are $15. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the meeting starting at 7 p.m.

“There are lots of opportunities to get involved. We have a webcam out there and we put in a world-class set of binoculars on the BLESS platform.”

Apart from an overview of 2011 and the financial report, Alberta Parks, Ducks Unlimited, and Dave Conlin Photography will make presentations regarding Big Lake and Lois Hole Provincial Park. There will also be a special insight into the BLESS webcam.

For more information, visit www.bless.ab.ca.

Special Olympics says, “What’s up, doc?”

The Special Olympics Canada Winter Games are now only 27 days away and director of administration and volunteers Sandyne Beach-McCutcheon has some good news.

Following a recent call to sign up trained medical personnel, the last positions have now been filled.

“We now have a sufficient number of those folks to assist us and we’re considering ourselves complete in that regard. That was the one trailing and nagging concern that we had.”

With that all in place, she now sets her sights on making sure everyone is fully prepared. She urges all registered volunteers to get their accreditation, shift schedules and uniforms by attending a mandatory rally on Feb. 17 and 18 at Vital Grandin School, located at 39 Sunset Boulevard.

“We’re in full games mode, as long as we get more snow!”

The games take place from Tuesday, Feb. 28 to Saturday, March 3 at locations in and around St. Albert and Jasper.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.