Imagine waking up on your birthday and you just spent your first night in a youth shelter.
That happened recently to a young person, let's call her Amanda, in our Maurer Hall Youth Shelter.
My immediate thought was that waking up on your birthday in a youth shelter would be a terrible thing!
I guess it's all about perspective.
Another person told me that waking up on your birthday in a shelter might be better than the other options.
That evening, our staff planned a little birthday party for Amanda.
She told us that she couldn't remember the last time someone sang "Happy Birthday" to her. She told us that she was very happy for the cake that we gave her and the gift cards she got for her birthday.
Hmm. Maybe this is the best place for her.
The Maurer Hall, and the cake and gift cards, wouldn't be available to Amanda and 45 others in the last year without donations from people like you. Thank you!
Where would Amanda have been on her birthday without the Maurer Hall?
Please click the button below to make a donation now to Amanda's Birthday Fund to help other youth celebrate milestones while they are in our shelter.
We might get another call tonight for someone who needs a safe place to celebrate a birthday!
This time of year is supposed to be the most difficult. (long winter, large credit card bills...)
To make us feel good we didn't make New Year's resolutions, we held them until Blue Monday. That means we've gone 3 weeks without breaking them!
Anyways, this is what we are focused on in 2016.
1. We promise to celebrate the positive changes our clients make with the people who make these changes possible! We resolve to be inspiring and thankful!
2. We promise to follow the message of '29'. This is the story of a young woman who accessed services from an agency, made some positive steps and then relapsed. It wasn't until the 29th time that she came to the organization that her life change was permanent. We resolve not to turn someone away on their, 4th, 15th or 29th time!
3. We will continue to share with the community the issues that our clients face, their efforts to overcome them and invite you to help solve them. We will ask for your help.
4. We will be relentless in our efforts to build trust. We will be visible in the community, we will initiate contact with potential clients and we will be available when someone needs us.
5. We promise to not be cynical about the potential for change in our clients (even the most "difficult" ones). We promise not to blame people for the situations they are in. (parents, youth, community members)
Bonus: We want to say thank you to the donors that make this work possible so often that they tell us to stop!
As the 2015 calendar comes down, every month The Open Door has been filled with real stories and situations like the ones below.
January – Kent “slipped in” and brought pizza to say thank you for saving my life
February- Jessie’s life of “no fixed address” ended up with her in -22 degree weather asleep in a car
March- Jace had been sleeping in a public bathroom for 5 days
April- Ben went missing and his mother searched desperately for him
May- Devon was found living in an abandoned vehicle with only a candle and a blanket
June- Carly’s mom went to jail and she was too afraid to tell anyone
July- Emma-lee was hospitalized from the combination of health issues and addiction
August- a life was lost and a young man was found safe inside a box
September- Tess’s statement brought huge impact and a place to rest her feet
October- Alisha was struggling with her mom’s mental disorder
November- Blake was devastated to find out secrets in his family
December- Ray walked so many miles he wore the treads off of his shoes
It seems almost unreal that a city the size of Camrose would have so many youth that need help but the truth of the matter is that these are only 12 of the reasons why we need you so very much. These are a select number of situations that you have helped youth to overcome, work through, to deal with and to seek help for. You may recognize one or two and for some of you (depending on how often you donate) maybe ALL of these stories have ended up in your mailbox.
As 2015 slips away we are filled with a depth of gratitude and a sea of thankfulness.
The 2016 calendar will be placed upon the wall and we know that as the year progresses that it too will be filled with new stories, new clients and thanks to you, new successes.
In January 2016 we plan to update all of our 2015 donors on each and every one of these stories in a very unique way.
We look forward to sharing this with you because without you we cannot exist. You have given youth the strength to face each day…the fight to make it another month and the vision of what the next year may hold for them.
There is no greater gift than the gift of hope.
May you be filled with assurance that we honor your gifts that you so generously give.
From the youth in this community….There is no greater gift than you.
Happy New Year!
Donor Relations and Communications Director
Paula went back to school!
Martina moved into her very first apartment in November!
Kayla reconnected with her family!
Michael got new shoes!
Sierra is sober!
Jason has lived on his own for a year and pays his rent early!
All of these life changes are the result of...
A. The amazing intellect of the Executive Director! NO!!
B. The great work of our dedicated staff! YES, but there is something more foundational.
C. YOU! YES!!!
Your generosity made each of the mission moments described above, and others not listed, possible! THANK YOU!
Your donations meet the needs of youth in Camrose and area who find themselves at risk!
I mentioned to other staff recently that “life at the Open Door is like a box of chocolates….”
All of a sudden Super Human Randal came swooping into the conversation. Many of you might know him as Randal Nickel Executive Director of the Open Door. Randal sang out “WE NEED TO BLOG THAT CAPTION” So here it goes….
“Life is like a box of chocolates”…..
Some of you might remember what movie this famous saying came from.
If you said Forest Gump you would be correct.
Now you might wonder “what does this have to do with an Open Door Blog?” Well let me tell you. Every day of every week at the Open Door is NOT like Ground Hog Day, another classic movie. You do NOT KNOW what you are getting on any given day. We support the youth at risk in the Community and surrounding areas.
They do not come with a handbook or directions. They come with hurts, judgements, and addictions. Some have no parental or family support, some have no homes and couch surf every night. Society has rejected so many of them. Why?
Some talk of the new families their parents have made with no room for them.
Some speak of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the person that was to protect them from harm and hurt.
Some have taken on far too many responsibilities and worries at such a young age.
No teenager should have to worry about where they are going to sleep tonight, or where their next meal will come from. They should be thinking about their futures in a positive way. What they would like to do as a career, where they want to go to College or University, and what they would like to take as a career.
No two situations or circumstances are the same.
So I challenge all of you, next time you are out in the community and you see some youth that might be at risk. Ask yourself this question before you judge. Are they hungry? Are they hurting? Have they been wrongfully judged most of their lives?
That could be the reason they are acting the way they are.
Remember you may represent the people our youth base their opinions on. When you are out in the community and see some of our youth, perhaps you could give a friendly smile or a “hi” as you might be the only person that has acknowledged them in a long time.
FASD Support Coordinator
We are in the middle of the longest election campaign in recent memory. Is this the true meaning of "The Dog Days of Summer"?
Here's a few reasons why I think an election is important for an organization like ours. What do you think?
1. Policies created by the government can have a large impact (positive and/or negative) on the issues that an organization is concerned about.(mission motive)
The Open Door’s mission is to meet the needs of youth who find themselves at risk. Policy decisions around housing, support systems, family issues and other concerns can have a dramatic impact on our client group and our ability to mitigate these issues.
Click HERE to read an article about policy decisions at the federal level regarding housing.
2. Most organizations, including the Open Door, receive at least some funding from government grants to carry out programs. (financial motive)
The Open Door’s annual budget is our game plan to achieve our mission. We raise funds through our facilities (20%), donations/fundraising (20%), grants from foundations and government (60%). Policy decisions as described above also have financial implications. Being able to access funds allows the Open Door to provide more, and better, services for our clients.
3. Many organizations, including the Open Door, work with clients that may be hidden but need support. (awareness raising/educational motive)
Homelessness in a rural community like Camrose is often hidden. Elections can be a good opportunity to raise awareness in a community as people are looking for information to help them make an informed choice
when they vote.
I hope this was a helpful backgrounder. Your comments are much appreciated.
Thanks for reading.
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My name is Alison Bortolon, I am a biker, a racer, a musician, a filmmaker, a business owner, an Open Door staff member, and I am 23 years old.
There was a time not too long ago that I would never have dreamed I could be any of these.
A time when I was faced by such troubles that I never thought I would make it through.
This was a time in my life when I was faced with financial issues, emotional issues, illness and more. The mountain in front of me seemed so tall that I would never be able to make my way over it… but I was wrong.
Often when we are faced with such vast hurdles, we never imagine the potential beyond it.
When I was a kid learning to ride a bike I never dreamt that I would become a competitive mountain bike racer.
When I was asked in school to make a short film I never dreamt that I would one day own a production company.
When I was a troubled teen I never dreamed that I could one day use my story to inspire others.
We get so immersed in what we are facing that we forget how far we have come. It happens when I am riding my bike, when I am busy pedaling up the mountain I am so focused on the next difficult climb that I forget to turn around and look at the view of how far I have come.
In my life I have been faced with many mountains; however, as I look back they are what make me who I am and what has brought me to where I am today.
You see, much like riding a bike, it took me many crashes to figure out how to overcome obstacles. I couldn’t give up when I went down, I had to learn from it, get back up and keep going. For if I did not, I would not be the rider I am today. There are so many obstacles that I have had to face to improve my riding, from drops and jumps, to rocks and roots. It took nothing but time to be able to overcome what I once thought I could never conquer.
Now I have set my sights even higher and the obstacles I once struggled over are nothing but speed bumps.
What I am trying to say is, life is always filled with challenges, there will always be ups and downs but you have to keep trekking.
You only get stronger from what you overcome and as you look back it will have seemed worth it.
No matter what, you have to appreciate how far you’ve come and the journey you’ve taken . It is what makes you, you.
The Open Door turned 15 years old this month and I finished my 10th year as Executive Director!
15 years is an important achievement for an organization. Obviously, we do not exist to make sure that we exist! Our mission to meet the needs of youth in our community who find themselves at risk isn't completed yet. Hopefully, there comes a day when there aren't any youth in need of our services.
I thought I'd have some fun and see how the Open Door is similar to a typical 15 year old. I hope you enjoy.
1. At times we may be a little awkward and have some growing pains!
Over the time that I've been at the Open Door we've had periods where we were growing slowly and times where the demand for our services and the size of our organization changed quickly. We've definitely made mistakes over the years. One of them was setting up a bbq at a teen dance with 400 hungry youth. We thought we'd sell hundreds of burgers. We didn't sell 1!
2. We are still trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up!
We have a very strong sense of mission that guides our decision making. This has helped us keep our clients as the central focus. We've even turned down options that might have been positive financially because it didn't advance our mission.
More recently, we've been pushed and are moving towards more housing supports. How do we keep our focus on service provision rather than just becoming a landlord? How do we find places for our clients to live when there is little or nothing available?
3. Finally, and most importantly, like a typical 15 year old, we feel pretty good about our ability to take care of ourselves, but we also know that it takes a community to raise a teenager!
Thank you to the many people and groups that see working with youth as a good investment in our community.
The lawn signs are coming up. The TV ads with the party leader speaking so earnestly wearing a sportcoat in one and rolled up shirt sleeves in another are on again. It's election campaign time again.
It's easy to roll our eyes and try not to pay attention. Do we ever hear anything concrete and of importance from these ads?
We're lucky to have the opportunity to have our voice heard. When that voice gets loud enough action usually follows.
I'd be happy to share my personal views on who to vote for, but I won't. I do want to encourage you to vote and to consider these questions as you decide who to vote for:
- what kind of community do you want to be a part of?
- is there more to the health of our communities than what can only be measured by development permits and economic indicators?
- do you believe that everyone (or as close as possible) should benefit from AND contribute to our standard of living?
- are taxes always bad? (think roads, water, schools, supports for people who need extra help...)
- could/should we do better then we have been?
There's many reasons to bother.
I'd love to talk more about this with you. (over coffee of course!)
Please note that the views expressed above are my personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Open Door.
As a basketball fan, this is my favourite time of year with the US college basketball tournament affectionately called March Madness taking over my television screen. Of course, I'm only watching to better my own skills on the court!
March Madness is also an apt term for the silly season of March where we wait for word from the various government funders about what levels of funding, if any, that they will provide to support work with vulnerable populations in our communities.
For some, March is spending season where remaining budget amounts are spent before they are lost for the next fiscal year starting April 1. (aptly called April Fools Day to commemmorate this ridiculous use/misuse of funds) For others, March is spent worrying about the next budget and how nice it would be to focus on positive outcomes for our clients.
This Madness is particularly true this March as we wait for another round of potentially deep cuts at the provincial level. (We are still paying for the deep cuts made by a "revered" former politician. I was disturved to read a headline recently asking what that former politician would do in our current situation, but that's best left for a personal conversation!)
For once, can we escape this Madness and build a responsible budget for our province that makes good use of the wealth we've been so fortunate to have under our feet? If not, we only have the enclosed fairy tale to guide us.
What are your thoughts?
(the views expressed in this blog are my personal views and do not represent the views of the Open Door. I just know the password to this blog!)
Various people will contribute to this blog. Check each posting for the author.