A day in Edmonton

Above, you can see Mayor Don Iveson, the Mayor of Edmonton speaking at the Edmonton Hope in the City luncheon. We were thrilled to have him attend today and to provide support to our event.  I was one of the speakers today….here’s part of my address.

You may not know this, but TSA is a rather small organization in relation to the number of people whom we help every year. In the last three years, we have served nearly 5.5M people in Canada and only because you continue to generously support the work of TSA.

Last year Canadians gave $24M dollars through our kettle campaign. You may already know this, but what you give in a kettle stays in the community you give it.  We have a high standard to honour the wishes of our donors and so while we do have some fundraising that is shared in regions of the country, we work hard to use the resources provided to us as they are intended.

In saying that to you, I want to let you know how your support is changing the lives of people in this city and province – you are by your giving and support – making a difference. We continue to maintain a low percentage of fundraising costs somewhere in the range of 12% which is amongst the lowest of any charitable organization. You have our commitment to continue that kind of record.

It’s hard to believe that in a land that is so affluent in comparison to the rest of the world we have people who struggle to get by…and there are lots of reasons why people struggle to get by. Job insecurity, addictions, health circumstances…any of those or others can really make it hard to make ends meet or to keep a job or to stay in a relationship. You likely can name people who fall into those categories.

People who get help from us come to TSA from lots of places and for lots of reasons. We help as many people as we can each year.

A few years ago I was at an alumni meeting of men who had come through our addictions program in Edmonton. I saw this rather new Land Rover pull into the parking lot and over some food and conversation met the driver. I’ll call him Mike to protect his privacy. As Mike’s story unfolded, I discovered that Mike was an engineer and had been, as he described himself, a functioning alcoholic. For 16 years he had managed to keep his work, family, and finances together until one day he decided to try crack-cocaine. Within six months he had lost his job, his house and his family. Mike’s journey brought him rapidly to life on the street and into TSA program in Edmonton. Through some very difficult work with our staff, an acknowledgment that he need help from staff and God he found his way back to life as a contributing member of society. Mike, as I met him that day, was working on staying sober, staying in a relationship with his children and re-establishing his finances. On that day eating hamburgers over the BBQ Mike told me, TSA saved his life.

People come to TSA for many reasons and we need your financial support to keep our operations going.

Last year in Calgary you gave us $1.4M through our Kettle program.

Edmonton was one of the places that Syrian refugees came when Canada welcomed 25K Syrians escaping from the devastation of war. Most of us love where we live – have memories of where we went to school, know our neighbours and frequent our favourite eating places. So can you imagine having to run from all that – and to have to find a safe place for your life and that of your family – imagine having to run to the other side of the world. Can you imagine suddenly needing to flee from Calgary/Edmonton and finding yourself in say Pakistan or Indonesia – you don’t speak the language, you know no one, and you are trying to care for your family? TSA is in place to help those fleeing to Canada for refuge.

Of course, it isn’t just Syrians that need help, need shelter and food and help to find how to restart life in a new country. TSA helps those new to Canada every day restart their lives.

Perhaps you know in Calgary we operate a hospice where palliative care is provided to approximately 1700 people each year.  In Edmonton, we have a very special 100-bed facility for seniors who have mental health challenges and cannot be placed in a regular long term care facility.

Here’s some numbers to let you know how you have done in supporting TSA last year in our Kettle Campaign –

Calgary topped the list in AB at $1.4M, followed by Edmonton at $1.17M, however, High River raised $110K, Lethbridge $146K, Drumheller $40K, Fort Mac $197K

That’s in the midst of very difficult financial times for Albertans – so that tells us that you are generous and you know that other Albertans are in need of their neighbour’s help.  We’ve used these funds for support for single mothers, life skill training to get people back into the workforce, transitional housing strategies to move people from dependence on institutional housing to independent housing, we have used those funds to provide emergency food, to support seniors and children – the list is quite extensive.

Over the next five weeks, we need to raise $21.5M – to do so, we will have 2000 kettles out in 400 communities across Canada, and of course in many communities in Alberta including Grande Prairie, Lloydminster, Red Deer and the communities to the south of Calgary.

In total we spent last year $485M helping people, delivering programs to people who simply put, needed help at this point in their lives.

One evening in Yellowknife we were running a foot clinic to help people who live on the streets. It was a bitterly cold night around -40 and Steve, mid-20s was there. His father is widely known and a public figure. Steve was on the streets because he too began to use drugs and once addicted began stealing from his family to feed his habit. So to protect themselves Steve’s parents were forced to ask him to leave their home. Steve sat and poured out his heartbroken, addicted, lonely and looking for a way out of a desperate situation he turned to TSA that night.

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I met Claude in Regina – over lunch he told me his story – a cook by trade me worked in the mining/logging industries in the north. His alcoholism got the better him after almost 20 years of trying to be reliable on the job. He went to TSA’s program in Regina and did well but after leaving our centre he relapsed.  He told me that he doesn’t know how he got there, but one Sunday morning he woke up in Halifax.  He was at the side of the road, and as he was gaining awareness he saw a woman in SA uniform on the other side of the street. He didn’t talk to her, didn’t even approach her, but her image reminded him that he was happy when he was with TSA, so over the next three months he worked his way back to Regina where he again went through our program, only this time he asked God to help him. As he recounted his story to me he said, that was 36 years ago and I’ve been a reliable worker, a good husband, and father – he told me TSA saved my life.

Last year in Canada TSA spent $199M was on addictions, prison/court work as well as residential services. We spent $130M on healthcare-related services, we spent $65M on a variety of services in our 221 CFS offices.  Helping the youth of our country, we spent $15.5M on a variety of programs including the 10 summer camps that we run across the country… yet, we would like to be out of all this work.

This may surprise you, but one of the reasons we help as many people as possible get back on their feet is that we would like to put ourselves out of business – we actually wish we could report that we helped fewer people last year than the year before and that we plan to help even fewer next year, but unfortunately we keep seeing a sea of humanity in need, and we suspect as we see the population of Canada continues to grow we will see a steady demand for the godly work of TSA across Canada.

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