Timeraiser returns to Edmonton with a WestJet giveaway!

Last year, Timeraiser came to Edmonton for the first time. It was a great opportunity for people to connect with both local organizations looking for volunteers and with local artists. The event was a big success too: 4145 total hours were pledged by 180 people and $12,000 was invested in the careers of emerging artists, surpassing the goals the organizers had set. You can see my photos from the event here.

Timeraiser is like a mix between a silent art action and a volunteer fair. Here’s an overview of how it works:

This year, Timeraiser Edmonton is taking place on October 16 (on ShareEdmonton), and there are 20 agencies participating. You can get your tickets here, which include the Special Live Performance of Amy van Keeken’s Rock & Roll Sing-a-Long.

WHO: Everyone!
WHAT: 2nd Edmonton Timeraiser
WHEN: Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 7:00 PM
WHERE: TransAlta Arts Barns, 10330 84 Avenue (map)
WHY: To raise 4000 community hours for local organizations!
Click here to register!

The Timeraiser crew was in Edmonton a couple weeks ago, purchasing the art from local artists, and talking to over 100 local shops & restaurants about the upcoming event. It’s going to be a great night!

Win two tickets to anywhere WestJet flies!

One of the exciting things about Timeraiser this year is that WestJet has signed on to be the national presenting partner, and they have been running a social media contest in each city, giving away two airline tickets worth over $4000. I was asked to help give them away in Edmonton!

To enter the contest, leave a comment below answering this question:

What are you doing to help make Edmonton a better place?

You have until noon on October 13 to make your entry. After that, I’ll assist the Timeraiser organizers in picking the best comments and ultimately the winner. I’ll announce the winner here on October 14. You can see the full contest rules and regulations here.

Mark your calendars for October 16 and don’t miss the second Edmonton Timeraiser! You can learn more about Timeraiser on their blog and Facebook, and you can follow along using #timeraiser on Twitter.

UPDATE: Congrats to Christina for her comment on getting informed about Edmonton and contributing positively to our city!

Learning about the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation

Yesterday I attended an information session at Evansdale School on the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation, which launched on February 10. I admit I hadn’t even heard of the foundation until Jeremy mentioned the information sessions to me! I’m glad he did, because it was really interesting to learn about.

Our host for the session was Sandra Woitas, the director of the foundation. She has had a long history with Edmonton Public Schools as a teacher, consultant, and principal. After everyone had introduced themselves, we heard a little about Evansdale School and some of the unique programs it hosts. Next, Sandra welcomed two high school students who spent a few minutes talking about the experiences they have had during their time in the Edmonton Public School system. After that, we got into the information. Sandra gave an excellent overview of the foundation and how it came to be. Here are my notes:

  • The idea for the foundation came in 1996 from then Superintendent Dr. Emery Dosdall. He wanted to include a broad selection of stakeholders to help raise the profile of Edmonton Public Schools.
  • For the next decade or so, the idea floated between administration and the trustees. It wasn’t until trustee Bev Esslinger revived the idea that the ball got rolling again.
  • The foundation is meant to serve the 70% of Edmontonians who pay school taxes but don’t have a connection to the schools (either no kids, or their kids have graduated, etc).
  • In addition to raising the profile of Edmonton Public Schools, the foundation will advocate for improving public education here in Edmonton.
  • One of the areas of focus for the foundation is early childhood education. As Sandra said a few times, “either you pay now or you pay later.” To that end, they hope to raise money for early learning.
  • Full-day kindergarten programs would be one beneficiary. The first was setup at Norwood school thanks to a donation of $78,000 from Denny Andrews. Based on the success of that program, 24 other full-day kindergarten programs were setup throughout the city. There are apparently 15 more on a waiting list.

To finish off the session we were treated to a quick tour of Evansdale School. The school is multicultural, with students from over 40 countries! It also features a number of unique community outreach programs. We visited the full-day kindergarten classroom, and a music class as well. The SMART board in the kindergarten classroom surprised me – I learned that every classroom in the school has one! It was really great to see.

Edmonton Public Schools Foundation

Everyone who attended the session left with gifts! You can see the Evansdale mug, and the beautiful placemat created by a grade six student at the school. The bag of seeds came with a little explanation from Sandra: “what we’re doing with the foundation right now is planting seeds.”

If you’d like to support the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation, tell a friend about it! Or consider attending the fundraising breakfast on May 20 (on ShareEdmonton).

Recap: Food for all Seasons Spring Gala presented by Edmonton’s Food Bank

Tonight I was fortunate enough to be a last minute guest addition (thanks Tamara) for the Food for All Seasons Spring Gala, an annual fundraising event presented by Edmonton’s Food Bank. Held at the Sutton Place Hotel and hosted by CTV’s Erin Isfeld, the event was an opportunity to show support for the food bank while meeting some really interesting people.

While networking and great conversation was the focus, we did learn a little about what Edmonton’s Food Bank accomplished in 2009:

  • A total of 81,572 kilograms of food was provided to groups on a one time or special request basis
  • Over 190 agencies, churches, and food depots worked with the food bank
  • More than 15,000 people were served by the hamper program each month

Accomplishments, yes, but also a reflection of the need that Edmonton’s Food Bank serves. Each year, the warehouse distributes more than 3.3 million kilograms of food. We were reminded of just how important the organization is to our city – one in six Edmontonians under the age of 18 will go to bed hungry tonight.

Food for all Seasons Spring GalaFood for all Seasons Spring Gala

The theme for the event this year was “A Taste of the Orient” and the menu reflected that with wonton dumpling and spring golden chive soup, spicy thai chicken spring rolls, baked black sesame crusted salmon, and lychee creme caramel for dessert. Very tasty!

Food for all Seasons Spring GalaFood for all Seasons Spring Gala

Cary Williams, co-chair of Edmonton Next Gen and one of Avenue Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2009, was the guest speaker tonight. I thought he did a great job combining food and his passion for Edmonton. Cary said that “food is universal” and that “it’s the glue that unites families and communities together.” He stressed that the city is a stronger community because of the work that Edmonton’s Food Bank does. Cary chose to live in Edmonton because of the people that live here and care about the city. His call to action was to be mindful of the importance of the food bank, and to share it with others.

Cary WilliamsFood for all Seasons Spring Gala

The gala also featured a silent auction with a wide array of items (everything from opera tickets to a bluetooth headset) and the chance at winning 1/4 karat yellow and white gold ladies’ diamond solitaire ring, courtesy of All-Lock Rescue. It looked like there were lots of bids on the silent auction items!

The Spring Gala is just one of the many events organized by Edmonton’s Food Bank each year. I really enjoyed the evening, but I understand the event will be re-imagined for next year, so stay tuned for something new!

You can see the rest of my photos from the event here. If you’d like to make a donation or get involved with Edmonton’s Food Bank, you can learn more here. You may know that they are running the Expressions of Hunger photo and literary contest right now – you can vote for your favorite entries here!

Christmas Bureau of Edmonton 2009 Campaign Launch

Today the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton launched its 69th campaign, challenging everyone to help provide for 65,000 less fortunate Edmontonians this year. The goal is to raise $1.6 million in the six weeks prior to December 25th. Councillor Henderson was on hand this afternoon to proclaim December 2009 as Christmas Bureau Month in the City of Edmonton. He echoed the thoughts of many in the room when he said that the Christmas Bureau is embedded into what makes Edmonton great. It’s amazing that they’ve been helping less fortunate families since 1940! Honorary Campaign Chairpersons Kevin Lowe and the Oilers Ladies also gave some remarks. I had no idea that Kevin Lowe has been involved with the Christmas Bureau for 27 years!

To help launch the campaign, the media were invited to participate in a gingerbread house making competition! I was fortunate enough to participate, representing new media along with The Unknown Studio. Here’s the “Twitter” house I came up with:

Christmas Bureau Gingerbread Competition

I had lots of fun, and was amazed at some of the houses the others created. Check out most of them in my photoset here. Thanks to the Christmas Bureau for asking me to take part.

To learn more about the Christmas Bureau, check out their website. You can donate, volunteer, or sponsor a family. You can also follow them on Twitter!

Homeless Connect Edmonton 3

Edmonton’s third Homeless Connect was held yesterday at the Shaw Conference Centre (I wrote about HCE2 here). Over 1100 people attended to receive free services from more than 60 local agencies. Guests could make long distance phone calls, get haircuts, see a dentist, find a winter jacket, and much more all for free. New this time around was supervised child care, increased Aboriginal services, and free photographs! Everyone was served a hot lunch and received a gender-appropriate “goodie bag” too.

“It was a great day. The amount of people and services that come together to support our neighbors is exceptional,” says Joanne Currie, Homeless Connect co-chair and Community Investment Specialist with the United Way. “It’s vital that people dealing with homelessness access these services, and it’s wonderful that they can find these easily, on one day and under one roof.”

There were more than 300 volunteers on hand for the day. Some of us were there all day, while others took either the morning or afternoon shift. Everything seemed much better organized this time around, and there was far less confusion among volunteers about where to be and what to do. It’s great to see that the organizers have acted on feedback from previous events to improve things.

Homeless Connect 3

I’m continually amazed at how many volunteers come out for the event. I’m also pleasantly surprised that so many of them are young! I have no idea what the average age of a Homeward Trust volunteer is, but I suspect its lower than the average for most service organizations. It’s great to see young people taking an active role in helping the less fortunate and improving our community.

I worked at registration this time, which I really enjoyed. The line was quite long throughout the morning but definitely slowed down around 1:30pm. As guests arrived, I introduced myself and shook their hand. I then asked them if they wanted to fill out a quick one-page survey (no one that came to my table declined). Usually I’d just ask the questions and fill it out for them. They survey was pretty straightforward but could definitely be streamlined. After the survey guests received a wristband and goodie bag and were on their way!

Once again I was reminded that the primary role of a volunteer at Homeless Connect is to be friendly and to listen, to ensure that all guests have a positive experience. A smile and a few minutes to chat really can make a big difference!

Homeless Connect 3Homeless Connect 3

I saw some familiar faces at the event (such as Mayor Mandel helping to serve lunch), and met some new people too, such as Lynn (DandelionV on Twitter).

“I’m very impressed with this event. It’s wonderfully organized,” says first time volunteer Lynn Turnbull. “It’s so wonderful seeing each guest being treated with respect and dignity. I thoroughly enjoyed my day.”

Alex also volunteered and wrote about his experience here. You can also check out articles in The Journal and The Sun.

Another great event in the books! I’ll definitely be helping out at the next one. Stay tuned to Homeless Connect Edmonton on Twitter for updates. You can see the rest of my photos here.

Timeraiser comes to Edmonton

Timeraiser is a unique event that supports both artists and non-profit organizations. You can think of it as a volunteer fair with a twist. Here’s the back story:

Timeraiser was conceptualized in 2002 in response to a group of friends wondering how it could be easier to find meaningful, relevant volunteer opportunities. Now, 7 years and 10 Timeraisers later, it is amazing that this grass-roots initiative has flourished into a well-known, annual event that operates in 6 cities across Canada.

It’s a great opportunity to learn more about local non-profit agencies and the volunteer opportunities they have available. What’s the twist? The event is also a silent art auction! To bid on art, you pledge volunteer hours instead of money. It’s an interesting way to get people involved in their local community. You can learn more about how Timeraiser works here.

Edmonton’s first Timeraiser is taking place on October 17th. Here are the details:

WHO: Everyone!
WHAT: 1st Edmonton Timeraiser
WHEN: Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 7:00 PM
WHERE: TransAlta Arts Barns, 10330 84 Avenue (map)
WHY: To raise 4000 community hours for local organizations!
Click here to register!

I got in touch with organizers Theresa Wetzel and Amanda Grainger to find out more. I wondered how Edmonton’s event came to be. Here’s what they said:

“The Edmonton Timeraiser came about from interest that was generated from the success we have had with the Calgary Timeraiser over the past four years. Our corporate partners, volunteers, and agencies were encouraging us to expand the program to Edmonton because they knew it would be a perfect fit for the city. So we started out by approaching the United Way Alberta Capital Region, Volunteer Edmonton, and Enbridge to see if we could rally their support to help bring the program to Edmonton. Instantly they were interested in getting on board and the Edmonton Timeraiser got off the ground without a hitch.”

The goal of the event is to provide people who aren’t already involved with volunteering a fun and easy place to start. Before individuals can bid on art, they first spend some time matching their skills to an agency’s needs. There are 22 agencies currently signed up to take part, and attendees are encouraged to shortlist the agencies they’d like to connect with ahead of time. Given that Edmonton has a fairly strong culture of volunteerism already, I asked Theresa how she saw that impacting the event. She said that Edmonton’s Timeraiser had the highest number of agencies that submitted applications and that “Edmontonians seem very engaged civic minded people who have a passion for art and volunteering”.

In addition to supporting local non-profits, Timeraiser supports local artists by purchasing artwork at fair market value. There will be 22 works of art up for auction. “We are happy to report we invested over $12,000 in the careers of Edmonton artists and in total since 2004 we have raised $300,000 in the careers of Canadian artists.” You can see some of the artwork here.

Organizers are hoping for about 200 participants pledging hours, with the goal of raising 4000 volunteer hours in total (the minimum pledge is 20 hours). Tickets for the event are on sale now for just $20.

Don’t miss this great event! Follow along and chat about it on Twitter using #timeraiser.

Thoughts on Everyone for Edmonton

For the second year in a row, Everyone for Edmonton (E4E) was held at the Shaw Conference Centre. An initiative of the SCC and Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), the event aims to connect Edmonton’s non-profit organizations with the public. Sharon and I stopped by after the AIDS Walk For Life yesterday, and came away less than impressed.

First off, here’s the official description from the website:

For the second year in a row, hundreds of non-profit organizations will be on hand to showcase the multitude of services they offer and the exciting volunteer opportunities available to members of the public. With over 4,000 non-profit organizations in Edmonton and over 8,000 in the Edmonton region this event has a lot to offer.

There weren’t hundreds of organizations on hand – I’d say there were just over a hundred. And while they were from a variety of sectors, I think the lack of cohesion was actually detrimental to the event. Some were there simply to have a presence while others were looking for volunteers. In contrast, the Festival Volunteer Fair that happened earlier this year was a much better event. Organizations on hand were all festivals, and the purpose was to connect with volunteers.

Everyone for EdmontonEveryone for Edmonton

Another difference between E4E and the Festival Volunteer Fair? The number of attendees. When we arrived at SCC yesterday, the place was deserted. We encountered only a handful of attendees visiting the booths inside. Chatting with a few of the people behind the tables confirmed the entire day had been like that.

I think the concept behind Everyone for Edmonton is a good one. Connecting our region’s non-profits with the public is a positive thing, and creating an event devoted to that end seems like a good idea. The execution of that could be better, however. All of the organizations present yesterday paid $50 to be there – did they all get $50 of value out of the event? The lack of attendees would suggest no.

Here are a few thoughts on how to improve E4E:

  • Identify a handful of specific audiences, and come up with ways to reach out to them. I think this year’s E4E suffered from a lack of promotion, and that’s probably due in part to trying to reach “everyone”.
  • Give the public a reason to attend beyond information – they can get information online. Activities, prizes, free food, something!
  • The website is very attractive, but it could be more useful. Instead of just listing all the organizations and linking to their respective websites, why not provide more information about each one right on the E4E website? Or at least provide separate volunteer information for each.
  • Think about changing the format. Walking through row upon row of tables isn’t all that exciting (though it does have a place). What about speed-dating for organizations and volunteers? That would be fun and effective!
  • One of the options for “why did you attend” on the feedback form was “to support local non-profits”. Why not give everyone who attends an E4E pin or something so that they can continue to show support after the event has ended!

Have any other ideas on how to make Everyone for Edmonton a better event?

Twestival Local 2009 – September 10th in Edmonton

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we’re holding Twestival Local here in Edmonton next week (get your tickets here). After an online vote, it was decided that the local cause we’ll be supporting is the Youth Emergency Shelter Society. I’m very excited about this, and they are too! Here’s a brief into to YESS:

In 1978, a group of concerned individuals discovered a gap in our social services system. Essentially, there were no programs in place to assist homeless children between the ages of 16 and 18. In response to this lack of service, the group activated  the Youth Emergency Shelter Society (Y.E.S.S.) in September 1981, offering services in a reclaimed fire hall building on Whyte Avenue.

In 2004, based on extensive research into the challenges and issues faced by homeless youth in our community, Y.E.S.S. conducted a major  restructuring  of  all  programs. We  are  now  serving  youth  at risk more efficiently and effectively than ever!

And a little on why they need our help:

YESS relies on fundraising for more than 50% of our budget each year. We face the ongoing challenge of raising more money to provide services to Edmonton’s growing population of troubled teens. You are a critical part of our ability to continue to develop our programs.

For more, check out their Summer 2009 “Eye on Youth” newsletter in PDF.

Very soon, YESS is opening a new facility called the Armoury Youth Centre. They responded to the City’s RFP for the Connaught Armoury space just north of Whyte Avenue and were chosen as the organization whose proposed program would have the greatest positive impact on the community.

A couple weeks after Twestival, you can check out the new Armoury Youth Centre for yourself! Here are the details:

September 26 & 27

Pancake Breakfast from 8am to 10:30am
Tours from 9am to 4:30pm
Afternoon BBQ!

10310 85 Avenue
Edmonton, AB

You can download the grand opening invite in PDF here.

Twestival Local takes place on Thursday. Here are the details:

WHAT: Twestival Local 2009
WHEN: Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 6:00pm
WHERE: Original Joe’s Varsity Row, 8404 109 Street, Edmonton, AB (map)
WHY: To support the Youth Emergency Shelter Society

We’re asking for a minimum donation of $20, but feel free to donate more! You can get tickets online here. Please spread the word!

See you there!