On a beautiful spring morning, Ottewell Place Lodge was buzzing with excitement for a special get-together as residents eagerly awaited the arrival of their tiny friends from Terra Centre.  

Within moments, 10 toddlers eager to play with their senior pals filled the lounge with toys and laughter. Little did they know about the surprise in store for them, thanks to a heartfelt donation from residents Bill and Donna Shanks. 

A Labour of Love 

Since moving into the lodge nine months ago with wife Donna, Bill, a master craftsman, kept making the alphabet block kits as a way to keep busy. Fueled by his love for his family the kits piled up quickly. Donating them to them to the children of teen parents provided a perfect match for a labour of love.  

The toddlers were thrilled, and both the givers and receivers admired the meticulously handcrafted blocks with mutual appreciation, while fostering an easy connection between the young and the young at heart. 

Fostering Connections

From the perspective of activities and wellness programming, Eva notes that intergenerational visits have cognitive and emotional benefits for both seniors and children. 

For GEF Seniors Housing, moments like these demonstrate our vision of creating vibrant, affordable communities for seniors. 

We invite our partners in the community to get involved at any of our 41 locations across Edmonton. Send us a message through our Contact Us page under the Get Involved tab.  

Despite the extreme cold temperatures outdoors, we find ourselves still glowing from the outpouring of generosity that wrapped our seniors in a warm embrace last month. It’s incredible how a community coming together for one day can create ripples of happiness to carry us into the new year on waves of hope. Click on the image below to experience the joy felt across GEF this holiday season thanks to your support of our 2nd annual Giving Tuesday campaign.

Gift basket winner from Ottewell Place Lodge.

Together with our corporate partners and individuals in the community, we raised an incredible $18,050.00 on Giving Tuesday (November 28, 2023), surpassing last year’s total of $10,000.00. A special shoutout to Nakamun Group as well as Acoustical and Total Cleaning Services, whose contributions will help enrich the lives of nearly 4,000 seniors who call our buildings home in the year ahead. Visit our Corporate Giving page to see the full list of our 2023 corporate donors.

A portion of the funds raised on Giving Tuesday went towards providing grocery gift cards to help our seniors with the rising cost of living. Over 100 seniors received gift cards as door prizes at their community holiday parties. Dozens of others delighted in the joy of winning thoughtfully chosen gift baskets, also provided by the companies who help us provide services to residents, tenants, and staff. An additional 250 seniors could go on free bus outings to the Borealis Lights Tour.

Ottewell Manor now has a big-screen TV thanks to the contributions of The Brick as well as a private donor.

We also received donations from individuals who support our mission to help seniors live with dignity and thrive in their communities. A generous donation from a family member combined with a discount from The Brick made the dream of a big-screen TV a reality for tenants of Ottewell Manor. Now the whole community can come together for movie nights and watch parties.

Telsco Security Systems employees decorate for the holidays at Rosslyn Place Lodge.

A special shoutout to the incredible volunteers who dedicated their time to infuse holiday spirit into our communities. Your contributions, from decking the halls to delivering gifts, created unforgettable moments and fostered connections that are integral to building the vibrant, affordable communities for seniors we envision.

Special thanks to The Gap/Old Navy store employees in Edmonton, and the countless individuals in the community who purchased gifts for our seniors through the London Drugs Stocking Stuffers for Seniors campaign. Through the combined efforts of multiple corporate partners and a little help from Santa, we surprised 1,350 seniors across 27 communities with gifts from the heart.

Our journey does not end here. As we wrap up this chapter of giving, we invite you to join us in carrying the magic of the holidays forward into the year ahead. Visit our website to donate to our Quality of Life Fund. You can direct your contributions to a community of your choice, ensuring that your generosity touches lives exactly where you wish. Together, we’ll continue to spark joy, one act of kindness at a time.

When Stanley Construction first met with tenants of Knox-Met Manor to describe their plan to replace the windows of the seven-story building – with the seniors still living in their units – tenants thought it would be impossible. How could they live in a construction zone for six months, with no windows, in the middle of the summer? By the time the project wrapped up, the seniors and the construction team were sad to say goodbye to each other. What happened to bring about this happy ending to a challenging project?

Building Lasting Connections

Throughout the project, the Stanley team demonstrated a remarkable commitment to being senior-friendly, and treated the seniors with the utmost respect, ensuring the work did not come before their Quality of Life.

Over time, the workers’ kindness grew on the tenants, and they formed friendships. One tenant (pictured above with a few of the Stanley crew members) would occasionally prepare lunches for the workers, which the workers appreciated.

Stanley and Cooper team members working the grill at the Wrap-Up BBQ.

At the September 12 wrap-up BBQ hosted by Stanley with support from Cooper Equipment Rentals, both sides expressed how much they cherished the connections that were formed and how much they will miss one another.

The great new windows were almost a bonus compared to the relationships formed during the construction project!

A Sustainable Upgrade

The new windows are triple pane, PVC, casement style windows with a special coating that reflects solar rays, helping to keep the suites cooler in the Summer. In total, 159 suite windows and 18 shared area windows were replaced, contributing to greater energy efficiency.

To further enhance tenant comfort and energy efficiency, GEF made sure to install new roller-type solar shades on all of the suite windows facing south.

Together, We Can Make a Difference

This project exemplifies the kind of partnership we aim to foster between our community partners and the clients we serve. As part of our Quality of Life Philosophy, we promote and encourage relationships between seniors, staff, and communities based on respect, kindness, and compassion.

We invite other vendors and partners to collaborate with us to enrich the lives of seniors and to give back to our community.

Visit our donations page to learn more about our current campaigns and contribute to our Quality of Life fund. Together, we can make a lasting impact on the lives of seniors.

For 15 years, the Great Knitting Giveaway has connected GEF seniors and local charities through a common desire to help Edmontonians in need. Over 100 talented knitters have given countless hours to create thousands of scarves, toques, blankets, and mitts for charities such as Hope Mission, The Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, and Crystal Kids Youth Centre.  

The one-day event has traditionally been an opportunity for charities to come pick up items that have been lovingly stitched by GEF seniors, and for the knitters to collect their yarn for next year’s projects. Year after year, individuals in the community have generously donated yarn for this cause. 

At the October 2022 Great Knitting Giveaway, for example, GEF donated 5,240 items to local charities and received nearly 4,000 skeins of yarn in donations. 

But with the community still recovering from the pandemic, and high inflation impacting charitable donations, we knew relying on donated yarn was not a sustainable way forward. 

A $7,500 grant from the Edmonton Community Foundation (EFC) combined with a generous discount from a local business and the desire of knitters for a more meaningful connection with the community opened the door to reimagining the Great Knitting Giveaway. 

Our Community Partners Come Through! 

By March 2023, we were running out of donated yarn. But with the high cost and scarce availability of good quality yarn, we knew we needed help to leverage the grant from ECF. Michael’s craft store, South Common location, came through with a generous discount on bulk yarn. We purchased 1,350 skeins of yarn and had some funds left over to buy bins to store the yarn properly. See the video here: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/wpgtGaTBMtM 

We emptied the shelves of yarn at Michael’s South Common!

A New Vision for the Great Knitting Giveaway 

The fresh supply of quality yarn allowed us to step back and envision a whole new approach to the Great Knitting Giveaway. Through previous event feedback, knitters expressed a desire to see where their items were going and possibly meet the people receiving them through more intimate and regular meetings. But our Life Enrichment team was so focused on sorting through yarn donations and organizing the event to make these meaningful connections a reality…until now! 

The Great Knitting Giveaway is still happening this year, just not in one day. We are reaching out to our charities individually to distribute knitted items to them in ways that create meaningful connections between the knitters and recipients. We want to extend The Giveaway -and the love that comes from it- beyond a once-a-year interaction. It could mean a trip for the knitters to a specific charity, or the charity might come to visit the knitters in their homes.  

This approach also allows the Life Enrichment Team to supply knitters with yarn on demand throughout the year. Also, knitters can tailor their projects according to the specific needs of the charities they choose to work with. 

Rest assured, Edmontonians will still get their warm woolies this winter. We already have 2,000 items ready to go!

Stay tuned for updates throughout the year on the many knitting projects our residents and tenants complete and their impact on the charities who need them. 

How You Can Help

Going forward we will continue to accept donations of NEW YARN ONLY from the community at our various collection points in Edmonton: 

West Central: Central Services, 14220 – 109 Ave 

Southside: Ottewell Place Lodge, 6207 – 92 Ave 

Northside: Rosslyn Place Lodge, 10915 – 134 Ave 

If you have any questions about yarn donations, please call 780.482.6561 or email communications@gef.org.