For the past six years, GEF Seniors Housing has taken part in the K-Days Parade festivities. In 2015, GEF Seniors Housing won the best not-for-profit float award. The float saw mascots Harold and Mildred standing next to a small house and waving to the crowds. In 2016, Harold and Mildred went to prom with a float that celebrated the class of 1959 (the year GEF Seniors Housing was established). This year, the K-Days Parade marches through downtown Edmonton starting at 10:00 a.m. on July 21, 2017, and Harold and Mildred are packing up the car and taking a road trip across Canada to celebrate the country’s 150th Anniversary.

“Any chance we get to connect with the communities we operate in, we want to take advantage of it,” says GEF Seniors Housing Public Relations Manager Christopher Schieman. “The K-Days Parade allows thousands of Edmontonians and other Albertans from surrounding areas to see who we are and want to connect with us.”

K Days Parade (2)

GEF Seniors Housing staff volunteer to put on the mascot costumes and dress up to the parade float’s theme. Schieman remembers the 2016 parade and trying to find leisure suits and retro-style prom dresses for the more than dozen volunteers who walked alongside the float.

“The Communications team spent a day digging through the racks at Value Village looking for dresses and suits,” Schieman says with a laugh. “We donated everything right back after the parade to make sure that the community members who shop at that Value Village are able to find more long term use for the clothing.”

This year, the staff volunteers in the parade will be dressing up in Canadian pride summer clothing to walk alongside the float being built to look like a car surrounded by different Canadian monuments. Schieman points out that each year, the audience members most excited to see the float always surprises him.

K Days Parade (3)

“The kids watching the parade love Harold and Mildred,” says Schieman. “They wave really big and yell, ‘It’s Grandma and Grandpa!’ It’s a nice reminder how important grandparents are to families and how what we do at GEF Seniors Housing helps so many people.”

Schieman always volunteers to ride shotgun in the truck pulling the float so he can snap a few pictures of the audience for social media as they drive by. He explains it’s one of his favourite events to work on over the summer and not just for the big smiles on the faces of everyone watching the parade.

“It doesn’t hurt to be out of the office on a beautiful summer morning,” jokes Schieman. “This is a great way to spread the message about the need for affordable housing for seniors. Everybody’s outside, feeling good, and ready to celebrate. We love being part of festivities like the K-Days Parade and being an important part of the Edmonton community.”

K Days Parade (4)

GEF Seniors Housing holds an annual raffle over the summer months with an early bird prize of $500 and a grand prize of $1,500. The Building for Life Raffle is a staple in GEF Seniors Housing’s fundraising efforts and continues to be one of the most exciting endeavours over the summer for the residents and tenants living in GEF Seniors Housing buildings and for the communities at large who take part.

“There’s nothing better than making that call to tell someone they won a pretty significant prize,” says Chris Schieman, Public Relations Manager with GEF Seniors Housing. Schieman, along with the rest of the Communications team, take charge of GEF Seniors Housing’s fundraising initiatives, including the ever popular Building for Life Breakfast Fundraiser.

Schieman goes on to explain that most people contribute to the raffle, “not even thinking about the prizes. Every call that I’ve made telling someone they won a prize, they always respond saying they weren’t expecting anything. They just wanted to give something back.”

Juvy Santos Early Bird Prize Winner

Last year’s early bird prize winner was Juvy Santos, a friend of the staff working at Cathedral Close. Santos stopped by GEF Seniors Housing’s Central Services to pick up her cheque and posed for a few photos.

The grand prize winner from 2016’s raffle was Joan Ripplinger, a long-time tenant living at the Britannia Gardens apartment building. Schieman and the rest of the Communications team paid a visit to Ripplinger at Britannia Gardens to present the grand prize cheque.

“I remember [Joan] Ripplinger telling me about how she and the other tenants at Britannia Gardens all get together to buy raffle tickets,” recalls Schieman. “It’s something that many people find a lot of fun and they can take part knowing the money raised is going to a good place.”

2016 Raffle Winner (71)

Tickets for the Building for Life Raffle are only two dollars each, which helps make taking part more accessible for everyone. Efforts from 2016’s raffle brought in close to $7,000 for the Sakaw Terrace building project.

With tickets for the raffle going on sale starting June 1, 2017, and available to purchase at any of GEF Seniors Housing’s buildings or at Central Services (14220 109 Ave, Edmonton, AB.), Schieman is excited to see what this year’s raffle will bring in. As he explains, every year the raffle can be a little bit unpredictable.

“We’ve had years where the winners donate back the prizes, we’ve had tickets completely sell out at some of the buildings, and we’ve even seen individuals spend hundreds of dollars on tickets with no expectation for winning,” Schieman says. “You give people an opportunity to contribute to something they believe in, and they will take full advantage to contribute. In the end, everyone who takes part in this raffle believes in our mission and wants to help us push forward so that no senior ever has to worry about where they’re going to call home.”


During the summer of 2016, GEF Seniors Housing tried something new to connect with more of the communities surrounding its buildings and construction sites. As GEF Seniors Housing’s Public Relations Manager Chris Schieman explains, the idea came from a bit of an unlikely source.

“When we talked about connecting with the community, what popped into my head was how I got my library card,” says Schieman. “I just finished college, I was living in my first apartment near Whyte Avenue, and I went to the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market and met a rep working with the Edmonton Public Library. I just remember how fun it was to talk with that rep and how without a second thought I signed up for a library card.”

Schieman wanted to translate the experience he had getting his library card to talking with other people about GEF’s services in their communities. His initial intention was to see more public support for the programs and operations and he wasn’t quite sure of who his main audience would be. As the Communications team began setting up at markets in Mill Woods, at the 124 Street Grand Market, and in the Downtown City Market, he learned the audience he would be connecting with is much broader than he initially thought.


“I met with young guys who wanted to volunteer teaching yoga, people who were curious if what we had to offer would work for their parents or grandparents, I even talked with current and retired staff from GEF Seniors Housing,” Schieman recalls. “Most importantly, I talked with a lot of seniors who did not know we existed and had no idea that they qualified to live in one of our buildings.”

As spring approaches, Schieman is already looking towards the next year of markets coming up. With so many building projects seeing life all across the city, GEF’s market presence will have more to do with where future buildings are going to see life.

“Canora Gardens is opening up later this year, Sakaw Terrace broke ground, and last year we had our first community consultation with developing our Elmwood lot right behind Meadowlark Place,” Schieman says. “The markets provide a direct way to keep in touch with the communities that we’re building in. We want to hear from the communities, we want to be a good neighbour, and we’re excited about how the feedback from the markets is going to help create in these new buildings.”


All the positive connections made at last year’s farmer’s markets have spurred a lot of excitement at GEF Seniors Housing for this year’s markets. Schieman points out that the connections he and the other volunteers who worked at the markets made with the community helped make for a fun summer – even if the weather didn’t always participate.

“There were definitely some days where the weather was not agreeing with,” Schieman says with a laugh. “I remember a few days with some high winds blowing over our signs and some heavy rain totally soaking us while we tried packing up. Knowing that being out at these markets and connecting with people is helping them find friendly, affordable, and secure homes for themselves or their loved ones makes it worth toughing out any bad weather.”