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Adopt-A-Teen is charity project that is pulled out of the drawer around mid-November, packed up and put away after the thank-you letters are signed, the tax receipts sent out by February. In other words, administration and overhead is kept to a bare minimum.

So we’ve never been much good at organizing fund-raisers to raise money to purchase the Walmart $50 gift-cards for the city’s 8,000 under-privileged teens as a Christmas gift.

This year, the Edmonton Chapter of Advocis, the Financial Advisors Association of Canada, was kind enough to make Adopt-A-Teen the beneficiary of its first ever Christmas Luncheon, held at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013.

Equally creative on the organizing committee’s part was the honouring of former Mayor Stephen Mandel for his social contributions to the city during the nine years he spent as mayor and first three as a city councillor.

Edmonton Sun columnist and Adopt-A-Teen founder Graham Hicks spoke about The Edmonton Sun’s Christmas gift program for under-privileged city teens now serving 8,000 teens with a $50 Walmart gift card. He introduced former Mayor Mandel, who spoke briefly, and then the two settled on easy chairs on the stage for a question-and-answer session between the journalist and former mayor about social issues in Edmonton.

Former mayor Mandel spoke of first running for council touting efficiency and stopping government waste, only to become deeply aware of the social challenges the city faced, and coming up with solutions.

He spoke of creating opportunities for aboriginal youth, of welcoming and integrating the influx of new-comers from Africa, and especially of the city’s success, with considerable support from the province, with the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness which, when it began in 2008 faced a challenge of 3,000 homeless, growing at 15% annually,  to reducing the number of homeless to 2,000 in 2013.

Our former mayor reiterated his deep belief in the social investment equation - that good social programs stop trouble before it starts, and that in term means less pressure on policing, the justice system and social agencies down the line.

The greatest upcoming challenge, the former mayor suggested, is the curbing the phenomenon of more and more of the under-privileged being afflicted in various degrees by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, life-long brain damage caused to babies in the womb when their mothers drink alcohol during their pregnancy.

The Advocis members and their guests dug deeply into their pockets to support Adopt-A-Teen. Between $3,200 raised from a raffle, a gift of $1,000 made for former mayor Mandel by Advocis, and individual donations, about $5,000 was raised - enough funds to take care of 100 teens for Christmas!

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