Janice Krissa-Moore - 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award
Business Administration '98, SAIT School of Business
Co-Founder, Free Store for Ukrainian Newcomers
Janice Krissa-Moore grew up in Canada during the 1980s learning the Ukrainian language, performing traditional dances and decorating pysanka (Ukrainian Easter eggs) — things those living in Ukraine under Soviet rule weren’t able to do. “I felt like it was our duty to keep Ukrainian culture alive,” she says.
Even after Ukraine gained independence in 1991, Krissa-Moore made sure her children attended Ukrainian school. On a dance tour with her daughter in 2018, she saw the country in person for the first time and immediately fell in love. She returned a couple of months later to research and soon became associate producer of They Who Surround Us, a film about Ukrainians fleeing to Canada after the Second World War.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, she says, felt like reliving history. Once again, duty called.
Drawing on her long career of fundraising and leadership within post-secondary institutions and community organizations, Krissa-Moore began collecting donations for displaced Ukrainians — everything from flights to housewares. A call to help an exhausted newcomer, arriving in Edmonton after a frightening escape with her two children and only a single pair of underwear, netted 400 fresh pairs.
As donations poured in, Krissa-Moore accepted a friend’s offer of temporary commercial space in downtown Edmonton to house, manage and distribute it all — but donors, Ukrainians in need and volunteers just kept coming.
So Krissa-Moore did what she’s known for. She took the lead, cofounding the Free Store for Ukrainian Newcomers with her daughter Jorgia. The project, which began as a crisis response distributing more than $100,000 of emergency essentials between hundreds of families each week, quickly transformed into a community.
Recently arrived Ukrainian nationals became volunteers, helping to pay forward the comfort they had received from the Free Store. Ukrainian artists volunteered their skills, bringing the space to life with murals using donated paint. Volunteer cooks proposed selling handmade food, with the proceeds paying for ingredients and wages for the Ukrainian newcomers cooking the food. And like a thread that winds through Krissa-Moore's career, her efforts ultimately turned into an education.
"This experience has taught me about love, hurt, strength, resilience and unity," she says. Busier now than ever, Krissa-Moore says she has no plans to stop. "We're in this until the war's over."
When that day arrives, the Free Store will shift to help newcomers from all countries and Krissa-Moore will return to the country she loves. "I want to go back to help the people of Ukraine recover, and to share stories that show their incredible spirit and strength."
Learn more about Janice Krissa-Moore
If a single trait connects all of SAIT's 2023 Alumni Awards recipients, it's their ability to make the most of an opportunity. They're turning tragedy into community, using AI to help protect the planet and building spaces that bring people together. This year, two new awards — the International Impact Alumni Award and the Clarence Hollingworth Alumni Employee Award of Excellence — are being presented to two SAIT graduates seizing opportunities to make a difference from across the Atlantic and right here on campus.Meet our recipients