By Kathy Yanchus • REVIEW STAFF
With the demolition of the small vacant red brick house on the northeast corner of Parkside Drive and Hamilton Street Tuesday (Feb. 12), the new Centre for Youth Excellence is one step closer to reality.
The two-storey, $1.9-million, 7,500-square-foot building should begin rising from the rubble this spring with the doors opening in the fall.
A delay in the site plan approval was responsible for the postponement of construction of the Waterdown youth centre, which was expected to be underway by now.
Everything has worked out and the extra time gives the capital campaign team more time to raise the remaining $800,000, said Arlene Reemeyer-Nagy, satellite director of YFC (Youth for Christ)/Youth Unlimited Waterdown, the group that will operate the centre.
“It’s really exciting just to see how it keeps pulling together and who’s coming onside,” said Reemeyer-Nagy. “This past year has been a momentum building of so much support from the community, people wondering how they can get behind this.”
Many of those involved grew up in the area and want to give back to their community by investing in its youth, she said.
“They are generously donating their time because they believe in this,” she said.
Groups such as the Optimist Club of Carlisle, which made a $9,000 donation towards program costs, Optimist clubs in Waterdown and Strabane, and many local churches, have come forward with financial donations or gifts in kind.
There’s a bit of a misconception that the centre will only be for at-risk youth, but all kids are welcome,” said Reemeyer-Nagy. “The amount of youth that are hurting is increasing because our village is increasing in size, so I think it’s something we’re all affected by, whether it’s our kids, our neighbours’ kids or the best friends of our kids.”
Reemeyer-Nagy cited statistics from Hamilton’s Social Planning and Research Council, which show almost 3,000 children are growing up in single parent families and 21per cent are living below the poverty level in Flamborough. A majority of area youth rate their mental health as poor to fair, more than twice as many times as the provincial average for young people, according to the council’s 2011 report, Seeing Better Outcomes for Youth in Hamilton.
The Centre for Youth Excellence will offer local teens counseling, mentoring and recreational activities, a continuation of many of the programs currently being offered in various locations around town, as well as new ones.
“We’ve got a lot of ideas for programs but also if people come forward who want to take a lead on a program that fits into the environment, we’re open to new things,” she said. “We can’t do it all, it has to be more of a community effort.”
The intention is to supplement a core staff of professionals with volunteers who can mentor, supervise or lead activities.
“It’s all about relationships so kids know that there are people there and that they care about them, to help them with whatever – it could be a home situation, numerous things. If you have just one person that believes in you, that invests in you, that can make all the difference in the world, someone you trust and feel safe with.”
When completed, the youth centre’s main floor will feature a kitchen, which Reemeyer-Nagy predicts will be the heart of the programming, a place where kids can congregate, learn simple, healthy eating habits and experience sitdown meals with others. There will also be a stage for concerts and plays, a studio, counseling rooms and, in the basement, a spacious area for games and sports.
“We have to invest in these young people and let them know there are people who care about them. We have to empower them, let them know there’s hope.”
As well as volunteers, board members are needed, especially in the areas of marketing and fundraising.
For more on YFC/Youth Unlimited Waterdown, to inquire about volunteer opportunities or to contribute to the fundraising campaign, visit the website, www.yfcwaterdown.com