Published December 25, 2013 15:52
BY IAN GRAHAM
When participants in the Youth Build program at the Boys & Girls Club of Thompson got the idea to give something back by providing meals to homeless people in Thompson as part of their life skills course, they took control and made it their mission.
“We took the initiative to actually act upon it,” says Youth Build program participant Keiffer Genaille. “It was an idea at first and we thought maybe it’s a better idea if we act upon it rather than start talking about it. We started fundraising, we started being able to afford the food – bread, lunch meat – and we’ve been doing that every two weeks, the whole class. We take turns going around this area feeding the homeless and we have been doing fundraising as well.”
Alyssa Harman, the Youth Build life skills co-ordinator, said her role in the program has mostly been to help the participants put their ideas into action.
“I just told them if you want to do this, we could do it and they said yes,” Harman explains. “So we just got it all together. I just put the idea in their heads and just kind of guide and direct them and they’ve done it all. They’ve taken it and flown with it. They decided that they wanted to do it consistently every week and in order to do that we needed to fundraise. I just kind of give them direction as to how to do what they want.”
Among the ways the Youth Build participants have bankrolled their initiative is by participating in the craft sale at R.D. Parker Collegiate, selling homemade Christmas decorations and baked goods.
“They raised $205 to support the Feed the Homeless event then bought hats, scarves, mitts and socks to distribute to the less fortunate downtown,” says Boys & Girls Club of Thompson executive director Melanie Cherevaty, adding that providing meals to the homeless fits the philosophy of Boys & Girls Club programs. “Programs at the BGCT encourage healthy values, generosity and leadership. We strive to have our young people take meaningful participation in our local society. The after school programs also regularly feed the homeless any leftover soup and meals on Thursday nights. This is a volunteer activity the youth really engage in and enjoy doing.”
Genaille says that the Youth Build program is divided into two groups that take turns providing meals every two weeks, and that they had each done it four times prior to the last event on Dec. 20, which saw them expand the menu offerings.
“This is the first time we’re doing soup just because it’s the middle of winter,” he said, the warmth of which was certainly welcome on what was one of the coldest days of a particularly cold early winter.
If they could, the participants would like to do it every week, but Genaille says they decided it would be better to do it well less often than more often and not as well.
“We want to make it the best for them,” he said. “We can’t come out and run out and say we can’t do this for a majority of the people. We can’t just serve a minority. We’d like to serve everyone the best we can so that’s why we take the two weeks and build up our funds so we can afford that.”
Participants spend about an hour-and-a-half providing meals but a lot of organizing and preparation takes place before they ever head downtown.
“They spent two full weeks all day, every day making crafts and baking so that they could do the craft sale and that was on their own time, that was on a Saturday that they did that,” says Harman. What’s more, they actually look forward to it. “They love it. Out of everything that we’ve done, I get the most participation out of everybody with this and they look forward to it every week and afterwards they say all the time just how good they feel at the end about being able to give back and help somebody else. They don’t always have that opportunity, right, to just go and help and this is their way to give back. It gives them a good feeling.”
Genaille also says the effort is worth it.
“It’s a really good experience, especially for the Youth Build, the students themselves, getting out into the community, helping the needy,” he says. “It’s a good feeling. First it was just an idea but it was good to act upon it. I appreciate the chance for this.”
Cherevaty says the students’ own backgrounds make this activity more meaningful for them.
“These are youth who have previously been ‘at risk,’ most coming from troubled backgrounds, making it easier to relate to the homeless in our community and creating a want to offer support and desire to make a difference,” she says.
Harman says that if anybody wishes to help out the youth, they are always looking for assistance.
“We take donations,” she said. “We really need donations. Sandwich meat, bread and all that stuff.”
To make a donation, call Harman at 204-778-7575 ext. 4 or 204-307-1996. Donations can also be brought to the Boys & Girls Club.
“Just deliver it there and they’ll know where to put it,” Harman says.