Spark Youth Society celebrates 25 years

For the Bulletin

It’s hard to believe that the Spark Youth Society/Centre is now 25 years old. Formally the Lee Haskel Youth Society/ Centre, the name was changed by a former board and a former manager, however we fondly call it LEE’S SPARK.

We feel Lee’s name and his Haskel Family name are an important part of our history. Lee’s picture hangs in the centre, so the youth ask who he was and what happened. It is a lesson of bullying, as Lee was attacked by a violent bully in Cranbrook and passed away from injuries at the age of 17.

The Youth Society was formed by a group of Kimberley residents, Linda Douglas and Rebecca White were two names I know were behind it, but I am sure there were many, many more behind the scenes, as there always is. Grants and proposals were written and funds were raised by this community to purchase the building.

The Youth Society proudly owns our own building and does all the up keep so it stays as a good investment for our nonprofit as well as looking good for downtown and the community. The building is 1800 square feet and was an old liquor store. It took a lot of work to get it in the condition it is now, elbow grease, team work and grants.

The centre started out as a Youth Employment centre and was funded by the Federal government, this was the time of plenty, then the government cut backs, the funding was lost and the centre hit hard times. The operating funds dried up, staff and programs were cut and board members disappeared.

When the city cut funding in half, that was the closest we came to losing the center. The board at the time was going to sell the building, close the doors, and dissolve the society. Thats when this passionate board stepped in.

We always received $25,000.00, full support from Mayor Oligive. The next year it was the only non-profit on the chopping block, and it was saved by one changing vote from Mayor Ron McCre. With that, it continued to grow. The centre is a political hot potato, to me it shouldn’t be, it should be part of the community’s leadership shining.

In 2005 I became the Manager/Executive Director and the centre was in rough shape. However, I had a great team and we sewed curtains, laid carpet, covered chairs and waxed floors, took many trips to the land fill and paid off all the debt while working to move the society/centre forward.

We always try to teach youth to give back and contribute to the community. In the years I have been Executive Director our Team’s achievements have been;

*The Youth Society took over the Skate Board Park meetings, fundraising, bank accounts from a group of tired volunteers, eventually we started working with the city’s E.D. which received the grant money.

*LEES program – stood for LIFE EMPLOYMENT ENTREPRENIUEIAL SKILLS. This was a successful program that assisted teens to cross over to adulthood and employment or start a business. They also learn about life skills, such as self esteem, boundaries, and personal care.

* We have brought grant funds into this community of over approximately $600,000, employing youth and adults, adding to the local economy.

* We train youth in business and our community by working with the Chamber and Community Futures and all community events. To date we have two business: Face Painting and a Seasonal Bookstore.

*The 1800 sq ft colorful mural was completed by a 15 year young youth, Maddie Tuff and funding came from CBT grants at least ten years ago. It is a youthful addition to a city parking lot and beautifying the downtown area with art and culture.

* Environmentally & Energy efficient – We started greening the Youth Centre ten years ago, with the grants from CBT, Provincial Government and BC Hydro. We have a wood burning stove, energy efficient appliances, added windows, new commercial doors, insulation in ceiling. Our goal is to have solar panels on road and hot water on command. We also have a stand with educational messages on them explaining each green building feature, planting the seeds of awareness.

* Ping Pong table In Platzl – we assisted with the grant to make this happen.

* Our Wood Raffle Fundraiser is catching on. This is the third year, load of wood cut, dried and delivered. In the Lees Program the youth built cat stands and dog houses for the SPCA and raised money selling cupcakes.

* Summer Recreation Programs and the Andy Johnson Van – In the summer we close the centre and have a “Summer Fun Program” and take the youth out to lakes, parks, Fort Steele and movies. Our eight passenger van was purchased through the donation from Andy Johnston.

Our centre has a meeting room, a stage with musical instruments, commercial kitchen (and good healthy food thanks to the Kimberley Food Bank donations), pool tables, arts and crafts area, wheel chair assessable, bookstore by donation-free books for youth, social areas, and fooze ball table. Rules – no smoking, no swearing, no drugs, no bad music. Most people who visit are surprized at how great it is inside.

* The Board – there would be no Youth Society if there were not a group of dedicated volunteers that makes sure we are still open and are supportive of our choices and growth. We are a strong, solid team. The total years of experience and youth centre loyalty is 30 years. Our Board now consists of Chelsie Tierney, George Radelja and Suzi Palermo.

* Youth Workers – Our Youth Workers love what they do and they care about our youth, that shows. They know the centre has a great spirit and they add to that history and energy. They are required to enforce our guidelines to make sure the centre is free from bullying, D & A and remains a safe place to be.

Due to a cut in city funding we had to create shorter hours of operation. Our hours opened are based on what we can afford and the school year. We are open 3-7p.m. Monday to Thursday.

The youth ages are 13 to 18, some nights are mixed, some are just for teens and some nights are pre-teens, trying to keep everyone happy and having fun!!

It takes all of us in this community to make this happen and continue into the future. Other communites have expressed they would love to have our Youth Centre. Thank you goes to our funders, our community supporters, our volunteers, our Board Members, our youth workers and youth and our Community Leaders.

Bev Middlebrook

Executive Director 2005 to present

For any information or tours of our centre email 1bev@live.com.

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