The youth centre at the Woolwich Memorial Centre in Elmira received some much needed funding this week from the Astley Family Foundation. The organization has pledged $75,000 to the centre over the next five years. Executive director Jennifer Astley-Kinsey said the foundation supports innovative projects in the Waterloo Region that encourage personal development of troubled youth and aid in the prevention of destructive behaviours.
“Our mission is to help youth, primarily disadvantaged youth, to help them reach their potential and we thought the youth centre is helping them do that,” said Astley-Kinsey. “We were given a tour of the centre – it is a beautiful space and a wonderful place for youth to be and hang out.”
The foundation came to be when all four founding members discovered they shared a passion for helping young people realize their potential. They also believed that there were relatively few funders for worthy programs serving youth.
Astley-Kinsley presented Don Harloff, executive director of Woolwich Community Services (WCS), and Kelly Christie, director of community support, with the first installment of the funding agreement at the WCS offices on Aug. 31.
“The youth centre has always been underfunded and we have always looked to someone who can stabilize our funding over a period of time for us. We are extremely grateful to the Astley Foundation for being able to do that for us over the next five years,” said Harloff. “It is an enormous value to us.”
The funds will go into the day-to-day operation of the program, giving organizers an opportunity to seek out further funding and the chance to offer a stable program.
“We have two paid staff and the dollars will go to the operation of the centre, whether that is staffing, program costs, rent, up keep and new supplies,” said Harloff.
Staff at the centre is there to supervise and make sure the centre is a safe environment. They also run a youth council to provide the monthly program and discuss youth issues with anyone from the centre whether it is sexuality, suicide, jobs or school.
The youth centre runs Tuesdays to Fridays and will be operating on school hours starting next week, with students encouraged to attend between the hours of 3 p.m. until 10 p.m.
The centre is open to young people in Grade 6 to age 19 living in Woolwich and the northern part of Wellesley.
“The center has been operational now for 10 years,” said Christie. “We are tremendously grateful to the Astley Foundation for their support over the next five years and have a lot of kids that will be benefitting from the donation. They are worth it.”