From left to right: Richelle Brown (Grade 12 Pen High student), Honor Hollman (First year of Okanagan College), Amberlee Erdmann (YES Project co-ordinator), Victoria Ritchie (Grade 12 Pen High student), Aaron McRann (executive director of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen) and Barb Hoolaeff (president of the Rotary Club of Penticton). The Rotary has pledged $150,000 over three years to help build a youth centre, now supplemented by a $100,000 donation in memory of Tony Lloyd.                                Submitted photo

From left to right: Richelle Brown (Grade 12 Pen High student), Honor Hollman (First year of Okanagan College), Amberlee Erdmann (YES Project co-ordinator), Victoria Ritchie (Grade 12 Pen High student), Aaron McRann (executive director of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen) and Barb Hoolaeff (president of the Rotary Club of Penticton). The Rotary has pledged $150,000 over three years to help build a youth centre, now supplemented by a $100,000 donation in memory of Tony Lloyd. Submitted photo

Rotary gives youth centre a kickstart

$250,000 pledged to help with the creation of a youth centre in Penticton

A long-time Rotary Club member will continue to leave a presence in the community.

A donation of $100,000 in memory of Tony Lloyd, who was a Rotarian for 41 years before he died in 2015, was made to the Youth Empowerment Project and Community Foundation of South Okanagan-Similkameen to help build a youth centre. The Rotary has also pledged $150,000 over three years to the same project.

“It is the right thing to do. We are always looking for something to better our community and globe and this does both of those things,” said Rotary Club of Penticton president Barb Hoolaeff. “The youth centre will be a one-stop shop to help put kids on the right track. It’s about health and wellness and children.”

Lloyd was a lawyer that practiced in Penticton for 55 years and cherished the virtues of community service that the Rotary club holds close.

Hoolaeff said this will be one of the biggest projects the Rotary have pledged to and it is through events such as the Rotary Lobsterfest and the Rotary Ribfest that they are able to donate to causes that help the community.

“We are very pleased to be a part of this project. When people come to a Rotary function they will know where their money is going to, the kids,” she said. “We are one of the few communities that do not have something like this for the youth and through the formal application process the group completed, and our vetting process, we know it is something that is much needed.”

The idea for a youth centre goes back to 2012, when a bequest was left to the Community Foundation of South Okanagan-Similkameen and the United Way. The concept of what came out of the study is a place where youth can hang out and play games, but also where they can locate services and agencies in a safe space that they might be too anxious to access otherwise.

Part of the successes in getting to where they are today, on the cusp of breaking ground, is the involvement of the youth themselves. They have been part of creating the concept since the initial days, to have a safe place where they can interact with a service provider in a non-threatening way.

“I had friends that had their struggles with mental health and had nowhere to go,” said Honor Hollman, who has volunteered with the YES Project since she was in high school and now attends college with the hopes of one day becoming a teacher or social worker. “It is crazy that in Penticton there is nowhere for youth to go. I think it would be of benefit for youth who are just entering high school and are looking to make friends so there is that social and recreational part to it, but also one-on-one direct help for the kids who are dealing with serious, life-threatening mental health issues. Right now, all they can go to is geared for adults. It can be very intimidating. A youth centre makes it more approachable.”

The Rotary donation is a big step forward to make that happen.

Related: Growing need for youth resource centre

“This is the biggest pledge we have had since the original bequest. We are getting quite close to being able to get started on the building process and the Rotary contribution is key to that, so we are very grateful,” said South Okanagan-Similkameen Community Foundation executive director, Aaron McRann.

The project is still in need of funding as this money will go towards the initial steps to get shovels in the ground. A piece of land is still being narrowed down/ In February the YES Project won city council’s support to find a place to build the youth centre. McRann said the ideal location would be in the downtown area. They will be back to city council chambers on March 21 to hear the city staff recommendations on possible suitable locations.

Related: Youth centre gets support from the city

“This whole process started four years ago and to see the community give us and the kids the support we have received so far is unbelievable,” said McRann. “I still encourage people that are interested to please reach out to the community foundation. This is a great start but there is still lots to be done and we are happy to talk about it with anyone who wants to offer their support.”

The YES Project will be at the Healthy Living Fair at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre on March 11 to kick off the fundraising campaign for the youth centre. For more information on how to donate or volunteer visit www.cfso.net or pentictonyouth.ca. Or, visit them at the Healthy Living Fair.

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