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Care for youth in the pandemic and beyond

By Andrea Harrison
At the top of the Town hill in Picton, a passionate group of people are working hard to serve the youth of Prince Edward County.

The ROC (Recreation Outreach Centre) has a vision of giving every young person in the County an equal chance to excel at life. Founded 20 years ago the commitment to helping has not waned through its growth.

A unique program offered is the County Care Kits. Begun in November 2019, the kits continue to be a high need for youth and their families and the program has continued through the pandemic.

County Care Kits contain hygiene products such as a toothbrush, deodorant, soap, or shampoo. Education materials, including a backpack, binders, paper, pens, art supplies or food, snacks and drinks might fill a kit too. Each kit is personalized for the family or youth in need.

The County Care Kits were made possible by grants from the RBC Future Launch and The County Foundation. The Youth Advisory Committee has been the driving force behind the project.

Having grown up in Bloomfield, Lindsay Ferguson, the Youth Service Manager at the ROC, knows how much community matters.

“I enjoy everything about the beautiful, small village. I grew up there, I went to school there, I worked at a couple of local businesses like Casa Lucia for 11 years. I will forever feel attached to Bloomfield. I have a lot of fond memories there. Shortly after returning from University I moved to Picton and am still here today.”

She notes it’s also nice to live in Picton.

“Everything is pretty much at your fingertips. The restaurants, retail stores, the harbour and more. I like being active so it’s great to have the Millennial Trail close by too.”

She is active with the ROC handing out items to youth through curbside pickup of the County Care Kits.

“Over 225 youth have been contacted in a variety of ways since the pandemic begun. Every effort continues to be made to meet their needs.”

Educated at Trent University and Loyalist College, she focused on mental health, family systems and supportive community organizations. This schooling, as well as her experiences at the ROC, have made her aware of the difference help can make to a family in need. She understands the ripple effect of the County Care Kits.

Lindsay started at the ROC as a volunteer and is now the Youth Centre Manager and Youth Inclusion Program Coordinator.

“At the Youth Centre we see approximately 40-60 youth daily, all excited to share the ins and outs of their day. As a result, a great deal of mentorship happens. We liaison with many community organizations to help support the youth. It’s a full team and community effort.”

Lindsay’s community enthusiasm is extended as an active volunteer with the Prince Edward O.P.P. as an auxiliary constable which has expanded her community knowledge and training.

“Since we work with the youth so closely, we get to experience a lot of their struggles and triumphs,” she said. “It’s in these moments that I get to experience both challenges and times where my heart is bursting with happiness and excitement for them.”

Providing the kits is a concrete way to set the youth up for success every day.

“Each week we are re-assessing what works. Then we adjust based on feedback from each other and the youth,” she said. “We need to make sure we reach out to family members, friends, and others to check in to let them know we are thinking about them. We may be apart, but we are not alone, we are all in this together.”

The County Care Kits are available for all County youth and families. If you know of any youth or family that would benefit from a kit, visit the ROC website at www.theroc.ca, then click on the “We’re Here For You” tab. If you’d like to donate to the ROC click on the “donate” tab.

Youth are also welcome to contact Lindsay Ferguson at lindsay@theroc.ca or via phone at 613-408-6204.

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