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Community welcomes new Youth Centre in Picton

The Prince Edward County Youth Centre was standing room only Monday night at its official opening in its new location at 299 Main St., Picton. Squeezing in at the ribbon cutting were Mayor Robert Quaiff, students and centre volunteers Brooke Roche and Jake Holmes along with Brandi Hodge, community engagement director of the United Way of Quinte.

It was standing-room-only Monday night at an official opening for the Recreation Outreach Centre’s new Prince Edward County Youth Centre in Picton.

Opened in the fall, the centre at 299 Main St., welcomes youth between the ages of 12 and 18 to enjoy a safe environment to connect with others, relax, or participate in programs focused on mentorship, business, social enterprise and financial literacy.

“I hear the statement that our youth are disengaged,” Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis told the crowd at the opening. “And I come back with, ‘Our youth aren’t disengaged. We are sometimes disengaged from our youth’ You see this tonight with what you have done. You’ve included youth in building this place and that’s your success by that inclusion.”

Brittany Wilson and Lucas Clarke were honoured for significant contributions to the opening of the new youth centre.

He presented certificates honouring significant contributions during co-operative education and college placement programs to Lucas Clarke and Brittany Wilson.

PECI student Lucas Clarke has been at the youth centre through his co-operative education placement since September and was quickly made to feel like a valuable part of the team.

“I was here when there was absolutely nothing in here and because I’m a youth, they’ve taken a lot of my suggestions on what to put here because they already had a lot of older people suggestions.”

Brittany Wilson, a second year child and youth care student at Loyalist College, enjoyed her placement experience at the Youth Centre so much, she asked to have it extended.

She attends the Club ROC afterschool program for students in Grades 5-8 and on Mondays, meets with a group at the high school.

“Mondays I have lunch with a girls group at the high school. We talk about everything under the moon. Everything they want to talk about.”

Throughout the week she helps out at the centre with homework, chatting or playing games.

Earlier in the evening she greeted a young man visiting the centre for the first time.

“I showed him our registration form and told him to bring all his friends. He said ‘I don’t have friends.’ I said ‘Well, you have one now.”

PECI student volunteer Brooke Roche

PECI student Brooke Roche has been involved with the Recreational Outreach Centre for the past eight or nine years, first as a participant, and now as a volunteer with Club ROC and the ROC Camp program in the summer.

“I like being with the kids and seeing them happy and enjoying time with their friends, making relationships and seeing positive things happen,” she said. “It’s a good place to come and study, or to just get away for a little bit…play cards, video games, do their homework, enjoy music.”

She said her volunteer experience may be influencing future study choices.

“Being here makes me think that it is something that I might be good at when I’m older. That I would be able to help people.”

Darlene Thompson, ROC’s executive director, told the opening night crowd the opening of the centre was a community effort following a three year search for a downtown location.

“We did not build this on our own. We are so grateful for the support from our community and everyone who helped make this possible – local contractors, electricians, plumbers, service clubs, organizations, churches and individuals have provided everything here.”

She noted a recent grant from the Parrot Foundation will help purchase signage on the front and back of the building and supplies for the centre. She also thanked the United Way for its support over many years and a $30,000 grant in 2016 to get the centre going.

Michael Smith, chairman of the board of directors, also thanked Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff, council and the municipality for an earlier $5,000 investment.
“They have also pledged a significant contribution to the operation of this youth centre in next year’s budget,” he said. “That is a wonderful testament to everybody’s belief that every young person in Prince Edward County should have a chance to excel in life. I think this is one of those important steps on the way.”

“The ROC is a fantastic home-grown initiative centred on promoting and encouraging our community’s youth and the work by the ROC’s team is an inspiring example of our community spirit,” said Quaiff noting each year council directs part of its budget to support local organizations’ initiatives that support the betterment of the community.

“The ROC is one of these initiatives. Council approved $50,000 in funding in 2017 for the ROC to support its broad programing… We want to encourage local youth to build futures in the County, and help prepare them with the skills they need to thrive here.”

Prince Edward Hastings MPP Todd Smith presented a certificate from the province.

“The ROC had been operating out of the schools and out in the community and doing a lot of great work, but they didn’t really have a home where they could put down some roots,” said Smith. “It’s great to see you have a lot of support from the County and people in the community… The youth of Ontario are truly one of our greatest resources and I’m positive the new youth centre in Picton will provide a safe environment to prepare them to become our future leaders.”

The centre is open weekdays from 2:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. and all programming is free of charge.

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