Ward Minifie, co-owner and vice president of Action Health and Safety Services, has volunteered his time to act as a general contractor for the construction of new building for Reconnect Youth Services, a drop-in centre for young people who live on the streets or are at risk of living on the streets. The existing centre, located at 904 103 Avenue, is a house that is more than 50 years old and has needed major structural repairs in recent years, and is no longer big enough to accommodate the influx of youth using the program.
Minifie has spearheaded the effort to secure monetary and in-kind donations to construct a new home at the existing location to house the program. He said the house as proposed would be about 1,300 square feet, with two offices, two washrooms with shower facilities and a washer and dryer, a kitchen area and large common area.
Most recently, he secured a $2,000 sponsorship from the City of Dawson Creek to cover the costs of obtaining the necessary building permits. Minifie is a Rotarian, and although he is not acting on the club's behalf for this project, he has been able to obtain commitments for monetary and in-kind support from his fellow members.
He is also in discussions with Northern Lights College to see if the college's residential construction program can volunteer its students to construct the home, as the program has built residential projects as part of its regular curriculum for many years.
Minifie's wife and business partner, Sandra, sits on the board of the South Peace Community Resources (SPCRS) Society which administers the Reconnect program, and he said he really sees the value in that program.
"Anything to do with helping youth in our community is important, and especially a service like this where there are some at-risk youth who may need just a bit of help to turn their lives around," he said.
Minifie's expertise and contacts in the community are certainly invaluable to finding a new home for Reconnect, said Arden Smith, department manager with SPCRS.
"For him to be doing all of this is fantastic, he has been just such a champion," she said.
She said the program currently serves between 45-50 youth, and just having a new building that is safe and secure will be very important. She said having a new kitchen will be huge because the centre offers a hot meals program that not only feeds the youth but also teaches them about budgeting, shopping and nutrition.
Smith added the centre provides them with much more than just a safe place to go during the day.
"I think one of the basic needs of teenagers – besides the basics like food and shelter – is a sense of belonging and a sense of connection, and if they don't have that within their own social structure and their place of belonging in on the street, then this is a huge opportunity for them to get connected and gain some skills, information and education around making healthy choices. I think it has made a difference for lots of young people."
As for the college's involvement, communications manager Brad Lyon said administration is working to ensure the design plans for the project can be aligned with the learning outcomes required in the residential construction program.
"We look as this project as certainly a very worthy one and one were interested in being a part of," said Lyon, "but we have to make sure we meet our commitments to the Industry Training Authority and the things outlined in our program completion guides, and we just to make sure it can all match up and we take care of those details from our end."
He said another factor will be determining how the program will recoup its costs, as normally the residential projects are sold on the open market to recover the cost of materials. He said the college hopes to have those details finalized as soon as possible so construction on the new centre could start this fall.
In the interest of full disclosure, Mile 0 City notes that our reporter, Matthew Bains, is a sitting member of the board of the South Peace Community Resources Society, which administers the Reconnect program.