Demolition is now underway on the building – located at the corner of Ninth Street and 103 Avenue – and once completed, students from the residential construction program at Northern Lights College will begin construction on a new home for the Reconnect program. The project is the product of a unique partnership between the South Peace Community Resources Society (SPCRS) – which oversees the Reconnect program in partnership with the Peace River South School District – Northern Lights College and local businessman Ward Minifie.

“It’s very exciting,” said Jane Harper, executive director of SPCRS, on the demolition getting underway on Friday afternoon. “It has come about with a lot of partnerships and a lot of community support from businesses and groups.”

She said the existing building must be one of the oldest buildings in Dawson Creek – at least 60 years old – and was in disrepair and no longer meeting the needs of the youth the program assists. The program provides at place for youth to go and find resources for education or employment, life skills or personal counselling, or just a safe place to go and have a hot meal when they might not otherwise be able to do so.

“What the youth say they need is a central location where they can go and get information, where there’s a responsible adult they can talk to,” said Harper. “Reconnect has that long-standing relationship with the youth of the town is being there when they have difficulties, whether that’s with their family life, school, trouble with the law, peer pressure or substances – there is always an open door at Reconnect.”

She said a new building is critical to providing a broader range of activities, services and learning opportunities for the youth. She said, for example, the facility will include a computer lab for accessing online resources and writing resumes, two offices for individual counselling and support, a full kitchen that youth can participate in keeping stocked and preparing meals, and even a shower and laundry facility so youth can get cleaned up.

The Reconnect program will remain open during construction thanks to the school district providing a building at its central middle campus of Dawson Creek Secondary School.

Harper said materials and labour for the project have been secured at cost thanks to the generosity of several local businesses and contractors. However, she said there are still capital costs that remain, and she is encouraging anyone who would like to help the youth of the community to make a donation to the “Reconnect building fund” that has been established at the Lake View Credit Union.

As for the residential construction program, instructor Mark Heartt said they are very excited to be such a critical part of the project.

“Northern Lights College and the residential construction program are honoured to have this opportunity,” said Heartt. “We couldn’t ask for a better project, and the fact we are helping in the community is always a bonus for us.”

He said it’s a perfect project for his students because it combines aspects of residential and commercial construction covered in the program, and more than meets all of the criteria required in the their training. He added the building itself will not be that much different from the homes the students would normally build in a regular program year.

“As for the level of difficulty or the size of the project, we don’t see those being a factor,” he said.

Heartt said he has 10 students in this year’s program, which is a bit smaller than the average intake, but presents a great opportunity for those students to get more experience and hands-on work. He added they also have the benefit of having Minifie act as a general contractor for the project, providing materials and securing sub-trades work that the program would normally have to obtain.

He said he expects the project to be complete within the normal program year, which wraps up near the end of April.  

In the interest of full disclosure, Mile 0 City notes its reporter, Matthew Bains, is a member of the board of directors of the South Peace Community Resources Society.