A safe place for kids
Whitney Pier Youth Club hoping its successful formula will be used across CBRM
Whitney Pier Youth Club evokes fond memories.
Growing up, Shelby Delaney fondly recalls after-school programming at the Whitney Pier Youth Club and frequent lunchtime breaks from the pressures that can come with school.
It was a supportive environment filled with friends and mentors.
“It was like a safe haven,” said Delaney, who is now a youth worker at the club. “You’d come here and it was so comfortable. It feels like home.”
The board of the directors of the club that’s now known as the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Breton wants to help bring its club benefits to other communities around the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
Requests for information on just that have been growing in recent years but especially since the Pier club completed its major renovation and expansion project.
“You get the awe factor,” said John Wolodka, president of the club’s board of directors, when describing visitors’ reaction to the club.
“People would love to have one of these in North Sydney or Glace Bay or wherever but the hard thing is to realize this didn’t happen overnight.”
Wolodka describes the current modern and supportive state of the club as the result of a 12-year dream.
“It took every day of those 12 years to get where we are today. We are still growing and still expanding.”
Most might first see the club as only its recently completed ultramodern expanded facility but meals, mentorship, mental health seminars and crisis intervention are part of the real value the club provides to area youth.
“As of last Tuesday there’s a 0.4 per cent crime rate in Whitney Pier, so I think we have a lot to do with that,” he said. “Our youth are facing very adult challenges and they are scary challenges. We are frontline in this community where youth can go and feel safe and feel welcome and feel involved. We break the barriers.”
Though their methods have proven to be “tried, tested and proven” through the years, Wolodka said finding success in other communities is not something they can just “cut and paste.”
Board membership, he believes, is the best route to bring clubs to other communities.
“We need other communities and other organizations to
come to the board with us and show us what they can do with us. We can’t do it for them.”
Alyssa Sparkes is a youth worker at the club and one of nine full-time staff members.
Like others who work there, she frequented the club as a child and has learned through the years that caring is part of the club’s successful formula.
“It’s just knowing I make a difference in (the club members) day and that they look forward to seeing me as much as I look forward to seeing them,” said Sparkes, who witnessed that same situation as a child visiting the club.
“Even if it is just playing a game with them or helping with their homework. I know they look for that attention and I can’t wait to see them every day. I could be having the worst day ever and when they walk in the door, my bad mood is gone way.”
For information on board membership, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The value of programs and services the club offers to youth will also be outlined during May 27 grand opening ceremonies that begin at noon.
Delaney hopes many people will take advantage of this learning opportunity so that youth in other communities can have the supportive childhood she had — the same supportive childhood she’s trying to now provide to others.
“Every child deserves a place like this to come to,” she said. “We make a difference in their lives every single day. Some kids, where would they be without us?”
Youth workers Shelby Delaney and Alyssa Sparkes stand beside one of the mottos they believe in, found inside the Whitney Pier Youth Club. The two are among the former patrons of the club who are now working to provide the same mentorship and support to youth that they received from the club when they were children.