A safe place for kids

Whit­ney Pier Youth Club hop­ing its suc­cess­ful formula will be used across CBRM

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY GREG MCNEIL gm­c­neil@cb­post.com

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 bgc­cape­bre­ton@gmail.com.

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?”

GREG MCNEIL/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

Wolodka

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