Bridget Manahan, Manager of Youth Services at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lanark County represents one of five organizations seeking donations from the town of Smiths Falls for 2020.
Council also heard from Smiths Falls Food Security advocacy group, the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario, Lanark Transportation, and the University Hospital Kingston Foundation.
Manahan told town councillors at Jan. 6 meeting of council’s Committee of the Whole that BB/BS is looking to continue a partnership with the town to host a program at the youth arena and is asking for $24,000 for cost of the program, including physical activity, art supplies, healthy snacks and promoting positive mental health.
The need for the program arose in the summer of 2017 when Smiths Falls and District Club for Youth closed its doors.
In Oct 2017 the WAK youth program started as a partnership with BBBSLC, Town of Smiths Falls and the Perth-based Youth Action Kommittee (YAK). The program runs four days a week during “critical hours for at-risk youth.”
Ever since, the We Are Kids (WAK) youth program has operated out of town facilities including the youth arena and the library.
“We have seen some cutbacks to our funding from other areas,” said Cliff Woods, Manager of Program Impact and Effectiveness at BB/BS of Lanark County.
In 2019 thanks to funding from the United Way, eight program participants had the opportunity to see former US President Barack Obama speak at the Canadian Tire Centre.
“The biggest benefit is the amenities that are there,” said Manahan, explaining why the Youth Arena is the best location for the program. These facilities include pickle ball, the outdoor Sens rink, and the community centre walking track. Families trust that space,” she added.
“[Parents] don’t have to worry about the state of the facilities,” Manahan said. “There’s no stigma in sending their kids to the program.”
Manahan also highlighted transportation as a major barrier to youth participation in local programs.
“Transportation in any rural community is going to be an issue because of some parents’ work schedules,” Manahan said. “They don’t want their children walking across town.”
“Before you came along we were in dire straits with our youth program that closed,” Councillor Jay Brennan said. “Thank you for your commitment. You have a lot of support from us.”
At the Jan. 13 Committee of the Whole meeting council will discuss 20 individual funding applications.