An interview with Robin Heald
David: Reviewing your time here at KYC, what are the things you are most happy about?
Robin: “I am thrilled with our financial stability. Our events are incredible. At the very beginning, we worked out what people wanted to do, and then we’ve tweaked it a little bit each year. Now it’s got to the point where our four key events are really great. Between that and our Endowment Fund, which has gone from zero to $26,000 in that little window of time, it’s really important to me to have that financial stability. When the Fund gets to $3 million, we won’t have to spend any time fund raising, we’ll be able to just do our job here: which is serving youth. Every minute that we spend fund raising is a minute that we’re not serving our youth with great programs and great opportunities. I look forward to someone else carrying that torch that I lit. That’s probably the most important thing: that someone runs with that afterwards.”
David: You must have had a lot of support from the Board of Directors.
Robin: “We have a really strong Board. Everyone is in it for the right reasons, and doing lots of great things in the community. It’s a working Board, it’s not just tokenism, all our Board put in about ten hours a month supporting KYC, whether it’s at a meeting, on our Book Fair Committee, our Jail n’Bail, or whatever. There’s a lot of organisation that goes into getting those sixty Jail Birds all lined up and getting their pledges going! So it’s the Board and staff and volunteers, and we wouldn’t be able to accomplish half of what we do without that strong volunteer background that we have.”
David: What is the current situation for young people in the community?
Robin: “One of the things that is happening is that the number of parents of young children who are working outside the community is growing. I think about 60% of our youth have parents working in Ottawa. So our youth are getting out of school at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Parents are getting home at 5.30 or 6 at night, sometimes even a bit later than that. Without the Youth Centre, they would either be hanging out at the Library, or at home, or out in the community. Statistics from the Health Unit are showing that’s when the unplanned pregnancies are happening, and drug and alcohol use, and vandalism. It has changed from Friday and Saturday nights to the after-school time. The more we can be in our building, or out on little walking tours, the more we can serve those young people to help give them every single advantage and every minute of activity that we can, to make a difference in the long run.
David: It may be that some people in the community don’t realise that there is a serious side to the KYC, in addition to the social scene. The recent Kids Help Phone report shows the high number of young people seriously thinking about suicide; then there are the invisible homeless youth, the drug and other addictions, the mental health issues, etc. Are these issues present in North Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford?
Robin: “All of that is in that room right there [in the Centre]. We’ve got homeless, self-harm, suicide issues, mental health issues, with people just beyond that wall. So, it is here.”
David: Where are the gaps that are still unfilled?
Robin: “We’ve got the middle years unserved in North Grenville. Between 8 and 12 years old, there’s a gap. At 10 years old, they go home after school and let themselves in. They’re too young to be on our KYC mandate, but there they are, at home alone for those after school hours, completely unserved by free programming in the community. As we grow, I see that as a logical next step, for our community to serve those 8 to 12 year-olds with free programming similar to the Youth Centre.”
David: What are some of the other challenges?
Robin: “Rural transportation is a really big issue for young people. The closer people live to the Centre, the more they can take part. In the summer, when the school buses are not running, numbers attending the programs drop significantly. The Centre isn’t open until 2 pm, and there’s no transportation to get young people here. So they’re spending all day at home alone while their parents are working. Kemptville Transportation helps us out so much: John Braunheisen drives our youth on field trips for free, month after month. Merrickille-Wolford is sponsoring transportation as well, because kids from there have such a transportation obstacle. But our numbers are dictated by transportation; if we had a better transportation network, we would certainly have higher numbering coming here.”
David: What is the next natural step for the KYC?
Robin: “We have to turn down so many opportunities in the community because we don’t have the funding; or else it’s just too much to take on with the volunteers and staffing we have. I think the next logical step is not necessarily expanding in any huge way, but continuing the solid foundation we have. But I would love to have weekend hours. Weekend hours are $12,000 away. $12,000 a year for five hours on Saturday and five hours on Sunday; that is what we would need to become a 7-day a week Youth Centre.”
David: So, if you did find a nice donor who could contribute $1,000 a month for weekend opening, you could use the money?
Robin: “It would be up to our Board to decide, but if someone came in and said they had $1,000 a month to donate for five hours on Saturdays and five hours on Sundays, I imagine our Board would say, “Yes, thank you, we’d love to do that!”