In this file photo, Dustin Derrick was the winner of the early bird prize of $1,000 in this year’s Heartland Youth Centre fundraising raffle. Derrick is also a Big Brother for Stettler’s Big Brothers Big Sisters organization which is operated out of the Youth Centre as well. 
File photo

In this file photo, Dustin Derrick was the winner of the early bird prize of $1,000 in this year’s Heartland Youth Centre fundraising raffle. Derrick is also a Big Brother for Stettler’s Big Brothers Big Sisters organization which is operated out of the Youth Centre as well. File photo

Heartland Youth Center keeps up contact with kids in uncertain times

Staff members continue to adjust to heightened pandemic restrictions

Staff at the Heartland Youth Centre continue to serve the community during what has been a most challenging year of heightened safety precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of the current programming is on pause, but that doesn’t mean the organization isn’t keeping in touch as best they can with local youth, said Winnie Bissett, the Centre’s executive director.

“For Jan. 11th, Sara Wengryn, our Boys and Girls Club director has basically made a Plan A and a Plan B – if we are allowed to open again, then Plan A is our regular programming with all the COVID-19 restrictions of course, and Plan B focuses on the virtual (connections),” she explained.

“Ever since April, we have been running a few virtual programs anyways, and those have continued throughout this year,” she said.

“We also partnered with the Outreach School and have been running a program called ‘Respect 2 Connect’. It’s about developing and building healthy relationships,” she said, adding that funding for that particular program comes via the Boys and Girls Club of Canada.

“The other one that we have been doing all along, and it’s had quite a bit of success, is our Art Attack program. On a weekly basis, we put together a package of supplies that the parents pick up and then the kids watch our staff do an art project from home. We’ve also been having an in-person art program, so now we have just joined those kids into the virtual group,” she said.

Although the numbers of kids who sign on virtually aren’t as many as would normally be the case, there are plenty of positives to the arrangement – the key one being that it’s a great way for the youth to stay connected, said Bissett.

“It’s tough right now. The younger kids are at least still going to school which is good, but the teens are doing the home-schooling. So when you are on your computer all day, sometimes the last thing you want to do (in the evening) is more virtual programming. But our sole purpose is to stay connected with kids and families and to help them out in any way that we can, so this gives us that link,” she explained.

“Boy and Girls Clubs of Canada has tremendous connections. As an example, they are connected to Indigo and Chapters book stores. So we’ve had boxes and boxes of brand new books that we have been able to give to our kids.

“We’ve also had some Chromebooks that we’ve been able to give to kids, too. One of the local companies also refurbished some laptops, so when COVID first hit, those families that didn’t have enough computers or laptops – we were able to help those families out,” she said.

“I like to see us as kind of a resource connection for families, too,” she said, referring to the provisions they made at the beginning of the pandemic. “Some people were quickly laid off, so we were able to provide grocery cards as an example,” she added.

In the meantime, Bissett said the next key date, as mentioned, is Jan. 11th – when the kids are set to return to school in person. That’s when staff will be better able to map things out for the coming months.

When asked about this past year and all of the unprecedented challenges it has held, Bissett said she’s truly been reminded of the amazing generosity of the Stettler community.

Even in spite of the cancellations of various fundraising events, local folks, businesses and organizations continued to show their solid support for the Heartland Youth Centre.

“I think what it has shown me is how incredible our community is – the support that we have had is hard to put words to. We’ve had donations come in from different people. And at the beginning (of the pandemic) we were trying to raffle off our car for our fundraiser.

“I was thinking how am I going to sell $50 tickets, and we didn’t have locations to set up tables at,” she explained. “But we sold out of those tickets weeks before the draw date.”

Also, the Awesome Auction, a huge fundraiser for the Centre, had to be cancelled and was eventually held online this past fall.

“Granted, it didn’t make as much but it still did phenomenally well. And the fact that we even got donations blew me away as well. Businesses were willing to give us items! So it’s things like that – people really see the value of the Youth Centre in the community,” she said.

Ultimately, what really provides inspiration in the midst of such uncertain times are the kids themselves.

“I’ve got a hand-made note on my desk that we found on the bus back in the summertime when we first got to open again for day-camps,” she said. ‘It says, ‘I’m happy to be back’ and it has a whole bunch of hearts drawn on it.

“We are social beings, and kids need that social interaction. They want to be here, they want to play and they want life to be normal as we all do.

“We all just need those connections.”

Check out Heartland Youth Centre on Facebook.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. announces signage along Alberta border to discourage non-essential travel

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

Damien Kurek
MP Damien Kurek reflects on newly-released federal budget

‘Further, they recycle old promises they have consistently failed to deliver on’

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta begins rolling out AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for those aged 40 or older

There are more than 70 pharmacies offering AstraZeneca, including 26 offering walk-in appointments

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

FILE - Dan Smyers, left, and Shay Mooney from the band Dan + Shay perform on NBC's Today show in New York on June 28, 2019. The duo will perform at Sunday's Academy of Country Music Awards. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
Luke Bryan wins top ACM Award, but female acts own the night

Luke Bryan wins top ACM Award, but female acts own the night

In this undated photo provided by John-Paul Hodnett are a row of teeth on the lower jaw of a 300-million-year-old shark species named this week following a nearly complete skeleton of the species in 2013 in New Mexico. Discoverer Hodnett says it was the short, squat teeth that first alerted him to the possibility that the specimen initially dubbed "Godzilla Shark" could be a species distinct from it's ancient cousins, which have longer, more spear-like teeth. The image was taken using angled light techniques that reveal fossil features underneath sediment. (John-Paul Hodnett via AP)
‘Godzilla’ shark discovered in New Mexico gets formal name

The ancient chompers looked less like the spear-like rows of teeth of related species

sign
Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Most Read