Sam Rivera Youth for Christ volunteer

Sam Rivera Youth for Christ volunteer

Youth performance space created at the Hot Spot

A new music performance space for youth is being established in the former Flavours ice cream shop on Third Avenue.

A new music performance space for youth is being established in the former Flavours ice cream shop on Third Avenue.

Established by Youth for Christ, the goal is to welcome young people to come and play music and meet new friends in a safe, positive environment, says YFC director Ryan Penner.

“We want to get the kids who hang around in the Williams Lake Secondary School common area and at Columneetza and invite them to come down and play a set of music on the weekend — really open this place up,” Penner says. “There are some amazing musicians here.”

Youth for Christ Unlimited has been operating in Williams Lake since 1980 as an ‘arm’ of the local Christian churches.

Located at 289 North Third Avenue, the organization has seen some changes in the past few months and Penner says they’re excited about the new music program.

Now that the Flavours ice cream shop has moved out of the building to their new location on Oliver Street, Youth for Christ has expanded.

The new music venue will have a small stage and audience seating area.

“We have approached church youth groups and invited them to come here, too,” he adds. “It will give kids a chance to make new friends — somewhere to hang out, have fun and be a good audience, and some to play music.”

The Hot Spot drop-in youth centre located in the basement, below the music venue is open on all school days, from 3 to 5 p.m.

Kids ages 8 to 12 can come in and play games, do crafts and play pool and ping pong.

“It’s an environment with healthy boundaries, so the kids are safe no matter who comes through the door. We have great staff and volunteers who help set that atmosphere,” Penner says.

“We have also created a time where we spend more time with kids ready to ‘age out’ of the program — the kids in Grades 6 and 7. So on Thursday we have a special time with these kids after the regular Hot Spot hours.”

Also new at Youth for Christ is a youth group for ages 13 to 18.

“We have a group of young people who have grown out of the regular programs but still like to have a place to come and hang out, and we’ve put together kind of a ‘junior staff,’” Penner says.

“These are kids who don’t go to a church so they don’t have a regular youth group; they don’t belong to any club and they don’t go to 4-H. They’re the kids who just hang around town. We assign them tasks and they come and help out here.

“Now they have their own youth group. Once a week they come to my home and my wife and I cook them dinner.”

All of the local youth groups are basically doing the same thing — giving kids love and acceptance, says Penner, who adds that it’s one of the beauties in this community.

“Scott McLaughlin has been key all these years, bringing Noopa and Youth for Christ and the Child Development Centre (CDC) together. We have resource people who bring their clients in to play with the kids during Hot Spot hours, and if CDC needs a gaming centre to bring in one client off-hours, they just come in and do that,” he Penner says.

“It’s been a great couple of years getting to know the other organizations in town and bringing our resources together to help kids.”

One of the great ways self-worth is instilled in kids is through the art program with Cat Prevette.

“She teaches them to create from their hearts and then she’ll organize an art show with them,” Penner says. “She’s so great with these kids.”

Major renovations took place in the building after Flavours moved out and Penner says Rod Voth has been an amazing asset for Youth for Christ.

“He built all the cabinets himself and redid the whole floor, he donated materials and all his work and volunteered his time, and created this whole space,” Penner says.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of vision we come up with: it’s guys like that who make it happen.”

He adds that Linda Black’s marketing team at Columneetza secondary was very instrumental in helping with much-needed, expensive things like hockey equipment and new computers.

“A couple of kids in that class were former volunteers at Hot Spot and got the group to donate money they raised during their marketing project to Youth for Christ,” he explains.

“We owe them a huge debt of gratitude — they did a phenomenal job.”

He says that Christianity is the foundation of what they do with the kids, adding that all the staff members have a Biblical foundation, with a focus on what Jesus did.

“In the end, Jesus cared and loved everybody. That’s what we do. We want to love these kids and accept them for who they are,” Penner says.

“We believe that we don’t change kids. Our job is to love and accept them. We’re not out to start a church, or a religion. If the kids want to know about what we’ve got, we’ll share it with them.”

He explained that he has seen a lot of kids come and go from the organization. “Many of them don’t change at all, and some of them change tremendously. One big change we see is in self-confidence, when a kid has a place to go where they belong they start to feel good about themselves.

“For a lot of our youth, divorce creates a great deal of insecurity. There has to be a place where they can come and feel secure. There is acceptance and familiarity here — it’s all about a stable relationship with a caring adult.”

For more information about Youth for Christ visit www.hotspotyfc.com or phone 250-398-7765 or email hotspotyfc@shawbiz.ca.