Youth HQ: Red Deer’s hub for youth programs has rebranded

The former Youth and Volunteer Centre is doing a community-wide youth needs assessment

Youth HQ is the new name of a hub that’s offered youth programs in Red Deer for 40 years.

It’s former title — the Youth and Volunteer Centre — was too confusing and a little misleading, said Kris Fleckenstein, the board chair.

People who didn’t realize the non-profit offers various programs — through Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Red Deer, the Boys and Girls Club of Red Deer and District, the 49th-Street Youth Shelter, and Camp Alexo — might have mistakenly thought it was geared towards getting young people to volunteer, he added.

“We wanted to send a clearer message that states who we are, and what we were about,” said the group’s executive-director Jacquie Boyd.

And what could be clearer, for an umbrella organization focused on helping young people develop confidence and life skills, than Youth HQ? she added.

The newly re-branded group celebrated four decades of operation with a public open house Friday at 4633-49th St.

This year, Youth HQ will be embarking on its Strategic Directions Initiative and Master Plan. But before it can determine how to better meet young people’s needs, “we first need to know what those needs are,” added Boyd.

The organization is in the midst of doing a community-wide youth needs assessment. The $20,000 two-year project, funded by Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), was started in 2016. Boyd said focus groups have already been held with many youths and community groups, and the results are expected by October.

Youth HQ, which is collaborating with CARE (Central Alberta Refugee Effort) to help newcomers, will be looking at forming other community partnerships.

More than 1,700 youths are helped annually by the non-profit hub. Among them is William Heaman, who first became involved 16 years ago. He recalls playing at an outdoor playground in north Red Deer with his sister. “It was really cold out,” and he was drawn to the fun activities in a nearby community shelter.

Heaman became a regular at after-school programs run by the Boys and Girls Club. He now gives back as a volunteer at Camp Alexo and “youth ambassador” for the United Way. “It impacted my life in an extremely positive way,” said Heaman, “Most of the friends I have today, I met through the program.”

Boyd said Youth HQ offers safe environments. This is particularly important for young people dealing with family strife, bullying or mental health issues. “Our staff are professionals. They are trained in various skills, and do referrals,” she added.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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