It’s been a difficult few weeks since TYPS closed on Oct. 13th due to a lack of funding. Our Board has been very busy, tying up loose ends and helping to work towards a new and improved youth centre for Mississippi Mills.
Sophie Tamas, the Chair of the TYPS Board of Directors, has been dealing with our fiduciary responsibilities – making sure that reports go to the various stakeholders (donors) to TYPS, while ensuring that we are not burning any bridges for the future of our youth centre. She also made a presentation to the Town’s Committee of the Whole on November 12th, and afterwards answered councilors’ questions for a full hour. You can read her presentation here: https://millstonenews.com/2014/11/report-to-mississiippi-mills-council-on-the-closure-of-typs-youth-centre.html
Harold McKay and I took on the emotional task of emptying out the current location of the youth centre. We had to decide what must be kept, and find heated storage for those items. We kept all of the kids’ amazing artwork that had adorned the walls of TYPS, the technology that was used in the office, and a lot of office supplies. The files got purged (and shredded) and the important things kept. A dozen instruments and PA speakers are being stored thanks to George Turcotte at Mississippi Mills Music Works.
The silver lining in all of this was that many other social service organizations in our area got some benefit, because we allowed them to take things that would be useful to them. A group home got the upright freezer, and some TYPS kids were grateful to receive furniture and food. Unopened food not taken by kids went to the Lanark County Food Bank. Other social organizations got appliances and other kitchen items. Local teachers were extremely grateful to receive items that could be used in the classroom – more benefit for kids. For some things, we received generous donations, which will be deposited directly into the TYPS bank account. Finally, we opened the doors on Saturday, and more people came to take things that they would find useful.
When TYPS first opened at this location, our community generously donated furnishings so that kids would have a great place to hang out. We were lucky to find storage (donated by the Town) for those items that we feel we must keep for our new youth centre. We have no doubt that, when Youth Centre 2.0 opens its doors, we will feel another wave of generosity from the good people of this Town. And so, we thank you in advance.
For me, the rest of our Board, and especially the kids, it’s been a difficult time. People would walk up and give me a hug and ask how I was doing, and I was always shocked to find the tears so close to the surface. One kid hung out with me all day during the “garage sale” because he wanted to get as much time at TYPS as he could. Kids would walk in while I was cleaning up, just to say hi and to ask what was happening next. Some of them have taken to hanging out under the bridge that was nearby their former youth centre.
This is the biggest loss. Our kids have lost a safe place to hang out. In this Town, we don’t have indoor malls with food courts where kids can congregate. Indoor warm and welcoming places are hard to find for some. TYPS provided an umbrella. Kids could hang out, perhaps play a few games or watch a movie, even get a meal. Those who were in greatest need could talk to someone, who would be able to direct them to one of the myriad social agencies or groups that would be able to give them the greatest help.
Last Friday, November 28th, the TYPS Interim Task Force met at the Almonte Old Town Hall, attended by many stakeholders, including:
- ADHS students, youth worker and principal TR Leger
- Youth centres (Perth, Smiths Falls, Carleton Place and Lanark Highlands, and of course TYPS)
- Several church representatives (Catholic, United, Reformed Presbyterian)
- Open Doors
- Interval House
- Big Brothers & Big Sisters
- Public Health
- United Way
- Kelford Youth Services
- MM Library
- MM Recreation
- LC Food Bank
- Mills Community Support
- LC Planning Council
- LC Mental Health
- The biggest thing to come out of this is the need for this umbrella to return in our Town. We meet again on December 11th, in an effort to create an interim plan for our youth.
In the New Year, there will be a larger public forum, hosted by the United Way, that will allow the entire community to exchange our ideas, and to renew our commitment to a sustainable model of youth services that we can be very proud of. My dream (and my challenge to everyone) is that we create a model that other counties in Ontario want to emulate. We are blessed with clever and engaged people here in Mississippi Mills and we need your help.
As a community, we are only as strong as our weakest members – our youth. These important community members can’t vote. But they did express their needs to us at Friday’s Task Force meeting, and they will continue to help us to help them.
I know that the rest of the TYPS Board would join me in expressing my heartfelt thanks to The Mills, and the rest of the social service groups, who have stepped up to the plate to take on this most worthy work.
Please stay tuned !