Submitted Media Release

The Why Not Youth Centre at 386 Colborne Street offers a safe, comfortable and helpful place for teens at risk. But the demand for its services is so great that it has outgrown its current location and hopes to build a new centre in the next few years. That’s why the centre is launching a $4.5 million capital fundraising campaign to develop a larger, more adaptable building where it can maintain existing services and add to them.

The existing centre is in a renovated house. It helps young people from 13 to 18, many of whom don’t have a consistent place to live. The teens face a variety of problems including bullying, substance dependency, emerging mental illness, unstable home lives, unplanned pregnancies, criminal activity and abuse. For many of the centre’s visitors, the question is not what they will do when they grow up, but whether they will grow up.

“At Why Not Youth Centre we work with high-risk youth and work to stabilize their lives and build their skills so they never have to live in a tent by the creek,” said Becca McLellan, the centre’s director. One person who used the centre’s services recalled sneaking in at age 12, adding “ten years later I look back and I see how much Why Not did for me.”

The centre is open seven days a week and is attended by about 30 to 60 youths every day. It provides a safe space, meals, clothing and the support they need to discover what success can look like for them. It was founded by Charlie and Sue Kopczyk who started working with Brantford’s street people in 2002.

“Even if they live in 15 places throughout the year, we’re still here,” said Charlie. “We’re the community living room, the place that stays the same; we’re the privileged ones who get to cheer them on for years on end.”

The centre’s capacity committee has been studying its needs for the past 18 months and concluded the existing building simply isn’t large enough to meet the community’s needs. The existing building has about 2,000 square feet of space and can’t be expanded. It’s hoped the new building, which will also be located in the centre of the city, will have more than 10,000 square feet. The existing building will be sold once the new building is open. The new building will be large enough to provide space for other organizations that want to offer complementary services.

The fundraising team will look for support from a cross-section of the community: corporations, employee groups, governments, service clubs and individuals. It will also hold its own fundraising events.

The Why Not Youth Centre has already received a significant commitment to help to pay its day-to-day operating costs. Earlier this month, Millards Chartered Professional Accountants promised to give the centre a total of $250,000 over five years for operating costs. This generous donation to operating funds relieves day-to-day pressure often felt by not-for-profit organizations like Why Not Youth Centre and allows them to turn their focus to the capital needs of a new building.