ABC's of the BGC
As of February 1st 2021, The Boys and Girls Club of Fort Saskatchewan has been in the community for 35 years! In a different world, we would getting ready to throw a party, an open house where people could come together to reminisce about their experiences whether it be as a staff, volunteer, or member, share in our successes, and celebrate how much we have grown since we opened the doors to that repurposed fire hall all those years ago.
Well, if there is one thing our experience has taught us, it is how to adapt and respond to the situations life throws at us and we have done just that. To celebrate this milestone anniversary, we will be taking you down a virtual memory lane through the ABC's of the BGC! Each week we will explore a different part of what has made the Boys and Girls Club what it is today and sharing some old school pictures along the way! Keep an eye on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages for a chance to win cool BGC prizes and share stories from your time at the Boys and Girls Club!
A is for Adventures and there has certainty never been a shortage of them with the Boys and Girls Club! Our members and staff have hiked trails, mountains, and hoodoos; rafted and kayaked down rivers and rapids; and rode both horses and zip-lines through dense forest paths. We’ve slept in bunks, teepees, tents, lean-tos, and log cabins. We’ve walked high ropes and low ropes, taken aim at archery, and carried our canoes like the voyageurs. Our current members might not even know it, but they walk in the footsteps of some of the earliest members when we visit our favourite places like the Calgary Zoo, Kananaskis, Jasper, and Drumheller.
In the past 35 years, we have taken over 5,000 children and youth to at least 17 places all over Alberta. Whether it be to Head- Smashed-In Buffalo Jump for a lesson on history or a day trip to Elk Island Park for a dip in the lake, there are not many trails to adventure that our members have not blazed!
This week’s Memory Lane Monday is brought to you by the letter B! What would our Club be without the beautiful buses that take us to school, to celebrations, and on countless of those adventures we spoke about last week?!
Our first bus was sponsored by Dow Chemical and that 12 passenger van served us well for many years. It carried us safely to far off places and was a comfy spot to rest our heads after a long day.
As the Club grew in size, our buses followed suit and remained an important part of our daily routine! Our current favourite mode of transportation is our white Boys and Girls Club branded bus which came to reality through generous donors, Noyen Construction, Gallason Industrial Cleaning Services, Heartland Ford, Dehr’s Water Service, Home Depot, and other individual community members. Earlier this year, members of our club even held a naming contest for our newly donated yellow bus! After a vote by staff, kids, and youth, “Buster” was officially welcomed into the Boys and Girls Club bus family!
As much as we love our busses, we love our bus drivers even more! Thank you for your kindness and smiles, getting us to our destinations, and always turning up the radio when our favourite songs come on! A special thank you to Ray and Lorna Stonehouse. Ray drove the bus for five years, making sure our members safely got to and from school everyday.
C is for Community! Our children and youth have had so many amazing opportunities to get involved and be a part of what makes the community of Fort Saskatchewan so great! From hosting dances, dinners, and fundraisers to participating in city events, parades, and celebrations, members have been able to show off their skills while learning how meaningful community participation can be. We are so thankful to be in a place where citizens have embraced all that we do with such enthusiasm and support!
This week's #MemoryLaneMonday is all about children and youth achieving their dreams! We thought about listing all the different programs and services we've offered and continue to offer since opening our opening 35 years ago that help children and youth achieve their dreams. But instead, we've decided to share the stories of two former Club kids turned staff members and the impact BGC has had in their lives!
Fund Development and Marketing Coordinator, Erin's story:
My name’s Erin and I’m a staff member at BGC Fort Saskatchewan. While I may work here now, I first started coming to the club when I was in the second or third grade. I came for the same reason a lot of kids do; my parents both worked and I needed a place to be after school where they knew I would be safe, encouraged, and surrounded by positive role models.
Now I was a pretty shy kid amongst my peers so my favourite thing to do was hang out in the art area where I could just color and craft and hang with one of my favourite staff members, Janet. Well it didn’t take long for another girl, now one of my long-time best friends, to take me under her wing and show me that there was way more cool stuff happening at the Club than just art. I learned to cook, I learned to sew, I learned how to babysit, heck, I even learned to play the drums and recorded a song! And somewhere in the midst of all that, I learned not to worry so much about being shy.
As I grew a little older, my focus shifted from program participant to enthusiastic volunteer! I spent a few weeks in the summer volunteering as a junior camp leader. I helped facilitate a girl power group. I served pizza at the U2 concert for a fundraiser. And as many other past and present youth can relate, I took several shifts with the BBQ, now the Urban Street Grill, selling hotdogs at the famers market and other community events.
I really do credit the Club for helping to bring the leader out of me and helping me to achieve my dreams and goals in life. I was able to apply for a Boys and Girls Club scholarship when I was in high-school which helped support me when I went on to post-secondary and then during that time in my undergrad, the Club gave me an opportunity to do my internship with a local community group. After retuning to Fort Saskatchewan a couple years ago after getting my master’s degree, the opportunity came about to apply for a Fund Development and Marketing Coordinator position at the Club and I guess, as they say, the rest is history. The Club has been a huge part of my life. I am so thankful for all that it has given me and I’m even more thankful to work in a place where I have a part in helping young people build the skills and create the path to achieve their own dreams.
Children and Family Program Manager, Krystal's Story:
Heeey There, I’m Krystal & as many of you know I am currently employed with BGC Fort Saskatchewan.
What many of you don’t know is my history with BGC Fort Saskatchewan & I wanted to share some of that with you today.
My brother and I started attending the club in 2003 when we moved here from Calgary. Our parents worked 12 hour days to be able to support our family. Therefore wanted to ensure we had something to be apart of and a safe place to be outside of school and our home.
Over the years as a child and youth here I have had the opportunity to participate in many different programs and meet new friends. To name a few of my favorite memories they would be white water rafting, camping in the mountains, paint balling, dancing, endless amounts of day trips, onsite activities and challenges, wining a hula hoop contest, taking part in a “be like me tobacco free educational video”, helping run the snack shack, assisting in creating a teen lounge and so much more.
The club was somewhere I felt I belonged and was accepted. It was my second home away from home. As I got older my adventures with the club didn’t end. I than became a camp lead which allowed me to grow my skill set in leadership. Once I grew that skill set, I started volunteering on a variety of trips and events throughout high school.
Which leads me to where I am today. The club has helped me achieve my dream job and I now get to be apart of and help continue provide endless amounts of adventures, experiences and new opportunities to children, youth and their families.
I will always be thankful & the club will always hold a special place in my heart.
E is for Employment! Our Youth Employment Program has weathered the test of time and remains just as popular with teens now as it was in 1989 when we first began running it! YEP, previously known as Work Orientation Workshop and funded by the Government of Canada, provides employment training and real world on-the job experience so youth can gain skills and explore their future education and career goals. And this is all just one of three levels that make up our Youth Employment Strategy!
From early morning shifts at the bakery to helping animals at the vet clinic to supporting administrators in the office, our youth have had the chance to make their mark in all sorts of roles in the community! Thank you to Twice But Nice for generously funding the program for many years and, in the last few years, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, Rotary - Fort Saskatchewan, and Fort Saskatchewan. Thank you to all the local businesses who have welcomed and mentored our youth.
F is for Family Support.
“The Youth & Family Support Program is such a valuable resource for our community, a safe landing for youth age 6+ and families to regain focus when things seem upside down and for future planning. We work along side the skills you already possess and fill the gaps where needed to ensure you feel confident and well supported.
To say I love my job is an understatement. The variety, challenges, celebrations and overall joy I experience on a day to day basis by helping people does not feel like work to me… this is a passion of mine and I think that is key to being successful in this role.” – Youth and Family Support Worker, Leanne.
Our Youth and Family Support Program, funded through Government of Alberta, has a long history within our organization. Starting as a diversion program in 1989 aimed at educating youth to keep them out of the criminal justice and child services system, the program has continued to evolve to what it is today. What has never changed is its mission of supporting parents, caregivers, children, and youth as they deal with some of life’s biggest challenges. From one-on-one counselling, social and life skill building, support groups, financial literacy programs, educational workshops for the community, and much more, we meet families where they are at to help them thrive.
G is for Gala
This week, let us tell you a bit about our Gala. Staff and volunteers at BGC Fort Saskatchewan are experts in having fun for a purpose. We not only put this into practice everyday with our entertaining programs for children and youth which teach important life skills, we also do it each year through our annual gala! We have hosted the gala each year since 2001. It has become an important part of our organization with volunteers, staff, and community members coming together to make it a positive evening for all!
Our themes have included the 20s, 50s, 70s, and 80s, western and luau, jerseys and black and white, even Hollywood glamour. And each year, we’re blown away by attendees’ commitment to the costumes! Performances from children and youth, games and prizes, silent and live auctions, we keep things interesting to say the least! Some of our live and silent auction items have included sports memorabilia, West Jet flights, golf trips chauffeured by BGC buses, and catered dinners prepared by BGC staff (this is always a hot ticket item). Not only is the gala our biggest fundraiser of the year, it is also a chance to celebrate what we do with community members and sponsors because this event could not be possible without the numerous donors that contribute each year. The money raised from the gala goes where the Club needs it most. Over the past 19 years, we have raised approximately $650,000 which has gone towards sending children and youth to camp, purchasing a new bus, and of course, offering quality programs and opportunities for children, youth, and families.
Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we were unable to host the 2020 and 2021 galas, but we hope to be hosting our spectacular 20th year anniversary gala in the near future!
The letter H brings us to what ABCs of BGC is all about: our history. BGC Fort Saskatchewan got it’s start as the Fort Saskatchewan Boys and Girls Club 35 years ago in the old fire hall downtown on a cold February 1st day. 220 children, youth, parents, and community members filled the building to offer support and see what the place was all about!
Behind the scenes, there were many individuals working hard to make the opening of this space even possible. Starting in January of 1985, steps were taken and monies were approved by Town Council to open a youth center named “Teen Scene.” Due to a variety of reasons this project was unable to make a successful start. A few short months later, a public meeting was called in which town members expressed their willingness and enthusiasm to make this project work.
More connections where made with local business, United Way, FCSS Fort Saskatchewan, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. After 1042 hours of volunteer labour put towards renovating the space was complete, plans for the grand opening began.
A general meeting was called and a Board of Directors was elected. We would like to thank Pauline Campeau, Don McNeill, Cecil Pierce, Shawn Hussey, Carol Buss, Maralyn Benay, Camie Hamilton, Barbara Williams, Robert Standard, Ryan Benay, Patricia Estey, Marcel Dion, Jerry Maroosis, Mary Christie, and Linda Hansen for their time and dedication.
Since that day in 1986, we have continued to build our legacy within the community and have a positive impact in the lives of many young people.
I is for inclusion. We opened our doors 35 years ago so that we could provide a safe and supportive place where every individual is listened to, respected and valued, in an environment of acceptance and inclusion.
J is for Joining Together. What joins children, youth, parents, and caregivers together better than BGC’s fun and engaging family events?! Since our opening, we have hosted countless events including Mother’s Day Teas, Family Fun Nights, concerts, Christmas and Easter Dinners, and much more with the intention of giving families chance to come together and build positive family experiences!
K is for Kids! Need we say more? In our Club, every kid is a kid of privilege. Kids are at the heart of everything we do, and we celebrate the unique abilities and personalities of all our members to support every kid in exploring new opportunities and reaching their potential!