House of Shalom

Golfers hit the links in support of The House Youth Centre

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The House Youth Centre held its annual golf tournament Saturday and organizers report things went well.

Activities director Rebecca Vander Vaart said 20 foursomes signed up for the tournament with teams including the town of Amherstburg, G&S Party Rentals, Aalbers Tool & Mold and Convenient Trailers.

“It’s the first time we’ve had the tournament in June,” she said. “We usually have it in May so we’re used to freezing rain.”

The winning team at the June 17 golf tournament for The House Youth Centre was made up of T.J. McWhinnie, Teddy Jacob, Johnny McLelland and Brian Laramie.

The winning team at the June 17 golf tournament for The House Youth Centre was made up of T.J. McWhinnie, Teddy Jacob, Johnny McLelland and Brian Laramie.

The event raised over $8,000. Vander Vaart said half of the proceeds raised will go toward programming at the House while the other half will be designated for building maintenance, with Vander Vaart pointing out the age of the building as the reason for the latter.

“We’ve been growing our programming in the last year or so,” she added.

The number of golfers was attributed to not only people just wanting to support The House, but also the fact that many graduates of their program want to continue to help out. There were a number of peer mentors and parents that helped support the tournament, Vander Vaart stated.

“Once you see the effect The House has on youth, people want to help and do what they can,” she stated. “It’s a fun way to come out and help the House.”

The winning team was made up of T.J. McWhinnie, Teddy Jacob, Johnny McLelland and Brian Laramie.

The House Youth Centre and Big Brothers Big Sisters welcome new executive director

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

“It takes a very unique personality I think to be able to walk in to The House and get what we do, but even more so to be able to be a part of that and to serve what it is that we do.”

Rebecca Vander Vaart, activities coordinator at The House Youth Centre explained their new executive director is fitting their needs perfectly, and she along with program director Michelle Laframboise, are excited to get to know and work with her.

“Our management agreement and partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters is also very unique and something that I think a lot of people struggle to really grasp what that looks like, so Becky just really seems like the perfect fit for both organizations and the direction that we would like to go with The House,” said Vander Vaart.

Becky Parent is the official executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters and The House Youth Centre. She said she started off many years ago by teaching in adult education. She said when she looked around at her adult students, she could see a lot of them were facing challenges and had had many negative experiences. She began to wonder what the root causes were that lead them to where they were.

“My background is in philosophy and education, but I had this burning curiosity around my adult students and why they found themselves in the circumstances they did,” said Parent. “That lead me to seeking some volunteer work. I sat on the board of the United Way and I approached the, then, executive director of Big Sisters for a job because I really wanted to have a front line experience working with kids and families and understanding those root causes and challenges that had lead so many of my adult students to some unhappy circumstances.”

Parent began as the county caseworker for Big Sisters, doing intakes and working the front lines with families and developed a group program as well. She explained she fell in love with the work Big Sisters did in regards to youth mentoring specifically and started to understand the power mentoring provided. She said she began to see how it could transform young people.

After Big Sisters amalgamated with Big Brothers, Parent went on to work with the multicultural council, which then lead her to work as a community developer for the Homeless Coalition, and then move on to work for Leadership Windsor-Essex, which take folks who are in leadership roles, such as bank managers and principals of high schools, and train them around community issues and get them active in the community.

During her time with Leadership Windsor-Essex, she actually brought people through The House Youth Centre.

 

Michelle Laframboise (left) and Rebecca Vander Vaart (right) stand with Becky Parent, the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters and The House Youth Centre, last Friday.

Michelle Laframboise (left) and Rebecca Vander Vaart (right) stand with Becky Parent, the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters and The House Youth Centre, last Friday.

“I knew about The House and knew that it was really cool and innovative, despite the fact that it had been around for 40 years,” said Parent. “It was outside of the box programming for youth. As much as there was structure, it had the feel of no structure and that would be unique to youth because adolescence are the hardest population to serve.”

The position of executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters and The House Youth Centre was one Parent had coveted for years because she knew it would feel like returning to work she’d done for so long, but in a new role. She said The House has the same struggles Big Brothers Big Sisters does, in the sense that while they are widely known, they aren’t known well.

“I think there are misperceptions about what the programs are and what they aren’t, and I would like to hopefully bring my skills and my knowledge to help uncover that for the general wider public,” said Parent. “I would like to help Amherstburg to see the hidden gem they have here in The House and maybe reveal some of the success stories, have tours and having people come through and understand what we do here, would be something that I will be very much focusing on in the next year or two because to have the community embrace this program a little more than they do I think would be a fantastic goal for us, both financially and for volunteering, we need money and people, and any kinds of support.”

Laframboise and Vander Vaart are both very excited to be working with someone who is as passionate about the program at The House as they are, after all, that’s how they’ve been able to thrive for 45 years.

“We were incredibly excited,” said Laframboise. “We took to Becky when she was the interim director so we were secretly pulling for her to get the position because I think her education and her history is just so in line with what we do and what we’re hoping for the center because we obviously do good work and we’ve done it for over 40 years, and I think she’s going to help us and support us in opening up that much more to the community and helping our youth in ways that we never could before.”

Parent is aiming to spend at least one day a week at The House, working out of the building because, as she puts it, if you’re going to talk the talk, you also need to walk the walk and that is exactly what she intends on doing.

The House planning reunion for members, staff from the 1970’s

 

 

By Danica Skakavac

The House has become a place of bonding and making memories over the long years it’s been around.

To celebrate, this year The House will host a reunion Sept. 23 for those who were a part of it in the 1970’s. This event will include a barbecue and picnic, as well as attractions that will remind the visitors of life back in the 70’s. These attractions consist of music that was popular during the time and old photos, which co-op students working at The House are digitizing so they can be properly displayed.

The House has been around since 1971, so the reunion is the first of many to come, even though smaller groups themselves had held their own reunions over the years. Should this very first reunion work out, more reunions will be held annually for the next five years and in 2021, it will have it’s 50th anniversary reunion. The point of it all is to focus on memories made during that time and recreating new ones.

70's Reunion

“Everyone is very excited and we have a lot of people interested and planning on attending,” said Rebecca Vandervaart, who is currently in charge of The House.

There has been a lot of involvement and positive responses since the announcement of the reunion.

“We’ve already gotten 40-50 RSVP’s,” said Vandervaart. “Lots of people who have moved far away since then are very interested.” Anyone who had any kind of involvement, such as volunteering or staff work and had connections are welcome to come.

The program itself hasn’t changed much since then, as it is still incredibly similar. Even the name, now changed to just ‘The House’, reflects its atmosphere, being a heart-warming, open place to everyone and now ready to welcome back those who first stepped through it’s doors.

The House is located at 247 Brock St. and their phone number is 519-736-6811. For more information, visit http://houseofshalom.ca/events/.

House of Shalom gets $10,000 from Libro’s “Prosperity Fund” for window replacement

 

By Ron Giofu and Aaron Wharram

 

Libro Credit Union donated over $500,000 through its “Prosperity Fund” last Wednesday with the House of Shalom Youth Centre getting $10,000 of it.

The fund is shared through 31 organizations in all of the communities that Libro operates in with the House using its $10,000 for upgrades to the building.

Program director Holly Kirk McLean said the House is looking to expand its programming and the age of the building is preventing them from doing that. Old windows on the second floor means that level either experiences temperature extremes depending on season.

“The heat can be too hot on the second floor during the summer, and too frigid during the winter,” said McLean.

Libro Credit Union gave a $10,000 to the House youth centre Oct. 21 as part of its "Prosperity Fund" donations. From left: Libro committee chair Kelly Mayzik, House activities director Rebecca Vander Vaart, Libro branch manager Cathy Thomas, House program director Holly Kirk McLean, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Libro's Cathy Menard and Wassim Sarweh.

Libro Credit Union gave a $10,000 to the House youth centre Oct. 21 as part of its “Prosperity Fund” donations. From left: Libro committee chair Kelly Mayzik, House activities director Rebecca Vander Vaart, Libro branch manager Cathy Thomas, House program director Holly Kirk McLean, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Libro’s Cathy Menard and Wassim Sarweh.

Replacement of the windows won’t take place likely until April or May next year but once it is completed, McLean stressed that it will allow them to be able to use the building fully.

Activities director Rebecca Vander Vaart said the condition of the second floor windows also prevents the House from working with outside agencies to the capacity they can.

“The upstairs features our game room and computer lab,” said Vander Vaart. “Those are pretty big assets we can’t use in our winter months.”

Both McLean and Vander Vaart were thankful that Libro for the grant and for the fact there was another outlet for funding.

“We are very grateful to Libro for doing this,” said McLean.

Libro Credit Union president and CEO Steve Bolton said they are aiming to increase prosperity in the area.

“Libro exists to grow prosperity in southwestern Ontario by transforming banking, and the Prosperity Fund is just one of the ways we support that,” Bolton said in a press release. “We are very excited by the diverse number of projects who received grants this year. Growing prosperity is a collective effort, and we can accomplish so much more through collaboration and partnership.”

The Prosperity Fund invested in community groups and organziatons whose initiatives support entrepreneurship, financial knowledge and career skill development for young people.

“Local decision making is very important to Libro and our unique governance structure allows for that, reflecting the priorities of each community we passionately serve,” Bolton said. “Each branch has a council made up of owner representatives who are closely involved in the grant evaluation process and have a voice in the award selection.”

Rotary welcome new member, thank Rib Fest volunteers

Rotary Club of Amherstburg President Lena Lazanja and President-Elect Laura Jurilj welcome Dr. Allan Halowski as the newest member of the Rotary Club on Oct. 7. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

Rotary Club of Amherstburg President Lena Lazanja and President-Elect Laura Jurilj welcome Dr. Allan Halowski as the newest member of the Rotary Club on Oct. 7. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

 

 

By Adam D’Andrea

 

It was a busy night for the Rotary Club of Amherstburg last Wednesday, as the organization met to thank volunteers for the 2015 Rib Fest and induct a brand new member.

A cheque for $750 was presented to the House of Shalom Youth Centre during the meeting for their volunteer efforts at the Rib Fest, which consisted of selling raffle tickets and performing other tasks throughout the weekend. The Rotary Club committed to donating the funds from liquor returns to the House as a show of gratitude for their help.

“They did help a tremendous amount throughout the whole weekend,” said Rotary President Lena Lazanja. “Anybody in the community who’s been to other events knows that the House is always a presence at events and helps out as much as they can.”

Lazanja went on to thank the remainder of the volunteers who helped make this year’s Rib Fest possible, saying that if it wasn’t for the committed and dedicated group of people she works with her job would be much more difficult.

“Everyone here’s been involved in Rib Fest, some of you since its inception. So you all realize how much work goes into not just the planning but the actual days of implementing it and then the follow up afterward,” said Lazanja.

Following the cheque presentation Rotary proceeded to welcome their newest member, Dr. Allan Halowski. Along with his wife Donna, Halowski has lived in Amherstburg for around one year and has served with a number of chiropractic associations and societies. Since moving to town Halowski said he has been impressed by Amherstburg’s beauty and the number of events that are held here.

Rotary Club of Amherstburg president Lena Lazanja (right) presents a cheque for $750 to House of Shalom Youth Centre member Rebecca Vander Vaart on Oct. 7. The Rotary Club donated the funds from the liquor returns from this year’s Rib Fest to the House as a show of appreciation for their volunteer efforts throughout the weekend. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

Rotary Club of Amherstburg president Lena Lazanja (right) presents a cheque for $750 to House of Shalom Youth Centre member Rebecca Vander Vaart on Oct. 7. The Rotary Club donated the funds from the liquor returns from this year’s Rib Fest to the House as a show of appreciation for their volunteer efforts throughout the weekend. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

“These things don’t just magically happen. They happen because hundreds of people tithe their time to give back to this community,” Halowski said. “By these individuals doing that, things happen and it’s these things that happen that make this a great community to live in.”

In addition to the Rotary Club, Halowski has also joined the Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society and the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce to give back to the community and ensure it can continue to be a beautiful, safe and fun place to call home.

“Amherstburg will be our home for a long time and I would like it to continue to be a special place, so I hope that by supporting it and encouraging others to do likewise that it will be.”

For more information about the Rotary Club of Amherstburg, visit www.amherstburgrotary.com.