Ashley Marchand

House Youth Centre teams with Windsor-Essex Pride Fest on new program


By Jonathan Martin


The House Youth Centre has entered into a new partnership with Windsor-Essex Pride Fest.

The two non-profit organizations have announced plans to launch a new program for local LGBTQ+ youth.

The program, named LGBTQ Connect, will run out of the House on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.  Program co-creator Jolene Perron said it will use a peer-support structure, similar to the one the House employs for its other programming.

“(LGBTQ Connect) is going to be about positive affirmation and camaraderie, which is super important for the LGBTQ+ community,” Perron said.  “We don’t have a whole lot of organizations where you can go and talk about what’s on your mind or you can feel that sense of community in Amherstburg.”

House of Shalom Youth Centre and Windsor-Essex Pride Fest members sit together on the House’s back staircase. The two charities have joined forces to support local LGBTQ+ youth by starting a new program.

Windsor-Essex Pride Fest (WE Pride) president David Lenz said the lack of resources for LGBTQ persons in the county has been a major concern for his organization.  In January, WE Pride held a community consultation with Amherstburg Community Services, where Lenz and his colleagues listened to the concerns of county-based sexual minorities.  The general consensus of the evening was that LGBTQ+ persons living outside of the City of Windsor feel a sense of social isolation and lack opportunities for community-building.

LGBTQ Connect, Lenz hopes, will help address that issue.

“Why reinvent the wheel when you’ve got great people in the community already?” he said.  “We’ve partnered with the House to reach a demographic that we heard through online polls feels under-served.”

LGBTQ Connect is for youth aged 13-20, which expands upon the 14-18 age-range the House Youth Centre’s other programs serve.

Sam Major Bebbington stands in front of his partner, Jolene Perron. Major Bebbington is co-leading the LGBTQ Connect program, which the House Youth Centre and Windsor-Essex Pride Fest are collaborating on.

House Youth Centre activities coordinator Ashley Marchand said the program is “essential” for youth in Amherstburg.  She said the number of the House’s members who identify as LGBTQ+ have steadily increased over the past few years.  As the number of marginalized youth increases, Marchand believes their need for support does, too.

“One fifth of our youth identify as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community,” she said.  “The more we looked into programs that are being offered to them, the less we found unless they were able to drive to Windsor, which is often not a possibility for youths in this age bracket.”

The program is being funded by part of a $450 thousand trillium grant WE Pride received in support of its programming.

They money is going towards expanding WE Pride’s programming in multiple communities, Lenz said.  He added that his organization’s partnership with the House Youth Centre won’t be its last foray into Amherstburg.  He said that if local LGBTQ+ persons or allies have ideas for programming, they are welcome to contact WE Pride through their website at

The House Youth Centre can be reached through its website at or by calling 519-736-6811. The House is located at 247 Brock St., at the corner of Brock St. and Gore St.

House Youth Centre presents “Spa Day”



By Danica Skakavac


The House Youth Centre has held many different events over the years, including their annual Spa Day Fundraiser.

For the fifth year in a row, the House opened its doors to welcome anyone interested in a day filled with relaxation. The recent event was held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a $30 participation charge, which covered all three different spa services. A $10 walk-in fee was also offered, for those who wished to just shop the vendors and enjoy the food.

Besides some massages, the House offered an ice cream and coffee bar (food is catered by Coffee and Cream), live entertainment (performed by Will Hawksworth), free goodie bags and the chance to shop at vendors promoting local businesses.

The House Youth Centre recently presented their annual “Spa Day” fundraiser.

Additionally, those who attended had the chance to enter in a raffle and win many available prizes. The planning of the event began back in early January, with many hours from staff and volunteers put towards organizing it.

All the funds earned go towards the House of Shalom’s youth program, which is weekly peer mentoring, and will cover the operational cost of the program’s supplies and staffing fees.

“We’re hoping to just have a relaxing and pampering day,” says Ashley Marchand, activities co-ordinator at The House. “We really target towards daughters and moms, so we really push it as a Mother’s Day gift.”

Marchand went on to say that she hears a lot that mothers really just want that chance to relax and not have to do anything, which is what the Spa Day Fundraiser was really geared towards.

“The best part about volunteering is the respect they give us,” says Carrie Deslippe from Above and Beyond, one of the massage therapy clinics that took part.

With two other clinics giving their time to the event and countless other local businesses, the fifth annual Spa Day Fundraiser at the House Youth Centre was a success and will be anticipated for more years down the road.


House Youth Centre collaborates with Fort Malden for annual “Haunted Fort”



By Jolene Perron


Over the last three years, Fort Malden National Historic Site has worked with The House Youth Centre to provide haunting entertainment to members of the Amherstburg community.

“They approached us a few years ago asking if we would be interested in doing a haunted house,” explained Alex Dale, interpretation officer at Fort Malden Historic Site. “They had had a relationship with the Thistle Lodge for a few years and did a Haunted House at the actual House Youth Centre so we thought it would be natural to try it here and to try and do a Fort one.”

The annual Haunted Fort was put on in partnership with The House Youth Centre and Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada for the third year. Fort Malden worked throughout the week carving pumpkins and assembling hay bales throughout the grounds, while The House Youth Centre decorated the grounds and provided its volunteer members as actors and actresses. The organizations also worked together to come up with the storyline.

Since its’ first year at Fort Malden, the haunted house has grown and the organizations have found a great way to work together to come up with the scripts and storylines. Fort Malden worked throughout the week carving pumpkins and assembling hay bales throughout the grounds, while The House Youth Centre decorated the grounds and provided its volunteer members as actors and actresses.

This year’s Haunted Fort incorporated a lot more historical accuracy according to Ashley Marchand, activities coordinator for The House Youth Centre.

The annual Haunted Fort was put on in partnership with The House Youth Centre and Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada for the third year. Fort Malden worked throughout the week carving pumpkins and assembling hay bales throughout the grounds, while The House Youth Centre decorated the grounds and provided its volunteer members as actors and actresses. The organizations also worked together to come up with the storyline.

“We did some brainstorming sessions with the members and some leaders,” said Marchand. “We came up with a rough idea of a script and The Fort helped to vamp it up, fill in the story blanks and add some historical information to it. We talked about identifying the names the places, the barracks, the latrines, the cookhouse, we have soldiers on site firing shots, we refer more to the ditches, the trenches that were dug out for that, however we have started to drift a little bit more away from the haunted fort storyline and this year we are focusing more on the families of the soldiers.”

Thanks to Fort Malden National Historic Site and The House Youth Centre, a spooky time was had by all of those who attended last week’s “Haunted Fort.”

The House Youth Centre and Fort Malden National Historic Site would like to thank everyone who came out to participate in their annual Haunted Fort, which wrapped up Monday night.

Fort Malden NHS bringing evening programs to the grounds

By Jolene Perron


“Parks Canada places are gateways to adventure and discovery and Fort Malden is no exception.”

Corrine Ross, site manager at Fort Malden NHS, along with her staff are excited for their October events.

First, they will be offering a Candlelit Tour this Saturday from 6-9 p.m. The tour has a fee of $4.90, and allows visitors to explore the grounds and historic buildings, while listening to lesser-known stories about the site’s history.

“This is a unique opportunity to visit Fort Malden in the crisp fall air with the last glow of the sunset fading over the Detroit River,” said Ross. “Developing new and innovative programs allows more Canadians, including youth and newcomers to Canada, to experience our sites and learn about our history in fun and interactive ways. By building these connections, we can create a community of stewards, people who know and care about these irreplaceable treasures.”

Five days later will be the Haunted Fort tours, put on in partnership with The House Youth Centre. The tours run from Oct. 26-29 from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Oct. 30 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“Visitors will encounter horrifying scenes in the historic buildings as they are guided to each vignette,” said Ross. “We recommend that you leave your little ones at home for this event.”

Fort Malden and The House Youth Centre are once again teaming up for the Haunted Fort Tours later this month (RTT File Photo)

This is the third year The House is assisting in running the tours. Initially, The House ran a haunted house in their basement until Fort Malden presented an opportunity to collaborate. The House is responsible for developing the storylines, decorating and acting in the tours.

Marchand said The House youth have spent a lot of time planning and rehearsing for the Haunted House tours.

“This year’s Haunted Fort will have a slightly different storyline than previous years with some new scenes to keep our guests on their toes,” explained Ashley Marchand, activities coordinator at The House. “My hopes for the Haunted House this year are to provide a fun experience for the members while raising funds for The House. We are also hoping to reach out to people outside of Amherstburg as well.”

Admission for the tour is $9.80 per person with a portion of the proceeds benefiting The House. Tours last about 15 minutes. Tickets must be reserved in advance by calling 519-736-5416.

House Youth Centre welcomes new activities coordinator



By Jolene Perron


Amherstburg is welcoming Chatham-Kent native Ashley Marchand as the new activities coordinator for The House Youth Centre, while bidding farewell to Vander Vaart who has been with the center in that same position for six years.

In August, Vander Vaart left her position on staff to pursue a degree in counseling and psychology. She had the opportunity to work closely with Marchand during Vander Vaart’s final few weeks, and said she is very excited to see how she takes on the new position and makes it her own.

“As hard as it was for me to leave, it was made easier knowing that The House is in very capable hands,” said Vander Vaart. “Leaving my position at The House was really tough. Although I’ve been on staff for six years, I’ve been a part of the program in different capacities for 14 years; it’s a second home to me. However, part of the mentoring program at The House involved shaping youth to be leaders in their community, learning how to take the skills and talents that we’re all give and use them to effect positive change. For me, this means pursing a career in counselling.”

Marchand originally moved to Windsor-Essex in September 2011 to attend St. Clair College, which she graduated from in June 2014 with a three year advanced child and youth worker diploma. Upon her graduation, she obtained a job as a youth program facilitator at the Windsor Youth Centre where she was employed for three years.

Ashley Marchand began a position on staff at The House Youth Centre mid-August. She is the new activities coordinator, and while she was not able to participate in the program as a youth, she said she was drawn to the organization’s sense of community.

Just before she took the position at The House Youth Centre, she was also employed as a school-based mentoring coordinator at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windsor-Essex. She said it was through both of those positions, which she gained a great deal of experience working with youth as well as volunteer management, making her an ideal candidate for the position with The House Youth Centre.
“As the new activities coordinator, I am most looking forward to engaging in different activities and events with the youth both at The House and in the community,” said Marchand. “The most exciting part of any job is getting to see the impact your work has and for me, getting to observe the youth having fun, building friendships and giving back to their community is a very rewarding experience.”

She continued to explain she never attended The House as a youth, but felt drawn to it by its sense of community. While everyone has nerves settling into a new position, she said everyone she’s encountered so far at The House has been welcoming and helpful.

“As I am still settling into the role, I have no plans for change at this time, but that does not mean change will not occur,” said Marchand. “I think a lot of things will remain similar, but as I find what works best for me and I become more familiar with The House and its members, things may start to look a little different. I am really excited to be taking on this role and am looking forward to what lies ahead.”