House Youth Centre

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.


Holiday House Tours return to big crowds


By Ron Giofu


The fifth annual Holiday House Tours returned over the weekend with large crowds joining in.

The two-day event, presented by an eight-person committee, is the largest fundraiser for the River Lights Winter Festival. There were eight private homes on this year’s Holiday House Tours as well as the House Youth Centre, the latter being used as the tea room stop and as the weekend home of the Christmas tree dress exhibit.

Gail Disher looks at a Christmas tree dress at The House Youth Centre Saturday afternoon.

“The better this fundraiser does, the brighter River Lights gets,” said Sarah Van Grinsven, co-ordinator of the River Lights Winter Festival.

Van Grinsven said many groups of people went through, including people from as far as Toronto.

“Ticket sales are higher than last year,” she reported. “Everyone is absolutely impressed by the houses and the Christmas tree dress exhibit is a hit. Every house is unique.”

(UPDATE: Van Grinsven told the RTT Wednesday morning that the event drew approximately 800 visitors and was “incredibly successful.”)

The Christmas tree dress exhibit originated last year when similar dresses were displayed in homes. Van Grinsven explained that the committee and the designers decided to have a full display of eight dresses this year and have it as a standalone exhibit as part of the Holiday House Tours’ fifth anniversary celebration.

Those who took the tour were pleased with what they saw. Paige Bezaire was part of a group of friends including Chas Bondy, Jenny Mayea and Laura Micallef and came away impressed.

Paige Bezaire, Chas Bondy, Jenny Mayea and Laura Micallef admire one of the table settings during the Holiday House Tours.

“It’s very nice,” said Bezaire. “It’s our first year on the tour. It’s nice to see everyone’s take on it.”

“It’s nice to see the different themes,” agreed Micallef, with Mayea adding “no two houses are the same.”

Gail Disher came in from Kingsville and enjoyed the tour, including the Christmas tree exhibit.

“It’s beautiful. It’s fantastic,” she said, as she viewed the dresses. “It’s very well done.”

Disher said volunteers were “very friendly” and “we’re really enjoying it.”

Janice Wingrove and Lynne Boley came in from Chatham to view the houses. Wingrove joked she needed to “go home, have a rest then start working around my house” after viewing the Amherstburg homes. She said they took similar tours in Chatham-Kent but the age of some of the Amherstburg homes added to the tour.

“I liked this one because the homes are a little more historic,” she said.

Janice Wingrove and Lynne Boley of Chatham admire a mantlepiece at one of the Dalhousie St. homes.

Boley added that the decorations that go along with the homes were also impressive.

Gloria and Ernie Bondy opened their Dalhousie St. home for the tour and were glad they did.

“I can’t believe how many people have come through,” said Gloria.

Bondy said they, as well as those on the tour, enjoyed the decorations. She added they were asked several years ago if they were on the tour and at that point said no, but when the opportunity to join in came this year, they jumped at it.

“Santa’s Bedroom” was decorated at the Stoyanovich home on Concession 2 North.

“It’s fun,” said Gloria. “I like meeting people. I’m a people person.”

The homes were decorated by private citizens – including the homeowners themselves like Jill and Matt Stoyanovich on Concession 2 North – and businesses like Dusty Loft Antiques, Canadian Tire, Anna’s Flowers, Sobeys floral, Country Bliss and Elmara Flowers. Committee members included Van Grinsven, Monica Bunde, Elizabeth Davidson, Jennifer Ibrahim, Corine Jones, Carla Lauzon-Abson, Michelle Lecours, Anne Rota and Annette Zahaluk.

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.”

Art project shows literally and figuratively that “A’burg Rocks”



By Ron Giofu


The town’s tourism department, in co-operation with several local community groups, is trying to demonstrate both figuratively and literally that Amherstburg “rocks.”

Jen Ibrahim, the visitor centre manager, said the town undertook the project in conjunction with local resident Bruce Patterson with Patterson having brought it to the town’s attention.

“I just loved the idea and the time was right with the Canada 150 festival coming up,” said Ibrahim.

Amherstburg Community Services' (ACS) seniors group recently helped paint rocks for the "#AburgRocks" project.

Amherstburg Community Services’ (ACS) seniors group recently helped paint rocks for the “#AburgRocks” project. (Submitted photo)

The Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) senior group, Amherstburg Girl Guides, Boy Scouts and The House Youth Centre are just a few of the groups involved in this project, Ibrahim said. Over 100 colourfully painted rocks have been turned into the Gordon House with more being hoped for as the spring and summer seasons go on.

“It was truly inspiring to see people coming in with their rocks and how beautiful they are,” she said.

The public can look for the rocks and if they find them, they can re-hide them or even keep them. Rocks will be hidden in Navy Yard Park and other parks within Amherstburg.

Many of the rocks are painted with a Canada 150 theme but others got artistic in other ways. Ibrahim said the project has been undertaken within the last two months or so and people she has approached to help have just run with it.

“People who paint the rocks are giving for the sake of giving,” said Ibrahim. “The whole idea is that it is inspiring creativity and energizing people to explore our beautiful town.”

Over 100 painted rocks were turned into the Gordon House with the hope that even more residents will paint rocks and hide them in local parks. (Submitted photo)

Over 100 painted rocks were turned into the Gordon House with the hope that even more residents will paint rocks and hide them in local parks. (Submitted photo)

Ibrahim said the hope is that more people will paint rocks and hide them in order that the program becomes sustainable. People are also being encouraged to photograph the rocks they find and post them on social media with the hashtag #AburgROCKS.

“It is an opportunity to brighten someone’s day,” Ibrahim said of the #AburgROCKS program.

The initiative is for both residents and visitors alike, with it being “added value” for those who visit Amherstburg.

“I hope finding a rock is part of their unique experience of visiting Amherstburg,” said Ibrahim.

Patterson said he discovered the idea when visiting his sister-in-law in New Port Richie in Florida. He said a rock was spotted near a tree and later learned the initiative was started by a group of mothers. When he and his wife went to visit their son near Tampa, they discovered the initiative was started by people there as well.

Those at the House Youth Centre also participated in the "#AburgRocks" program. (Submitted photo)

Those at the House Youth Centre also participated in the “#AburgRocks” program. (Submitted photo)

“When I came home, I said ‘that would be a neat idea for Amherstburg,’” said Patterson.

Patterson believes families will enjoy looking for the rocks, with the hope being that if people choose to keep them, they will replace the painted rocks with some of their own.

“I think it would be fun seeing it in Amherstburg,” he said. “It’s a wonderful idea.”

Noting he has volunteered for other events like the River Lights Winter Festival and the Amherstburg Farmers Market, the retired teacher said he enjoys living in town and likes to give back. He believes Amherstburg has done a good job promoting itself in the last 15-20 years.

“Amherstburg is a fabulous town,” said Patterson. “I love it here and want to promote it.”