Rebecca Vander Vaart

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.”

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.

Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society presents 32nd annual Garden Tour June 16-17


By Jolene Perron


The Amherstburg Horticultural Society, in cooperation with The House Youth Centre and the Town of Amherstburg, will host the 32nd Annual Garden Tour June 16-17.

Aligning with National Garden Days, this self-guided tour features 12 private gardens paired with artisans & musicians for a beautiful weekend in the ‘Burg!

“In a world of turmoil and hustle, getting lost in the beauty of Amherstburg is like a breath of fresh air.” adds Dr. Allan Halowski, president of the Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society.

(Photo by Danica Skakavac)

(Photo by Danica Skakavac)

Halowski said one of his goals since he became president of the AFMHS was to encourage young people to become involved in the society. The hope is that “it might spark interest with the youth and help them develop some new skill sets. Secondly many of our projects for the town of Amherstburg require man power and the youth again have the numbers. We also want to help the youth centre and that is why a percentage of the ticket sales will go directly to the House.”
Halowski added: “This will be our 32nd Garden Tour and it really is a testament to the pride the citizens of Amherstburg take in keeping their yards a most beautiful environment but then to share their masterpieces with all who would like to come and see.”
There were approximately 350 participants to the tour last year, he added.

“It would be great to have 450 plus go through the tour this year,” he said. “You may be aware that the money we raise goes back into the community. Last year, we contributed $3,500 to the town’s hanging basket program.”

AFMHS vice president Paulette Drouillard has scoured the community and convinced ten citizens to display their yards. Many of the homes will also have people who have related items for sale.

“Also, we will have a master gardener on the tour to answer questions for those wishing council or advice,” said Halowski.

(Photo by Danica Skakavac)

(Photo by Danica Skakavac)

“The Garden Tour is a well-respected event in our region, and our youth are honored and excited to help out”, says Rebecca Vander Vaart, activities co-ordinator at The House Youth Centre. “Here at The House, we put a huge emphasis on community involvement, and our students are on board anytime they get to work with another community group or event. The Garden Tour is such a respected event in Amherstburg, and our youth are honoured and excited to help out.”

Manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota said “garden tourism is alive and well in Amherstburg” and that the public gardens are worth a visit during the Garden Tour or during the summer.

“The Garden Tour is one of our premier events for the Town of Amherstburg. It draws visitors from all over Essex County but more importantly, the pride in the personal gardens and the beautiful beds that the Town of Amherstburg parks staff prepare for the tour are spectacular,” said Rota. “We are blessed with amazing temperatures in Amherstburg and our community is a garden of Eden for all to enjoy! We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated committee to coordinate the tour!”

The tour hours on June 16 are 4 p.m.-8 p.m. and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. June 17. Tickets $12 per person with pre-sales at the Gordon House, 268 Dalhousie St.. Tickets will also be available on tour days at Toddy Jones Park.


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

The House, Sobeys teaming up on “The Great Grocery Giveaway”


By Ron Giofu


The House is teaming with Sobeys on a fundraiser to help the local youth centre.

“The Great Grocery Giveaway” gets underway this weekend (Sept. 24-25) with customers at the Amherstburg Sobeys location eligible to purchase tickets for the draw, which sees the winner receive free groceries for an entire year.

The value of the prize is $5,200 worth of groceries.

Wes Thrasher, a board member at the House, said they approached franchise owner Rennie Rota and assistant store manager Chris Boufford about doing a shopping spree.

“Rennie brought forth the idea he used with the Miracle League where they raffled off a year’s worth of groceries,” said Thrasher.

The House youth centre and Sobeys are presenting "The Great Grocery Giveaway." The winner will be announced Nov. 19 at the municipal tree lighting ceremony. From left: House board member Wes Thrasher, Sobeys assistant store manager Chris Boufford, House activities co-ordinator Rebecca Vander Vaart.

The House youth centre and Sobeys are presenting “The Great Grocery Giveaway.” From left: House board member Wes Thrasher, Sobeys assistant store manager Chris Boufford, House activities co-ordinator Rebecca Vander Vaart.

People can purchase one ticket for $5 or three tickets for $10. A portion of the proceeds will help offset costs of running and maintaining the historic building the youth centre operates out of.

“We operate on a very thin budget,” said Thrasher. “It’s a very historic building.”

“We’re looking at expanding our programming,” added activities co-ordinator Rebecca Vander Vaart.

Vander Vaart said The House is looking at doing more programs where parents and teens are involved.

“All of those have costs associated with them as well,” said Vander Vaart.

The fundraising target is $15,000.

“We have 4,000 tickets and we want to sell all 4,000,” said Vander Vaart.

Ticket sales opened last weekend and will continue through Nov. 11.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to give back to the community. It goes along with what Sobeys stands for,” said Boufford. “We want to be involved with community projects as much as possible.”

Tickets will be sold Saturdays and Sundays at Sobeys from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.