By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Standing outside the newly reinforced back door of the Morinville Youth Centre, youth worker A.D. Richardson strikes a determined pose for the camera. But inside both Richardson and the recently reopened youth centre is a greater determination that the recent break-in and theft is not going to deter the plans to have a safe place for youth to meet in Morinville.
The back door of the youth centre was broken into sometime between Mar. 23 and Mar. 26 and a Wii video game console and a number of video games were stolen from the facility. The scofflaws even left a note behind to boast of their deed.
Though initially disheartened, Richardson and the youth who are enjoying the facility are pressing on with the work at hand, including disproving youth stereotypes. “I think my main concern is the community will automatically paint all youth with the same brush as this one small group,” Richardson said of those who broke into the facility. “We don’t know if it was youth that broke in or not, but it probably was. I’m just worried they’re going to stereotype all kids and believe if we give youth money or we give youth programming money, it’ll be a waste, that it’ll all be ruined, that they won’t appreciate it. That’s not true.”
Richardson said there are many youth in the community that appreciate and enjoy what is being done for them, but there is concern the recent break-in could ruin it for them. The youth worker isn’t prepared to allow that to happen nor are the youth working with her.
“We lost a Wii and some games, but really it’s just a chance for us to persevere,” she said. “You can go there. You can break in. You can take everything in there. They are monetary things. But you can’t take away the passion and the drive these kids have to have a youth centre [and] to have youth programming.”
But some of that programming had to be altered. Plans for a video game night during spring break had to be switched to other more traditional games after the beak-in deprived the centre of the necessary equipment.
The equipment will be replaced. This weekend’s Rend rock concert at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre is a fund raiser for youth programming in the community. Originally 50 per cent of the profits were to go to youth programming, but all profits from ticket sales will now be given to the cause.
Richardson is positive youth who are enjoying the programming and community members who see value in the same will continue to support the initiatives being done in Morinville.
She wants the community to know those supporting the youth centre need not worry about further break-ins. “We have looked at the facility and rebuilt the door,” Richardson said, noting Morinville Public Works employees spent time Monday installing a reinforced system to guard against further break-ins. “There’s no way they’re going to get in there.”
Richardson is hoping to see numbers increasing at the youth centre now that is open again after being closed for some time. “I think kids are really talking about it, especially with all the programing we’ve been doing and how positively that’s been going,” she said, noting 15 area youth went to the West Edmonton Mall water park Mar. 26. “I think it shows them that the community is trying and that our department is trying to give them something to use. I’m hoping after the spring break programing the youth centre is something the kids will say needs to be open.”
Richardson is hoping to have the facility open two or three nights a week this fall as a safe space for youth to go. “That’s what it is,” she said. “A youth centre is a non-judgemental space. It’s just a safe space where you can be who you want to be and say what you want to say, and you feel safe.”