A real milestone for the younger generation of Ponoka Town and County came in 2000 when two energetic Practicum students from Neighbourhood Place surveyed the needs of our local youths and initiated the early stages and plans of setting up a non-profit organization to work with boys and girls from the Kindergarten set to teenagers. Their dreams and efforts along with keen support from many others in and around the community became an exciting reality in September 2001 when the Ponoka Youth Centre was incorporated and a local Board was formed to lead the way.
Their exciting vision vowed to promote and create the empowering of youth, powerful relationships, positive programming, productive partnerships, and endless potential. The initial Youth Club events in 2002 included four after school program sessions for youngsters 7 to 12 years old, but with interest growing rapidly from families in and around the community, the Board reached out later to offer new programs for teens. A Community Information Night was organized, a new Youth Club Board was formed, and the Town of Ponoka offered the upstairs room at the Arena Complex for extended programming. Curtis Huchkowski was hired as the first Program Co-ordinator, then later the Board decided to split the job into two positions, with Beth Reitz hired as the first Executive Director in January 2003 along with a Program Co-ordinator.
A new summer program, which provided many fun sports events and field trips throughout Central Alberta, was developed in 2003, and the local staff offices were moved in with Ponoka Family and Community Support Services at 500-52nd Avenue. In the fall of the same year the former Ponoka Herald building at 5006-50th street was rented and delightfully renovated to host a Teen Drop-In Centre, which opened on December 13, 2003. Other exciting, popular, and very useful programs and unique experiences for our youth on the fast growing Ponoka Youth Centre agenda included: Practicum placement and work experience, mentorship and assistance to help raise academic grades, on sight counselling, School’s Day Out events, the Leadership and Torch and Keystone Clubs, sessions for the kindergarten set, the Face-Off Sports event, Youth Justice Committee, Lunch Drop-In, All Shook Up, Fuzion, and on and on.
As yearly attendance and programs zoomed at the Ponoka Youth Centre a new home was desperately required, and that would become an exciting reality in 2006 when a ten year lease for a dollar a year was signed with the Wolf Creek Public School Division to move into the spacious former Grade one building at #4-5004-54 Street. Along the way the Ponoka Youth Centre became provisional members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada were declared as a Accredited Child Care Program and had several of their programs become Government Licensed Child Care programs. They also kindly assisted the Rimbey F.C.S.A. to start a Boys and Girls Club in their community, which started as a satellite location in 2014. The PYC Agency won a Provincial Crime Prevention Award in 2013 as well as the 2015 Ponoka Chamber Of Commerce Award for the Non-Profit organization of the year.
Extending an invitation to everyone to join in on the 15th Anniversary of the Ponoka Youth Centre on Friday-September 16th from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Beth Reitz, Executive Director of the Ponoka Youth Centre/Boys and Girls Clubs of Wolf Creek proudly expressed her appreciation to everyone involved over the years and into the future. ‘It has been a honor for me to work at the Ponoka Youth Centre for the past 15 years. The staff, volunteers, and board of the agency have been hard working, committed, and passionate individuals who have cared deeply about the youth in our community. The community, as a whole has been outstanding in their unwavering support of the Ponoka Youth Centre. Due to all of the great people who been a part of building this agency, we have grown from one program to 15, from two staff to 12, and from 356 visits in our first year to 20, 356 last year and a total of 113,081 in our first 15 years. We will continue to move in the direction of providing a safe, caring, and supportive place where youth are given opportunities to grow and thrive.” For more information on the many programs and events please drop in, Phone 403-783-3112, or contact www.PonokaYouthCentre.com.