An overall funding request of $40,000 was made to support local youth organizations for this year.
Representatives of the Wolf Creek Youth Foundation, an umbrella organization that oversees the operations of the Ponoka Youth Centre as well as the Boys and Girls clubs plus Big Brothers Big Sisters groups in both Rimbey and Ponoka, made a presentation at Ponoka County council’s March 10 meeting for its annual request.
Executive director Beth Reitz explained the funds will continue to support the programming and operations of the four groups.
“We have not changed out programs or how we run,” she said.
As far as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Reitz noted the number of youth in the program increased five per cent in 2019 compared to the previous year — with 100 in Ponoka and 34 in Rimbey.
“To increase these numbers would mean more money to hire more staff and that’s just not going to happen right now,” she said.
“We could match more youth (with mentors), as we have large wait lists. As well, the number of rural youth last year increased five per cent in both communities.”
That said, the program is seeing positive results with a recent survey showing more than 90 per cent of youth participants showed improved self-esteem, self-confidence, social skills, personal relations, willingness to try new things and feeling connected.
Regarding Ponoka’s Boys and Girls Club and the Youth Centre, usage continues to climb as visits increased by nearly 2,700 to just over 24,100 in 2019 — a jump of 12 per cent from 2018.
In Rimbey, visits jumped by about 40 per cent in 2019 to 1,909 from 1,354 in 2018, due to having a smaller but permanent facility according to Reitz.
“One quarter of youth involved in our programs are from Ponoka County and the needs of kids are increasing,” she said, adding all of the programs served 860 kids in both communities.
Council also got to hear from some students and adult mentors involved in the various programs who spoke about how positive their experiences have been as well as what impact it has had on them and why these programs are so important.
Reeve Paul McLauchlin echoed the sentiments of the rest of council about how they feel about these programs.
“These programs are often the best way to deal with problems like crime and mental health in youth,” he said.
“We need more programs like these. And, a conversation that needs to be had with both towns is, that this is part of our community and they need to show some support for something that is a benefit to their community.”
Council will discuss the request when it sits down March 20 to hammer out its 2020 operational budget.