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Carleton Place Youth Centre forced to reduce hours due to funding crisis

Carleton Place Youth Centre coordinator Sharon Ruth. – Emma Kinsman photo

Walking into the Carleton Place Youth Centre (CPYC) and seeing the bright paint colours, comfortable furniture and big smile on Coordinator Sharon Ruth’s face is like being welcomed into the home of an old friend. It’s no wonder our local youth feel drawn to the centre. However, recent financial challenges have forced the centre to make the difficult decision of reducing its operating hours, leaving the community grappling with the impact.

Since assuming her role as coordinator in March 2023, Sharon Ruth quickly realized the financial strain looming over CPYC. With no substantial grants on the horizon and only modest donations trickling in, she realized by Christmas the centre would be struggling to operate as usual.

Previously, CPYC was able to offer “critical care hours” Monday to Friday from 2:30 to 5 p.m. and structured programming from 5 to 7 p.m., including cooking classes, exercise programs, hobby nights, and a young leaders program. Now, they will be open two days a week from 2 to 6 p.m. with no structured programming.

“Who suffers if we are taken away? First, it’s the kids, then it’s the community as a whole,” Ruth mused.

In 2023, the centre experienced a surge in popularity, with 4,000 visits compared to 1,600 in 2022. Volunteer numbers also doubled. However, rising program costs, increased minimum wage, the need for more staffing, and a threefold jump in insurance expenses forced the board of directors to make this tough decision.

“It was terrible timing,” Ruth explained, describing how everything came to a halt as the centre gained momentum. “We had to put the brakes on,” she said, emphasizing that this is just a pause, not a closure.

Carleton Place town councillor Sarah Cavanagh, a board member at CPYC, acknowledged the tough economic climate that many nonprofits are facing. The decision to reduce operating hours is a strategic move to allow time for additional funding applications and the development of sustainable programming.

“The goal, as always, is to provide a safe space for the children and youth of the community not just for a month or two or twelve, but for many years to come,” Councillor Cavanagh highlighted.

Despite the challenges, Ruth sees a positive aspect. “Everything happens for a reason. It’s brought out the best in the community,” she noted, emphasizing increased awareness and donations from local residents. She proudly showed off an envelope scrawled with “Happy Birthday”; birthday money donated by one of the centre’s volunteers. “I’m not discouraged but encouraged by the community support we’ve received – we will open again.”

As CPYC navigates this challenging period, they are calling on the community for support. Whether through joining the fundraising committee, becoming a corporate sponsor, or donating, every contribution counts toward the centre’s reopening at full capacity. For those interested in supporting this vital organization, details for donations can be found on their website or by reaching out to them directly.

In Ruth’s words, “We’re coming back, and we’re going to be new and improved.”

The hope is that with the collective efforts of staff, the board of directors, the community, and local businesses, CPYC will soon reopen its doors to provide a safe and supportive space for local youth.

Support the Carleton Place Youth Centre. Visit CPYC’s website for donation details or visit Canada Helps to donate now. For more information, to get involved or become a corporate sponsor, reach out to CPYC directly at cpyouthcenter@gmail.com or 613-257-8901.

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