John Howard Society of Durham Region
Mission: To reduce the impact of crime and its causes by providing a spectrum of effective prevention and intervention programs.
Main office: 905-579-8482, 75 Richmond Street West, Oshawa, Ontario, L1G 1E3

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Firehouse Youth Centre Offers Fun for Hundreds of Kids:

Dec 19, 2005
By Julie Cashin-Oster, Special to The Statesman

BOWMANVILLE -- It can be tough being a teen in a small town. Often there is little to do. Sure, Clarington has movie theatres, arcades and recreational facilities -- but that can get expensive and for some kids they are not an option.

Boredom often leads to mischief but there is an answer in Bowmanville. The Firehouse Youth Centre (FYC), located at 132 Church St., has a lot going on to relieve boredom and it doesn't cost a cent.

In operation since February 1998, the FYC is a non-profit drop-in centre administered by the John Howard Society of Durham Region and overseen by the Clarington Youth Advisory Committee. The centre is open to all youth in Clarington providing a safe alternative to hanging out on downtown streets.

Recognizing the need to address issues surrounding young people, the Municipality of Clarington helped to establish the centre. After a few years, it became evident that similar services were needed in other areas of Clarington.

A group of people from various areas and sectors of the community formed the Clarington Youth Advisory Committee (CYAC) to identify the needs and oversee programming in communities within Clarington.

The operation of the FYC and all of its services is dependent upon funding from the Municipality of Clarington, funding foundations, community service clubs, private donations and fundraising done by the youth and adult volunteers.

"Ontario Power Generation sponsors our Christmas Party and Bowmanville Rotary funds the Bowmanville Youth of the Year Award. Local businesses are wonderful -- we get lots of prizes donated and a lot of sponsorships," said David Smith, coordinator, Firehouse Youth Centre.

"We have 387 members registered -- 105 new this year. Typically the age group is 12-16, but we do have young people aged 18-20 who come back," said Mr. Smith.

Once he or she becomes a member, a young person is free to participate in adult-supervised activities such as foosball, basketball, video games, ball hockey, weight-lifting, board games, computer lab, youth-focused workshops, dances, concerts, karaoke, youth committee and fundraisers as well as summer programming and outings.

"We (The Firehouse) facilitate the recreation program and the John Howard Society administers 1-1 counselling and housing program. Firehouse staff will direct youth to the appropriate support," said Mr. Smith.

Funding from the Community Foundation of Durham Region has provided the Firehouse with a community grant enabling it to continue to run a Girls' (only) Club and to implement a Boys' (only) Club.

The 6-week Girls' Club program has run in the past for girls aged 11-13. The program is adult-supervised in a safe environment that gives the opportunity for young girls to keep off the streets and meet new people. The program consists of such activities as; painting wooden plant pots, planting seeds, baking, tie-dying cushion covers, sewing, soap carving, egg decorating for Easter, designing cards, jewelry making and movie night.

As part of the Northumberland Food 4-All program youth at the centre have access to food while they are here and they can also take it with them.

"We pick it up and the kids come in and prepare -- with staff assistance. What we don't have in place is an actual meal-preparation night -- we would like to implement the life-skills portion to this program," said Mr. Smith. "We would like a person or group to come in and teach the kids about nutrition and meal preparation."

"The centre is open Monday to Thursday from 4 tp 7 p.m. with special events held on Friday evening," said Mr. Smith. "Monthly tournaments are held -- basketball, ball hockey, foosball, kids can join in any or all nights. Teams play for the month and the winning team gets a prize."

If sports aren't your thing a computer lab -- equipped with high speed Internet, is available to registered youth. Staff is on hand to assist with job search, resume design and writing.

In the spring an art show/contest is held and the winners are displayed in the town hall. During June through August the Firehouse offers a special summer program taking kids on trips to Canada's Wonderland, MuchMusic, and Cedar Park -- as well as hold special sport days.

Volunteers are an important part of the Firehouse Youth Centre -- from supervising recreational activities -- to conducting workshops.

"Orientations of new volunteers are one-to-one and can be anytime, " said Derrick McKay, volunteer co-ordinator.

There is a volunteer application form on the Firehouse website or you can visit and search for opportunities under John Howard Society-Firehouse Youth Centre.

"There are also lots of volunteer opportunities for high school students who need community service hours," said Mr. McKay.

As with so many non-profit volunteer organizations a huge deterrent for volunteers is the wait time for a police record check. "We lose interested volunteers because they don't want to wait the four months," said Mr. McKay.

The Firehouse shares space with The Clarington Project, an initiative of Community Living Oshawa/Clarington, which supports people with intellectual disabilities.

All donations are greatly appreciated. Whether new or used -- items or monetary, below is a wish list. A charity tax receipt can be issued.

Music and Electronics

- Stereo Amplifier/Tuner

- DVD/CD Machine (to be used on movie night and for karaoke)

- (DJ) Mixing Board (Youth DJ Dances)

- (DJ) Dual CD Player (Youth DJ Dances)

- CD Burner (assist with Youth DJ Dances)

- VCR/Video Camera (to be used for presentations/promotion)

- Lap Top Computer

- TV Satellite System

- Digital Camera (to be used for promotion/media/photo album)

- American DJ Snap Shot Strobe Lights (light system for dances/concerts)

- Nintendo 64 Games (assorted)

- Various CD's, music videos, VCD karaoke CDs or teen magazines

- Portable Radio/Ghetto Blaster (Outdoor Events/Summer Programming)


- Portable or Moveable Coat Racks (youth coat check needed)

- Slate Pool Tables

- Basketballs

- Foldable Canopy tent (needed for outdoor fundraising)

- Coolers and water/juice jugs (to be used for fundraising and summer programming)

- "Thermos" Portable BBQ/Grill or Propane BBQ (To be used for fundraising and summer programming)

- Van or Mini-bus to transport youth during outings, fundraising events and summer programming

If you think you can help The Firehouse Youth Centre in anyway call them at 905-623-6814 or you can visit them at