Choices Youth Shelter Recognized for Support of Youth in Rural Communities
On September 6, 2012, Choices Youth Shelter was recognized by the Atkinson Charitable Foundation with the 2012 Ruth Atkinson Hindmarsh Award, worth $50,000, for its commitment to serving disadvantaged youth in rural communities.
Located in Orangeville, Choices Youth Shelter is the only emergency shelter for homeless and at-risk youth in Dufferin County.
“Until Choices Youth Shelter opened in 2000, these troubled youth had nowhere to go,” explained MaryVervoort, Executive Director of Choices Youth Shelter. “With few services available in rural communities for their specific needs, young people would often end up on the streets of Toronto or sometimes in jail.”
Over the past twelve years, Choices Youth Shelter has become the lead agency assisting youth in the county and surrounding area. Each year, this modest organization provides shelter, food, clothing, and other services for over 300 young people between the ages of 16 and 24.
“Mary and her team have created a unique environment where they can assess and support the diverse needs of every young person who comes through their doors,” said Emily Mathieu, chair of the selection committee and boardmember of the Atkinson Charitable Foundation. “The entire committee is so pleased to support an organization that provides such innovative and essential services for youth in a place that feels less like a shelter and more like a home.”
Some of the services offered include grief counselling, legal support, community referrals, life skills training, and art therapy. The award will be used to continue these existing services, as well as to develop community outreach programs designed to prevent youth from requiring emergency shelter in the first place.
“Ultimately, the mission of Choices Youth Shelter is to eliminate the need for its services,” said Ms.Vervoort. “Unfortunately, until that day, there is plenty of work to be done. We are very grateful to receive this award, as the pressing needs of rural youth often go unnoticed.”
The Award is presented annually in memory of Ruth Atkinson Hindmarsh, daughter of Joseph E. Atkinson and president of the Atkinson Charitable Foundation untilher death in 1994. Established in 1998 to improve the lives of disadvantaged children, the $50,000 award is the largest of its kind in Canada.