VERNON - A former Lutheran Church destined for demolition is instead being reinvented as a residential facility for youth.
Dean Francks, with the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society, says the youth program is currently housed in the old pastor's house next to the church. Both buildings were beginning to show their age and the plan was to tear down the church and start fresh.
“Halfway through the process we realized the bones of the (church) building were great,” Francks says. “We started to make a plan to rebuild within those walls.”
The residential program has been serving the community for 40 years. The facility is for children between six and 16 with severe behavioural problems. During their stay, staff also work with the children’s families. The goal is for children to develop the skills needed to handle life at home, at school and in the community.
Coming up with the cash is every non-profit's biggest hurdle, but the community took care of that burden.
“The entire community has been more than generous and essentially made this project a reality. It wouldn’t have happened without them,” Francks says.
Various companies, foundations and community groups infused the project with $150,000. Renovations launched in January, and work is nearing the final stage. The facility will feature eight bedrooms, a recreation area, a large family room, a resource room and an outdoor playground.
“It’s got a really homey feel to it,” Francks says.
A local business is raising money for the final bells and whistles, like the play area. Bean Scene Coffee House is launching a Love Locks fundraiser, inspired by the Ponts des Arts bridge in Paris. Phil Lambert, a longtime supporter of the youth society, saw the bridge on a recent trip and brought the idea home with him. It wasn’t long before he decided to recreate the setting at the back of the Bean Scene, sell locks and give 100 per cent of the proceeds to the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society.
“I know they can take the idea and make something bigger out of it than I ever could,” Lambert says. “I believe so much in what they’re doing.”
Participants in the Love Locks fundraiser will affix their lock at the back of the Bean Scene and, for some Okanagan flair and because there’s no river flowing through downtown Vernon, toss the key into a wine barrel.
Society director Jan Shumay says the community support has been overwhelming.
“We absolutely could not do this without the community. We’re a non-profit and this is only made possible with support from all the people that have been contributing,” Shumay says.
It’s hoped the new facility will open in early October. To donate or get more information, contact Dean Francks at 250-545-3572.
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