Pathfinders Youth Centre Society was on tenterhooks for a couple weeks wondering whether a grant would come through to help youth get into the workforce.
But a recently announced federal grant for $410,000 will guarantee they can run their programs for another year and that two dozen youth will learn the life skills they need to gain meaningful employment. Executive director Ruth Lee said the society is "so grateful" that they have funds for another year.
Pathfinders, located in the industrial area on Stewart Crescent in Maple Ridge, offers two five-and-a-half month programs every year for youth aged 15 to 30 who have barriers to employment.
The process to be accepted to the program is rigorous as space is limited. The program has room for only 12 people, but the wait list is about 100-long.
Pathfinders will interview the students several times, and look for youth who are prepared to work on getting employment.
Much of what they learn is life skills, said office manager Alana Jackson, and helping them figure out how to stay employed once they get a job.
Many of the participants have backgrounds that haven't prepared them for the workforce - some come from extreme poverty, some have been bounced through the foster care system, others struggle with mental health issues.
The workers at Pathfinders try to foster a family atmosphere at the centre, which focuses on acceptance.
Steve Molema, 22, is currently attending the program and hopes to get over his shyness and gain confidence so he can find work.
"I've never met a nicer group of people," he said about his peers at Pathfinders.
Jackson said past participants of their programs come back to see them, and many took time to write letters supporting the youth society.
When the youth need basic things like coats, boots, and food, the society has been able to reach out, and the support they've received from the community "blows us away," said project manager Lynda Konarksi.
"The community support we've had from Maple Ridge is stunning," she said.
The announcement about the funding was made by Randy Kamp, Member of Parliament for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, on behalf of Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.
"Our government's youth employment strategy is helping youth develop the skills and gain the experience they need to get jobs now and prepare for the workforce of tomorrow," Kamp said.
For more information about Pathfinders Youth Society, go to www.pathfinderyouthsociety.org.