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Super Citizens: YFC Drop-In, Providers of Kindness and Encouragement

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Justin Marchand, David Ward, Gordon Kroeker, and Michael Driedger. Missing: Savannah Driedger. Cornerstone YFC

In this series, The Citizen profiles locals who strive to make our little corner of Manitoba a better place. Each month, we feature a person, family, or business that helps brighten the world in some way. If you have someone in mind for a future month, please nominate them: jlavin@nivervillecitizen.com.

The team members at Cornerstone Youth for Christ (YFC) drop-in centre in Niverville are this month’s Super Citizens.

Gord Kroeker, a lifelong Niverville resident, has led the team at YFC for 15 years.

“After my first year in college, I was feeling stagnant and I prayed for opportunities to grow and learn,” says Kroeker. “My summer job that year was agricultural and slower than usual and I was invited to be a summer worker at the drop-in… I said yes and haven’t stopped learning from that day on.”

Kroeker explains that anyone from Grades Seven through Twelve can hang out at the drop-in centre. The centre is filled with board games, movies, video games, a pool table, a ping pong table, and snacks. All kids, regardless of income or social status, can relax on comfortable couches or go wild in the gym area.

Kenzie Prudhomme, one of the people who nominated YFC says, that she has nothing but positive things to say about the people who make the drop-in centre the welcoming space that it is. She says that her four children have all been regular visitors.

This same sentiment is echoed by many others.

“My children have learned and developed a love of skateboarding from a previous staff member who held competitions and summer day camps,” says Prudhomme. “Savannah has been an incredible addition to their program and the girls love to spend time with her during ‘girls club.’”

Cyndi Wiebe, another local parent, considers the drop-in centre to be a safe haven for her children.

“Throughout the year, the drop-in evenings are an opportunity to hang out with friends and play board games, video games, card games, pool, etc. while they build connections with the dedicated volunteers,” Wiebe says. “These volunteers pour their time, energy, and humour into every teen they encounter.”

Plus, she adds, it doesn’t hurt that they have great snacks!

“I love knowing that my kids have a community of invested adults who give them a safe place through their teen years,” says Wiebe. “I am so thankful to have the centre available to us in town.”

Cody Roy attended YFC regularly as a teen between 2006 and 2011 and still looks back on his visits there with special appreciation.

“As somebody who used to go there, I can definitely say the guys running the place care about everyone who enters their doors and were a lot like older brothers to me and my friends when we all went there,” Roy says. “They’re great people and I can’t give them enough good press!”

The centre is about more than fun, though.

“As we get to know kids, we’re often, when need arises, able to provide a level of support,” says Kroeker of the centre’s service. “We recognize that for a youth, or anyone for that matter, to be happy and healthy, they’ll need their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs attended to. These vary from youth to youth and family to family, but a constant truism is that for these needs to be met everyone needs a community to love, guide, and support them. We seek to be a resource to youth and families with unmet needs, to be a nourishing part of their community, and to guide them to greater resources and helpful tools.”

Another local parent who wishes to remain anonymous for the sake of their child shares that Kroeker has gone out of his way on many occasions to help that teen.

“Gord has invested time and energy in connecting with them, meeting where they are at, offering resources, assistance, and above all unwavering friendship and support,” this parent says. “He has made himself available to us as parents, walking with us through struggles without judgment or any harsh words. He has offered so much support and showed a teen in a hard place that they are valuable, loved, worthy, and that he believes in their future.”

Kroeker and the rest of his team—Eunice Wiebe, David Ward, Michael Driedger, Savannah Driedger, and Justin Marchand—have created many initiatives and programs over the years.

Some of their programs involve life skills like barbecue club, music lessons, or video game coding. Other times the focus is just on having fun, like ball hockey league, in-person roleplaying games, or nerf tournaments.

“We’ve had the privilege of working with many parts of our community,” says Kroeker, “such as Helping Hands, the fair committee to bring some bands to the [fair], and serving at the Imagine Run. Also we’ve assisted many people who are moving when they weren’t sure who else to call. In crisis moments, we have found ourselves acting as conflict mediators, finding emergency housing solutions, providing suicide prevention care, addictions counselling, and guiding youth towards legal aid amongst other things. Eunice Wiebe is a certified counsellor and provides counselling at a cost proportional to your income so anyone in need can afford it.”

Kroeker is quick to credit others for the success of the drop-in centre.

“It’s hard to oversell the generosity of our local businesses and citizens,” he says. “It’s a privilege to work with our team of volunteers and staff whom I have great love and admiration for. Their dedication to serving others is most admirable and several [of them] work extra jobs to be able to continue to serve with us.”

The people of the Cornerstone Youth for Christ (YFC) drop-in centre have been both a figurative and literal life-saver for many local young people and it’s easy to see why.

Kroeker shares part of his team’s philosophy. “We like to encourage people to engage with life, ask questions, and seek understanding. Ultimately one of the most important things we do is create space. Space for basic acts of kindness, a listening ear, words of encouragement. It’s amazing how a few words of wisdom given in a time of need stay with people as they grow.”

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