By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 25, 2024.
Wood’s Homes staged the grand opening of its Lethbridge Opportunity Hub on Wednesday at TD Waterhouse.
The hub is designed to empower young individuals from ages 16 to 24 through various services such as personal development, interpersonal development, life-skills building, systems navigation, and employment readiness.
Director of programs at Wood’s Homes Brian Zelt said it’s important for youth to have supportive relationships within the community.
“Young people feel connected and supported by important relationships in their lives. Loneliness diminishes belief in oneself and one’s ability strengthens. When young people feel connected and supported by their community, their language and culture, hopefulness and a greater sense of belonging, in the sense of identity, begins to grow,” said Zelt.
Wood’s Homes acknowledged their supporters and funders such as Children Family Services, the City of Lethbridge Community Social Development department, and TD Bank.
Zelt said the support Wood’s Homes receives helps develop a thriving future for youth.
“As it continues to grow and evolve through the passion of its staff and young people, the support of our funders and donors and the ongoing commitments of the larger community would truly help embrace the notion that thriving futures come from thriving young peoples,” he said.
Wood’s Homes started the grand opening with Indigenous Elder Harley Crowshoe (Bear Child) offering a smudging along with a prayer.
“I think it’s a precious opportunity to be there for our young people and work with our young people and have that journey with them. Because you know, they’re going to be our future,” said Crowshoe.
TD Canada Trust district vice president Russell Anderson talked about the impact the hub will have on the youth in need.
“There’s going to be a lot of youth that come through this door, and their lives are going to be changed because of the people they meet in this place. And so, in a very real way, this is a sacred place for themâ€¦ Today’s a great day. But it’s about tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, and so on,” said Anderson.
Wood’s Homes youth employment councillor Nash Epp shared his personal experience with Wood’s Homes having stayed there in his youth.
“I’m not just a staff member, but I am an example,” he said adding Woods Homes can have a huge impact on young people chasing a glimpse of hope.
Epp described the support he found at Wood’s Homes in a vulnerable time in his youth.
“As someone who experienced anxiety, had no means of transportation and had challenges self-advocating. finding my way around the system was tough. Wood’s Homes was always unique. It was unique because it meets vulnerable young people where they’re at and breaks down barriers to accessing supports that are so desperately needed,” he said.
Epp says Wood’s Homes helped him change the trajectory in his life.
“I recognize the significance of having a support system. Having caring people in your life can change the trajectory of your life. Without a doubt, I recognize the impact with some time on my family and I knew if I was to support young people, Woods Homes would be the foundation.”