Carman YFC Steering Committee Chair Janine Lodder, Back Door Director Tyler Friesen, Program Coordinator Stevie Jeske are ready to see the Back Door Youth Centre expand in the next few years. (EMILY DISTEFANO)
The Youth for Christ Back Door Youth Centre in Carman is making progress on plans to triple its space and expand its presence in the area.
The centre is slowly but surely moving toward a construction project that would add much needed extra room to its building on Main Street South
“We have concept drawings and we have a meeting set up with and architect to begin furthering those drawings, and we’re going to very slowly begin to tap on some shoulders for some funding,” said Back Door Director Tyler Friesen. “It’s not just an addition of space, we’re hoping to have an expansion of programming and offerings and numbers.”
Around 60 or 70 different kids attend the Back Door each week, and some are through the door three or four times in seven days.
The centre provides a safe space for teenagers on a couple of evenings each week, lunches for kids in grades 7 to 12 and after school programming for kids in grades 4 to 6 on Wednesdays, weekly girls’ nights and various other special occasions. And it offers a place to belong for kids who might not be involved in sports or other extracurricular activities. Besides some events and activities with nominal costs, the centre’s services are all free of charge and have no strings attached.
“We have a tagline that says we see the hope and potential in every young person,” said Friesen. “We want kids to be cared for, we want kids to feel like they’re important and valued and we also really want them to know that Jesus loves them as well.”
Expanding the centre has been a topic of conversation for years, but the Back Door staff and volunteers have been encouraged to see recent developments.
“We feel at this point that there are fewer roadblocks in front of us,” said Friesen. “Now we have the property that we need, we have a concept drawing and we’re meeting with architects. It feels like we’re making some ground.”
“I think it’s exciting,” said Stevie Jeske, one of the centre’s female program coordinators. “We’d really like to move forward with that.”
The current concept is basically a 4,400 square foot addition.
“It has a lot of open space, it can be used for roughhousing, sporting stuff, smaller banquet stuff, updated offices, washrooms up to code,” said Friesen.
The Back Door building is around 2,100 square feet right now; it’s been used by Youth for Christ for 28 years.
The added space should mean increased opportunities to reach the kids that come to the centre.
“Some kids you connect with on the basketball court, some kids you connect with while you’re playing video games, some kids just need to sit in a booth and visit,” said Friesen. “We’d love to attract different youth, more youth. We want to be a positive part of as many kids’ lives as possible.”
Carman YFC Steering Committee Chair Janine Lodder said they want to make the centre more personable as well.
“If you see that there’s a youth here that’s struggling, there isn’t really anywhere that you can pull them into a corner and have a conversation with them,” she said.
Depending on the event, the centre can host up to 50 people at a time, and finding space for all those kids and youth leaders to sit down and share a meal is a challenge.
Jeske noted that even during the lunch programs, the centre’s ping pong table doubles as a dining table.
“If we had a bigger space, we wouldn’t have to transform this space to accommodate that,” she said.
And during the winter, extra space would be great for kids to be able to burn off energy.
“We have a large basketball crowd,” said Friesen.
The centre already has a well-used outdoor basketball court, but it becomes useless as soon as the snow starts to fall.
“To be able to continue that sort of thing in the winter as well would be super helpful,” said Friesen.
While the centre feels like it is too early for a full-scale capital fundraising campaign, the group is planning to start a soft campaign looking for donations.
“We are going to start very slowly, and just set up a few meetings a month and connect with people to share our dreams and our visions and hopefully find some financial partnerships through that,” said Friesen.
As Friesen turns his attention toward the expansion project, the Back Door is hoping to hire another male program coordinator to take over some of his duties.
The preliminary fundraising goal is in the neighborhood of $1 million, although the centre hasn’t gathered any construction quotes as of yet.
Jeske noted that the group is grateful for all the support the community has given the Back Door so far.
“I’d just like to say a huge thank you to this community, because they’ve been very supportive of this ministry over the years and in many ways - prayerfully, volunteering, making food for us, and financially they’ve been huge supporters,” she said.
The Back Door is hosting their annual golf tournament on June 14. While the tournament is meant to raise money for operation costs, Friesen said attending the event would also be a great way to start a conversation about the proposed expansion for anyone who is interested in learning more.
“If they want to come hang out with us and find out more about the expansion or what’s going on at the drop-in, that would definitely be a good place to start,” he said.
You can also call the centre to make an appointment to meet, or find the group on Facebook.