Mark Lautamus and Laurie Renton want to connect people. To each other, to services they need, to things in the community they may not have been aware are available. That’s one of the driving forces behind the community youth centre which they hope to get established in Yorkton.
The centre has been in the works since 2010 inspired by separate ideas that both Lautamus and Renton had in the wake of the flood in Yorkton.
“We didn’t know each other. In 2010 when the flood of Yorkton happened, I created a small group called the Positive Links, we are the first link of a positive chain reaction to nurture the human spirit around the world. Mark happened to have his church in the basement of the SIGN building,” said Renton.
“SIGN asked us if we would feed the 80 people three meals a day because of all the people who were homeless because the houses were flooded. Disaster, right? We were able to come in, open up the restaurant there... They continued on with the restaurant, had a bit of a coffee shop, and Laurie was in there with a group of people and I overheard their vision. At the same time, we had already been planning our youth centre,” added Lautamus.
That connected the two together, and they realized they had a similar vision for a centre in the community.
“I see the community centre being a hub. People come, and there’s a need, and then you go, here’s what the community offers... We know all of the services available, so if that’s your need we send you there. If your need is not met, then it needs to be created. That’s where we are filling in, plus it’s a place for people to gather,” said Renton.
Lautamus said that for a lot of people, they don’t know what services are offered in Yorkton. He knows that he has directed many people to different services they didn’t know were available, and seeing those gaps has made him aware of what they can offer in the centre.
While the Lautamus is the pastor at Victory Church and the initial expression of interest meeting was held there, it’s not a church project. That was part of the reason behind the meeting, the group wants to make sure that the board which is in charge of the centre is coming from across the community and from several different organizations, so the facility itself reflects the community.
“We are hoping that this meeting will be the first of many that we have with people who would show an interest in getting youth off the streets and creating a youth centre,” said Lautamus.
So far, funds have been raised for the centre from two sources. One is Rally in the Alley, the annual party in the alley behind Betts Ave. The other is the Serendipity Thrift Store, now open on Second Ave. While a thrift store has been part of the plans for the centre itself, it began ahead of schedule because they identified the need for inexpensive clothing in the community, especially in the wake of the Salvation Army Thrift Store closing.
“We needed to create something and have those funds go back into the community,” said Lautamus.
Even if it’s nine years since the idea was conceived, they admit it’s still early in the project’s life. This meeting, for example, was intended strictly as an expression of interest meeting, with the hope of forming a board made of like-minded community members. They believe there is momentum and a need in the community, and they can achieve their vision with the city’s support.
“Now it’s time,” they agree.