A youth movement is gaining momentum in Manotick as the two-year anniversary of Tyler Campbell’s death creeps closer.
In the past year, the Youth of Manotick Association (YOMA) has begun a weekly drop-in session on Friday nights; the Manotick Lions have chartered a Leo Club and the Kiwanis Key Club has expanded.
Working with YOMA, Watson’s Mill has even started its own Leaders in Training volunteer program.
All of this came from a crisis two years ago, when a spike in break and enters lead police to realize that a small group of local teens were hooked on a potent prescription painkiller called fentanyl – an epidemic that lead to 17-year-old Campbell’s overdose death on August 4, 2012.
Ottawa Police staff sergeant responsible for break and enters, Kal Ghadban, said all that has changed in the past two years.
“Now I don’t hear about those issues in Manotick,” he said. “The break-ins that are occurring are the same that are occurring across the city. There’s no more, no less.”
Ghadban said the small cohort of affected teens has largely received the help they needed, and peers who watched the crisis unfold have since stayed away from the drug. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still drugs in the village, but Ghadban said there’s no reason to believe there’s more experimentation here than anywhere else in the city.
“I’m not seeing anything that’s sort of out of the ordinary,” he said, noting that ecstasy has been a growing issue in all parts of the region. “There’s certainly no indication that the Manotick area is seeing more use than another part of the city.”
Ghadban said one of the biggest factors in solving the fentanyl issue was how quickly all factions of the community came together.
“We were able to rally the community, bring everyone together and have a multi-faceted approach,” Ghadban said. Between Ottawa police, Ottawa Public Health, The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, local politicians, community groups and parent support, the village was able to successfully tackle the highly-publicized issue. “It’s the perfect example of the community coming together to solve a problem.
“We couldn’t have done it alone, the Royal couldn’t do it alone. We all had our different agendas but we all brought something to the table.”
FOR YOUTH, BY YOUTH
A big part of that movement was a push to bring more youth services to the community.
Last year, resident Janice Domaratzki seized the opportunity to start a youth group, with the hopes of building a new facility dedicated to programs, services and space for Manotick youth.
“What we need is a space for kids who are suffering and need a place to go,” she said. “I think we’re dropping the ball if we don’t get services here to serve our kids.”
Domaratzki has already established YOMA, which, with the help of United Way funding, meets every Friday for a teen drop-in. Without a permanent location, the group rotates between church basements, the legion and sometimes even Orchardview on the Rideau living centre.
Sometimes the teens just hang out, or perhaps enjoy a casual cooking class. Other times they take field trips: they’ve already gone to SkyZone, a new trampoline park in the city, and at the end of August will go ziplining.
The key to YOMA, Domaratzki said, is making sure it’s youth-led.
Every month, core YOMA youth members get together to plan the activities they want to offer their peers.
That’s an important aspect of the group if Domaratzki wants to realize her dream of a Manotick youth centre. She is currently working with the city’s parks and recreation department to secure land and funding, but staff have told her she needs to prove the youthled group is sustainable for at least two years.
“Then they would give us a piece of land by the arena, but we would have to raise the money to build the space,” she said.
That could cost as much as $875,000, because buildings on city land must meet commercial specifications, she said.
Domaratzki hopes the facility would be modelled on the Osgoode Youth Association, which is housed in an old city fire hall in Osgoode. The city pays operating costs – maintenance, utilities and repairs – while O-YA is responsible for staffing and program costs.
This spring, YOMA began the process to incorporate as a charitable organization so it can start accepting donations toward a building.
Klaus Beltzner is a director on the new board, and said having a youth centre is important to give kids something to do.
“If you don’t give them controlled risk, then they come up with their own risky ideas,” he said, noting that having ziplining dates and other thrilling activities will help. “If they can’t get high one way, they’ll get it another.”
“I always use the Boys and Girls Club as an example. If the kids weren’t there, where would they be? What would they be doing?” he said. “If you give kids something positive to do and keep them busy in a positive way, they’re not going to be searching for things to do.”
Only slightly less thrilling than a trip to a trampoline park is the opportunity to get kids involved in local events, either as part of their mandatory community service hours
or through YOMA’s programming.
“We have so much trouble getting volunteers for events,” Beltzner said. “We’ve got teenagers who can do the job; for example, they can lift those heavy soapbox carts.”
The Leo Club’s mandate is almost exclusively centred around this kind of community service, something Lions president Kris Schulz said will make a big difference once the new group really gets going in September.
Beltzner said there’s no competition between the various youth groups in the village; on the contrary, they’re each providing one aspect of what one day will hopefully become a full array of programs.
“We all want the same thing,” Beltzner said. “Nobody has the money to do seven days of programming, but we all have a little.”