April 26, 2014 7:16 pm

Volunteers pitch in to give makeover to at-risk youth facility in Edmonton

EDMONTON – At-risk youth in the city will soon have a new, larger space to call home thanks to the help of numerous community volunteers.

Renovations on iHuman Youth Society’s new building, in the Boyle Street area of central Edmonton, officially kicked off Saturday morning.

Among those helping with the construction was 21-year-old Aimee Bellerose, who first came to iHuman when she was 17 years old.

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“I was addicted to drugs and I was struggling with homelessness, barely going to school,” she said, “and didn’t really have much hope in life.”

But over the past four years, Bellerose has turned her life around. With the help of programs at iHuman, a non-profit organization that engages and helps youth develop the skills they need to plan for their future, Bellerose has made new friends and become a youth mentor.

“This place is like a home,” she said. “Ninety per cent of youth here don’t have anywhere else to go. We need a safe place.”

And soon, that place will be much larger. After finishing some interior demolition work, reconstruction of the society’s new 22,000-square foot warehouse is underway. iHuman’s co-founder hopes the new space will allow the organization to help increase programming and expand its services.

“We have been inhibited by small spaces that weren’t really designed for our programs,” said Sandra Bromley. “Larger spaces are more efficient and will support the different art productions… we hope to help all the youth in the city that really need it.”

But the renovation is no easy task as the changes will cost $5 million. About $1.7 million in funding came from the City of Edmonton, and the Government of Alberta provided another $750,000. The rest of the funding will come from the community, and all of the work is being done by volunteers.

“We put the call out there for everyone to pitch in and literally there’s 30, 40, 50 companies that are already onboard and others wanting to come onboard,” explained Steven Csorba, volunteer project leader.

Csorba says a project of this magnitude would usually take construction crews a year to complete, but he’s hoping to have the new facility open for programming within the next two months.

“What the iHuman staff and volunteers do is incredible,” added Ward 6 City Councillor Scott McKeen. “Edmonton is known for its volunteer spirit, but the more we reinforce that and can take pride in that, the better off we are.”

Bellerose says she’s lending a hand because iHuman has done so much for her. She hopes to be able to help many other young people overcome what she’s been through.

“The ones that have been given these opportunities have succeeded and have tried and have become productive members of society,” she explained. “I’m not at-risk really anymore. I have a stable place. I have an education. I have a lot of things that I never used to and it keeps me out of trouble.”

iHuman is still looking for volunteers and monetary donations. For more information, visit iHuman Youth Society’s website.

With files from Shannon Greer, Global News.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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