Small mechanic shop has mission to repair the future of Calgary’s at-risk youth
Father & Sons is a small Calgary engine mechanic shop with a purpose. It started out of 32-year-old Jason de Leeuw’s garage but it’s now grown into a social enterprise.
“It’s a calling,” de Leeuw said.
When de Leeuw was in his early teens his father got sick. Without that parental influence, de Leeuw said he made some bad choices.
“I didn’t know how to navigate those waters and turned to the wrong influences and got into drugs around 13 and by 15, I was involved in drug trafficking,” de Leeuw recalled. “I didn’t have an active role model. I didn’t have someone to ask the questions about those awkward stages of growing up.”
He decided to give back in hopes of intervening in a young person’s life before they go down a dark path. Through his shop, he now mentors, hires and trains at-risk youth.
“I’m thinking of people I grew up with whose lives were ruined because they put a baseball bat through a guy’s head, because they had no father figure,” de Leeuw said.
“And I’m thinking of friends I grew up with who are no longer around today — whether they overdosed or committed suicide — and I want my own children to grow up in a community where they are thinking of others around them.”
Tim Skyrie, 21, has walked a similar journey and said he’s grateful beyond words to have de Leeuw’s support and a steady job.
“[It’s] still hard to wrap my head around it,” Skyrie said. “I haven’t felt a whole lot of that, so it’s nice. Nice to have somebody know you’re going places even if you’re not sure you are.”
Skyrie works full-time at the small engine repair shop and de Leeuw is the one who helped him discover his purpose. The young man was addicted to drugs and went down a pretty dark path when his father got diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“A lot of the programs I was in, they helped enable me to stay afloat and kept me alive, but Jason lit a fire under my butt and gave me a direction and tools to do things,” Skyrie said.
Skyrie is now independently living and is self-sufficient pursuing his dreams.
It’s all de Leeuw wanted.
“If I can make a difference to three lives out of 10, it’s about believing,” he said. “It’s not about numbers. Of course, we want to have success and I will do everything in my power to do that, but its all about the Tims.”
According to de Leeuw, studies show many incarcerated people come from fatherless homes. He hopes he can make a difference and intervene in a young person’s life before they get exposed to bad influences. He envisions expanding this business to other trades with hopes of employing electricians, plumbers and car mechanics.
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