|Community will feel loss of Katimavik|
|Local Content - Local News|
|Written by Marcia Love|
|Wednesday, 04 April 2012 22:23|
The newest team of Katimavik volunteers just arrived in town last week, but in three short months Maple Creek will be saying goodbye to its final group.
Federal funding for Katimavik has been eliminated from the budget this year, ending the youth volunteer program. Established in 1977, the program had an annual operational budget of $15 million to allow youth aged 17 to 21 to volunteer in communities across the country.
Maple Creek has been a temporary home to dozens of the young volunteers since 2010, with countless hours dedicated by the members.
At The Salvation Army, co-ordinators said the assistance Katimavik provided was a crucial part of its operation. During each three-month rotation of the groups, The Salvation Army had two members working at both the store and the hall.
"They run the store a couple days a week," explained Captain Ed Dean of The Salvation Army. "They are part of the team and it will make it extra challenging, because now we're down four sets of hands (between the store and hall) and that's 80 hours a week of volunteerism that will be greatly missed."
Now Dean is unsure how the volunteer-based organization will compensate for the loss. It may mean more work hours put in by Dean and his wife, Charlotte, or by local volunteers with The Salvation Army.
"They've been a part of the community, so for them to be all of a sudden out of it, that's a big gap," he stated. "The reality is we have an aging community, so the young people were there to pick up some of those pieces where maybe some of the older folks aren't able to do it anymore."
The effect of losing 12 volunteers will be felt at non-profit organizations throughout the community, Dean said.
Other organizations where Katimavik members have lent a helping hand include the Nekaneet First Nation, Assembly of God Church, Jack and Jill Co-operative Nursery School, Town of Maple Creek office, Cypress Lodge, Jasper Centre, Maple Creek and District Opportunities Inc., Sidney Street School and Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.
Volunteers have played a big role in organizing and running a number of community events.
Tourism co-ordinator Adrienne Gradauer said two of the youth have assisted with work at both the tourism centre and the town office.
"They've been fantastic, and they've always been available if something comes up unexpectedly where volunteers are needed," she explained.
Gradauer said it has been a very positive experience for the volunteers and local residents.
"It's just been a win-win program where we get as much out of having them as they get out of the program," she stated. "You definitely learn from each other. It's great for them to see what things are like in a small town and for people in town to meet young people who are interested in learning about life in different parts of the country."
Dean said it is sad to see the program come to an end when it has just become a part of the community.
"It's come so far along here. For the first couple groups, people didn't know who they were and now everybody knows who they are," he said. "I believe that they've brought valuable leadership as young people. What you do to replace that? I'm not quite sure."
The final group of about 10 volunteers from across Canada will be serving in the community until their departure on June 20. Sasha Fort, project leader for the Maple Creek group, said Katimavik had intended to have volunteers in town until December, but all projects after July have been suspended. Katimavik will be fully phased out by March 2013.
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