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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why the 'Y' is important

She sees the error in her ways

Thanks, in part, to United Way

Caitlynn Stranger pals around with Ken Mason at the North Y Youth Centre Friday (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)
Busted for shoplifting a pair of expensive headphones at a department store last year, Caitlynn Stranger convinced herself community service was an unfair punishment that didn't fit the crime.
In hindsight, the 16-year-old says she had it completely wrong.

"It made me really mad at the time because I thought I didn't deserve it," Caitlynn said. "It turns out I really did."
Caitlynn began serving her punishment volunteering at the North Y Youth Centre in the North End.
Caitlynn's involvement eventually grew from menial tasks like cleaning to helping coach youth basketball. As a reward, she was sent to the Y's Camp Stephens -- a first for Caitlynn, who had never stepped foot outside of Winnipeg.
"It was just a whole new experience to me. I didn't know people did that stuff before," she said, reflecting on a 10-day canoe trip she believes made her a more positive person.
Caitlynn continues to volunteer as a supervisor for the centre every day after school and works for pay once a week.
"I'd really like to help other youth get out of the same place I've been," she said. "I'm way more of a confident person, I'm open to new experiences. I'm a lot happier."
Caitlynn is one of more than 1,200 youths who come through the centre every year, each of whom has a story about how the centre has been influential in their lives, says centre manager Ken Mason.
Since the centre opened in October 2009, neighbouring businesses like Safeway have told Mason loitering and shoplifting have declined by more than half. Even a fire inspector dropped by the office to thank Mason because autobin fires and vandalism have also declined significantly since the centre opened, Mason said.
"It's an outcome we can't really measure and wouldn't hear about unless somebody went out of their way to tell us," he said, noting Safeway donated 60 Blue Bombers tickets as a gift of thanks.
"It was a reward for something (the kids) probably didn't realize they were doing. It was a great surprise."
This year, United Way contributed more than $475,000 to the YMCA-YWCA, money Mason uses to subsidize youth memberships at his location to $5 a year.
"If it was the $20 a month, there's no way kids would be able to get in here. It just would not be feasible in this neighbourhood," Mason said. "We wouldn't be able to do this without it."
For more information on the YMCA-YWCA, visit For information on the United Way's 2011 campaign and how you can donate, visit or call 477-5360.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 5, 2011 B2

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