City behind Shak’s World vision to establish a centre with programming for at-risk youth

Barrie mayor believes the organization's business plan requires fine-tuning

Shak’s World has secured six months of lease costs to operate its youth-focused programs at 59 Maple Avenue, site of the former City of Barrie Youth Centre.

In an interview with Barrie 360, Councillor Jim Harris confirmed $42,000 in funding was obtained for the not-for-profit with support from New Path and CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) Simcoe County. A staff report to city council general committee on Monday indicated a GoFundMe campaign has also been set up with a goal of raising $42,000.

Harris, who is employed by New Path as manager of system planning and integration, said this made sense to support.

“Being a child and mental health provider it seemed like a very good effort for us to support at New Path.”

Shak’s World mission statement is to “address youth mental health through sports, mentorship and community.”

But when it comes to the group’s business plan, Mayor Jeff Lehman believes there is fine-tuning that should not be put in the laps of City staff.

Lehman got support for his motion at council general committee on Monday to have staff refer Shak’s World to The Sandbox and Georgian College’s Centre for Changemaking and Innovation for assistance in development of their business plan. The motion also included City Council’s support for Shak’s World and her vision to establish a centre for at-risk youth in Barrie.

“This is a community leader that we want to support and assist in developing her vision but this is a vision that is in development.” said the mayor.

He said the Sandbox has people on its board that assist with the task of business planning, and the Georgian College centre has a really excellent handle on the granting process and the kinds of government programs that are out there.

“The message I am hoping we can send with the alternative motion tonight is to express our support for the idea for the vision of establishing a centre for at-risk youth and to let Shak know we are interested in seeing that happen in Barrie.”

Shak Edwards, president of Shak’s World, approached City Council in August seeking $42,000 to lease space downtown at the Maple Avenue facility. Council said it needed more information and staff was instructed to explore opportunities to support her programs.

Staff estimates that based on the business plan presented by Shak’s World, the annual lease cost for the Maple Avenue facility would run close to $145,000. The business plan indicated money could be sourced from community rentals, drop-in programs, partnered programming, grant applications, and e-commerce.

According to the staff report, the intent is to provide programming to 240 marginalized youth between the ages of 7 to 17, with priority neighbourhoods being Letitia Heights and the Grove Street area.

Participants would be involved in a year-long, three-phase program that includes life skills, mentoring, nutrition, basketball training, and educational opportunities. Another potential community partner being explored is Raptors Basketball.

Shak’s World hopes to achieve its programming goals through collaborative relationships with other community organizations.

Harris said having the support and easy access for Shak’s World participants to mental health and addiction services from two professional agencies would be a great augmentation of her efforts.

“With CMHA being the lead in providing addiction services for youth and New Path being a lead for mental health services for youth in this area, these would be very important and strong partners to help Shak in her efforts to provide services.”

The report said Shak’s World had been running their programs from various school gyms before COVID-19.

The need for a gym, according to the report, limits opportunities for Shak’s World to use city-run recreational facilities due to registered programming and community group rentals.

The Maple Avenue site offers 12,588 square feet and a gym, 13 separate office spaces, and a non-industrial kitchen area. The report notes the location is in close proximity to the target market outlined in the business plan, but said there would be a challenge in serving marginalized youth in other areas of the City.

The motion approved by general committee needs to be ratified by full council at its meeting next week.