By Sarah Bowers-Peter
Many people volunteer within their communities.
But few make the commitment to move their family to accommodate their volunteer work. Such is the case with Jeff and Shari Shoemaker, directors of The Door on Frederick Street.
The Elora natives were approached through their church to donate some hours to the youth centre in the hopes that they would consider assuming a larger role. That was more than two years ago. Since then the couple has moved to Arthur with their four children, ages 14 to four, and taken over the reigns.
“Yes, we moved to be closer to The Door,” laughs Mrs. Shoemaker. “But we can see the (drop in) kids all the time, so it’s worked out well.”
That connection with the young people is essential to the success of The Door, said Mr. Shoemaker. He said the decision to commit to the drop in centre was simple; he was surrounded by mentors growing up on hockey teams and other activities, therefore he felt it was time to give some of that time and effort back. Whether its taking a moment to have a coffee with a young person going through a rough patch, or simply calling out their name when they come through the door, there is no way to measure the kind of impact this relationship has with the young people.
Unless you want to count attendance, that is.
Approximately 50 youths between the ages of 13 and 19 are registered and approximately 15 to 20 use the centre weekly. While the numbers drop off slightly in the summer, for the most part, there is great support from The Door users.
Tuesday and Friday nights are “drop in nights” for all youth, who are supervised by screened and trained volunteers.
Mr. Shoemaker, who works in construction, was originally going to take the lead role at The Door, but the financials could not justify him leaving his full time employment. Therefore Mrs. Shoemaker, who has assumed a majority of the administrative role, has now taken on what has become a three-quarter-time job.
She organizers volunteers, researches needs for the facility including fund-raising opportunities and programming. She also screens all volunteers and conducts police checks to ensure the youths are in a safe, responsible environment.
The couple is taking their own training to ensure they are the most effective in their roles. Mr. Shoemaker is in the middle of his two-year program and Mrs. Shoemaker is in her first year. The training gives insight to dealing with teen issues, group dynamics and more facility-based concepts such as managing groups of volunteers.
They each bring a unique skill set to The Door. Mr. Shoemaker has an easy and natural rapport with the teens. He can relate to them and even attends their sporting events to demonstrate his support. Mrs. Shoemaker takes a motherly approach and ensures a safe and comfortable environment. She is investigating new programming and is excited about the art and music opportunities offered through The Door.
“I’d like to try and find the kids gifts,” she said, adding she is hoping to offer instrumental music lessons.
The Door, part of Highlands Youth For Christ, meets the wide range of needs of young people. Whether its just a place to meet with friends, or finding a space that will give them the support they need to succeed in the world, The Door is there. Relocated to the Frederick Street location within the last year, it’s well in a position for hanging out without being overly exposed. The Shoemakers heap praise on their volunteer pool, adding there are many roles to volunteering, from actually being at the centre to work directly with the youth, to making and dropping off snacks. They are looking for volunteers at present since numbers drop over the summer months.
A number of special Wednesday activities are planned in conjunction with Highlands Youth For Christ, including trips to the beach, Bingemans, hiking and an end of the summer three-day camping.
This weekend The Door is opening its door to the public during the Art In The Street event and has been tapped to be a food vendor. Not only will this bring the public to the facility, but also give The Door a chance to show off the bright, clean and welcoming abode.
The Door is open Tuesday and Friday evenings from 7 to 10 p.m.