A charity offering daily services to youth in the Kennebecasis Valley is sounding the alarm after a cancelled fundraising effort during the COVID-19 pandemic may cause the centre to close its doors.
Sam Risk, executive director with the Kennebecasis Valley Oasis Youth Centre in Quispamsis, a town just outside Saint John, said the centre doesn't receive sustained provincial funding and the decline in fundraising means it's cash-strapped. She said if the government grants it has applied for don't come through, they may have to consider shuttering.
"We're hoping to get the word about the KV Oasis Youth Centre out," said Risk, adding that as a fairly new non-profit – it opened in 2016 – many people don't know it exists. "There are still lots of people in our area who aren't aware of us and the services that we offer."
The local charity isn't alone in struggling to make ends meet. Non-profit and charitable organizations that provide social services have seen a drastic drop in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced them to cancel fundraising events because of coronavirus rules like physical distancing. Others haven't been able to operate at all.
According to a survey conducted by Imagine Canada, an organization that works with charities, one in five of its member organizations had suspended or ceased operations.
The organization's research also shows that 42 per cent of charities have been forced to create new programs, while 54 per cent have transitioned in-person programs online since the beginning of the pandemic. In other cases, organizations have had to suspend or cease programs.
The Kennebecasis Valley Oasis Youth Centre, which before the pandemic was a one-stop-shop for youth that offered in-person counselling and the opportunity to meet with a nurse practitioner, is unique in the province, said Carley Parish, the interim chair of the organization's board of directors.
"It's really the only youth centre like this in the province," she said, adding the centre relies on government grants, private donations and fundraising.
"It's disheartening at this point," Parish said. "With youth and mental-health issues on the rise ... all you need to do is look at the recent suicides that we've had to see that things are really affecting people and our youth, and really they need a place to go more than ever."
The centre offers daily services to youth from Sussex to Saint John. It strives to help young people develop and learn new skills, engage with their peers, as well as seek medical attention and help those with mental-health issues.
Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal