By Gord Bowes, News staff
With help from U.S. Steel and other donors, Liberty for Youth is freed of the burden of paying a mortgage and can focus solely on helping at-risk youth, says the charitable group’s founder.
About a year ago, Frederick Dryden moved Liberty for Youth from his home into a storefront at 1925 King St. East. He had encouragement from Hamilton businessman and philanthropist Ron Foxcroft to make the leap of faith.
With government funding winding down, Dryden had turned to Foxcroft for guidance on how to continue operating Liberty for Youth, which he started nine years ago out of his 500-square-foot basement.
Foxcroft helped them put together a campaign cabinet to raise the $300,000 for the mortgage.
It was U.S. Steel’s $150,000 donation a month ago that made the difference, says Dryden. It allowed him to reach his goal in 11 months rather than the planned three years.
“They came and rescued us,” says Dryden. “It takes the pressure off us. Now we can focus on helping.”
Previously, his organization was working with 45 to 50 kids a year. With the building they can now help double that number.
For the last two weeks, the Liberty For Youth U.S. Steel Canada Youth Centre has been celebrating the donation.
It’s important to teach the youth who use the centre about showing gratitude, says Dryden.
“The young men and women who utilize these programs first enter feeling very alone, disengaged from the rest of society, hopeless, and see themselves as failure to those around them,” says Trevor Harris, director of public affairs for U.S. Steel.
“Liberty For Youth provides these individuals with alternatives to what they are experiencing in life and helps turn these young lives around by providing the appropriate support they need.”
With the mortgage paid off, Liberty For Youth phase two of its building plan — redesigning for space for functionality and safety, developing an all-day, drop-in homework centre; Set up a kitchen where youth can get free meals before and after school, and a karaoke and music room for youth to be creative.
Chevonne Cameron is one of the teens Liberty For Youth helps. He also helps other teens.
Cameron, 18, was kicked out of St. Jean de Brebeuf last year because of attendance problems. Dryden helped him get into Hill Park to earn the final credits he needs to graduate high school.
If it wasn’t for Dryden’s help, “I don’t even know if I would be in school right now,” and he wouldn’t be thinking about what he plans to take at Mohawk College after he graduates.
In September, Cameron went to his co-op teacher to ask if he could do his placement at Liberty for Youth. He got the okay and while he is only required to do three hours a day, he is often there up to eight hours a day, volunteering with the basketball program when he’s not putting in his co-op hours.
Joe Henderson, who teaches the special co-op program with the Hamilton public school board, helps students who have had chronic problems at school or in the community. He connects them with an employer that matches what they might be looking for as a career.
He says when Cameron brought the idea of Liberty For Youth, where he was a regular volunteer, to him, he checked out the program and gave him the approval.
Henderson says he sees the value in the mentoring Dryden offers and the leadership skills Cameron is developing.
Liberty For Youth is holding its “Power of a Changed Life” gala fundraising dinner and silent auction Nov. 6 at Carmen’s Banquet Centre. Tickets are $50 per person; for more information, see libertyforyouth.org.