The Synergy Youth and Community Development Society has received a much-needed boost to help fund two of its programs next year, thanks to the EPCOR Heart and Soul Fund, which donated $4,000 to the Chestermere-based charity.
“We continue to hear how the pandemic has had an impact on mental health and increased demand on those who provide vital services,” said Christian Madsen, EPCOR Director, Regional Operations, in a Synergy press release. “This financial support through EPCOR’s Heart and Soul Fund will help people get the counselling they need; as well as provide resources for Synergy’s Youth Internship Program, which helps youth develop essential skills to set them up for success.”
The donation was announced on Nov. 19.
Terry Gill, a senior program coordinator for Synergy, said the $4,000 will help subsidize the charity’s Connection and Care program as well as its Youth Internship Program – two programs he noted have both seen increased demand in recent years.
Gill said the Connection and Care program provides youth in Chestermere and southeast Rocky View County free or discounted sessions with a licensed counsellor. He said the donation will reduce barriers for youth looking to access counselling services locally.
“Every year, we’ve seen the need for counselling services in Chestermere, Langdon, and southeast Rocky View County,” he said. “Normal wait times can be quite long, or everyone has to go for services in Calgary.
“This way, they can access it [here]. Our counsellor is quite flexible in terms of doing virtual [sessions] or meeting somewhere neutral for counselling services.”
He added the program is also great because it provides counselling services discretely, which “isn’t always possible when you’re going to certain offices where everyone knows everyone, and there’s still a lot of that stigma.”
According to Synergy, EPCOR’s donation will also help fund the charity’s Youth Internship Program, which provides job experience and training to youth aged 15 to 21.
Gill said as part of the internship program, Synergy officials hire five to seven applicants every spring to help facilitate the charity’s summer programming and day camps. He added the interns also complete community beautification projects in Chestermere and learn valuable skills, such as how to conduct job interviews.
“They have to do a minimum of 100 volunteer hours to earn a $500 bursary, and if they do 200 hours, they earn a $1,000 bursary for their post-secondary education,” he said.
“With that, they get first aid training, office experience, and a lot of stuff rural youth don’t always get opportunities for. It gives them a chance to mentor other youth and then there’s that reciprocal mentorship.”
Earlier this fall, Synergy announced that due to decreased grant funding from the City of Chestermere’s Family Community and Support Services, the charity would be doing away with two of its most popular programs at the end of the year. The cancelled programs include the YELL youth leadership council and the Child Safe Canada babysitting and home-alone certification courses.
Considering the upcoming loss of those programs, Gill said the donation from EPCOR will provide Synergy a huge help next year.
“The need just keeps growing for mental health services, so we’re very lucky to get this funding,” he said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to offer the programs at all.”