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A look back at Rimbey’s Blindman Youth Action Society

Society says farewell after over 20 years in the community
The Blindman Youth Action Society says farewell after over 20 years in the Rimbey community. (Photos by Leah Bousfield/Rimbey Review)

The Blindman Youth Action Society has said its farewell after over 20 years in the community.

“It gave our youth in Rimbey a place to call home,” said one of the original board members Janet Stout, who sat on the board until the end.

In 1999 Neighbourhood Place sent out a survey through the town and businesses to see if there was a need for a youth centre. At the time, many seemed to think it could benefit the town.

Once the survey came back, it was time to get to work. A fundraising committee and board was formed and they applied for a grant for the provincial government.

“We got right busy trying to raise dollars for this matching,” said Stout.

“For Three years we worked at every feasible thing. We took turns working at bartending for different bigger functions through the Kinsmen and the Lions.”

Stout said their very first dollars that came in from their first fundraiser was $18.29.

“We worked every place imaginable. We even took a crew out and cleaned the Bluffton dump for $1,000. Everybody worked so hard,” she said.

In 2003 they had enough money in the bank and went to try and buy a place. They eventually went to the Town of Rimbey, who leased them the land.

It took three years to get money in the bank, so the Town agreed and the old arena was torn down and the youth centre was built in its place.

The Blindman Action Youth Society then moved into the space in 2004.

“It was a bare bones building. It’s been amazing. As a youth centre it was pretty phenomenal,” said Stout.

Also occupying some space in the building for a number of years was Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Ponoka.

“We certainly were a home for youth programs.”

Stout said it really was a community effort of volunteers. People from Rimbey and area helped with the building, the wiring and dry walling.

“We live in such an amazing community. We’re blessed with the businesses and volunteers and citizens that came out and spent hours and hours volunteering with the building and working at it.”

The were 10 board members in the beginning and eight when they turned it over to the Town.

The Society’s last day was Nov. 30.

Peggy Makofka, executive director of Family and Community Support Services, was also a non-voting board member in the beginning.

“FCSS was one of the early renters in the building and we ran programs in there,” she said, adding that over the years things changed and they had what was called a youth activity program.

As things evolved over the years, they were able to get the Ponoka Youth Centre to do some programming in the community.

Although it was a sad time for those involved, Makokfka and Stout said it was time, original board members just couldn’t take on the load.

“I think it’s fair to say that most people just aged out,” said Makofka, adding that the board met their goals and completed their mission in the community.

Mayor of Rimbey Rick Pankiw said they never like to see an organization close, but that the town will continue on with the building.

“It’s nice that we’re in a position that we can take it over and continue to honour all of the leaseholders that are in that, and that’s what we intend to do.”

The Town received of remaining funds from the Society, which will total over $40,000, to help with the operation and maintenance of the building.

Neighbourhood Place is still occupying the space, housing various businesses and programs.

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