For 28 years, the Saskatoon Downtown Youth Centre Inc., better known as EGADZ, has been changing the lives of young people for the better. Don Meikle, EGADZ Executive Director, has been working with the city’s youth for nearly all that time. “I have been here for 25 years, and we’ve grown from 13 employees to 150,” says Meikle. “That’s a testament to the need in our community and the work we do helping youth get out of crisis and on the path to being productive, contributing citizens.”
EGADZ got its start in 1988, when the City of Saskatoon recognized the need to assist “hard to serve” youth in the downtown area. Since then, EGADZ has helped thousands of young people find their way into safe homes, education, employment and more. Whether they’re helping a young person get out of life on the street, or getting a young mother the support she needs to raise her baby, EGADZ is literally changing lives for the better. “When we help youth find their way the world, we all benefit,” says Meikle. “We see our successes every day in our community.”
Without the help of the local community, EGADZ cannot do the work it is so good at. “With every grant or donation that we receive, we’re about providing value for money,” says Meikle. “Our mindset is always on ‘most impact, least cost’.” You can see proof of this philosophy everywhere you look. The organization runs 15 homes across the city, with many allowing young parents to keep their children with them. EGADZ receives no additional funding from government to house these little children, but they do it because it’s the right thing to do. That simple act—allowing a young parent to bring their child with them to an EGADZ home—saved taxpayers $865,000 in 2017 alone. Not only did the organization save money, they also kept young families together and gave them access to the resources they need to stay together as a happy, functioning unit. That’s just one of the many remarkable feats accomplished by EGADZ through their programs.
EGADZ also gets young people on the path to job success through their Action to Employment program. The program was the brainchild of one of EGADZ’s clients, a young person looking for a way to give back to the community that was helping them. EGADZ youth provide lawn care and snow removal for local seniors who are unable to maintain their yards any longer. 30 seniors are now using the program, paying for the service based on what they can afford. “Our kids cut lawns, shovel snow, pick weeds—whatever the senior needs done,” says Meikle. “We were uncertain if seniors would embrace these kids and the help, but we were wrong. Wonderful relationships have been built between our youth and these clients.” EGADZ receives letters from seniors who have been helped, praising the program and the young people who show up to do the work. “One of our kids involved with the program really struggled with mental health issues. However, he ‘had to get out of bed because the seniors needed him’,” says Meikle. “Something as small as shovelling snow for someone who needed it provided the motivation to get up and get moving.”
Helping EGADZ make a difference is easy. Cash and corporate donations are happily accepted, as are donations of goods. School supplies, backpacks, zipper binders, socks, toiletries, shoes, boots, baby supplies and non-perishable food items are always appreciated. “We’re always grateful to our donors, and you can trust we’re making the most of our donations,” says Meikle. To learn more about EGADZ and how you can help, visit egadz.ca.
OPERATION RUNAWAY NEEDS YOU
Operation Runaway is a new program offered by EGADZ, assisting Saskatoon’s runaway youth. EGADZ works with runaways to help them with things like getting back into school, receiving assistance for addiction or mental health issues or into a safe home off the street. Prairie Mobile Communications has partnered with EGADZ on Operation Runaway, providing mobile phones that runaways can use to stay in contact with the program. “Runaways are running from something, or to something,” says Miekle. “This program is designed to find out why, and what they need to get off the street. These kids need real help—not to be told to just get over it.”
The program only has funding secured through the end of March 2018, but the need for it is still very real. If you or your organization would like to help, contact EGADZ at 306-931-6644 for details.