Surrey’s Mackie’s Place strives for community connection

Youth drop-in centre teaches job skills

Mackie’s Place has taken the old proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ to heart.

Starting at the beginning of 2017, Bobbi-Rhea Mackie and a team of three made it their mission to encourage, equip and engage youth through community involvement.

Mackie’s Place is a drop-in centre, which meets at Peoples Church (14455 104 Ave.), for at-risk youth.

“We are a safe place where youth can come get off the streets, be fed, be loved and equipped with a whole host of skills that range from chef, barista and entrepreneurial skills,” Mackie said in a release.

The job-skills program is one of centre’s fastest-growing, Mackie told Peace Arch News.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Mackie’s Place invites a professional to come speak with the kids. Volunteers take the information and help the teens, aged 14-21, apply it to everyday life.

Volunteers have helped the teens start an essential-oils business. The youth work together to create essential oils and sell them through social media. They sold out of their first batch on the first day.

They’ve also put those entrepreneurial chops to work by having two burger nights, which sold more than 100 tickets, and taught the kids how to manage the barista and kitchen.

“Sometimes it’s based on job skills, but sometimes it’s based on how to change a tire, how to make a healthy smoothie. Simple things that these kids aren’t learning at home,” Mackie said. “If you think about how you learned about different things, you usually learn it from different people.”

Mackie said the youth learn of the program through word-of-mouth, and are given incentives to return.

“How do you get a 17-year-old kid who could be on the streets selling drugs – a lot of the kids go steal stuff to get what they want – how do you get them into the program? Right away, we knew that we wanted an incentive program.”

On the first visit, the youth and volunteers work together to set goals, whether they be personal, job-skill goals, family goals or school goals.

The kids then work behind the counter at the Peoples Church coffee shop, help out in the kitchen or clean the facility.

“Through that they’re earning incentives, things like bus passes, phone minutes. Some kids want a pair of Beats headphones. That draws them in, but the reality is that they stay for the relationships.”

The relationships, Mackie added, are the most important part about the operation.

Mackie’s Place currently has nearly 100 volunteers, including people from the Semiahmoo Peninsula. Local support has also included a fundraiser in South Surrey. Held on July 11, it raised approximately $85,000 for the centre.

“They want to walk with the community, they want to give back. They want to see those kids, who maybe didn’t have the same opportunities of their own, thrive,” Mackie said of the volunteers.

“It’s amazing to watch. The people of White Rock come and get connected. Our goal is to get community to walk with at-risk youth.”

Mackie said that some of the families come from a tough background, and she added that it’s generational.

“They love their kids, we’ve been fortunate because it’s our mission, we really get connected to as many families as we can. They don’t feel threatened, they feel encouraged.”

Mackie’s Place is privately funded, and Mackie said the goal is to turn it into a movement where others take the initiative of creating community hubs for at-risk youth.

“That is the way to change the fabric of poverty.”

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