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April 30, 2010
Mayor Miller officially opens youth hub at 1652 Keele St.
Mayor David Miller today joined representatives from the For Youth Initiative (FYI), the Youth Challenge Fund, the City of Toronto, United Way and Judith Kostman and Henrietta Kostman (representing George and Rachel Kostman, who donated generously to the project) to officially open a new youth-focused community hub at 1652 Keele St. in Weston-Mt. Dennis.

The hub, which includes a computer room, lounge, dance space, kitchen, boardroom and offices, was principally planned and built by local youth for youth. The youth from FYI initiated the project in 2006 when they received a Building Great Ideas grant from the Youth Challenge Fund to conduct a feasibility study for the space.

Once the project received the green light, FYI also received an additional $1.38 million Legacy grant from the Youth Challenge Fund to support construction of the space as well as development of an organizational mentorship program which builds capacity of grassroots, youth-led organizations. At that point, FYI started to develop an employment strategy that would provide unemployed youth living in Weston-Mt. Dennis with the opportunity to acquire construction skills by participating in the building of the space while continuing to move the 1652 project forward.

Also a funding partner, the City of Toronto became a champion to facilitate a new youth-focused, value-based procurement model that harnesses the City's buying power to create employment preparation and opportunity for youth in priority neighbourhoods.

"This is the first time that the City of Toronto has linked its procurement practices to its commitment to community development and I would like to thank the youth of Weston-Mt. Dennis for leading the way," said Mayor Miller.

In 2008, the City of Toronto contributed $280,000 for the construction of the hub through the Partnership Opportunities Legacy (POL) Fund. HSI Solutions was hired according to the new procurement model as the contractor on the project. The company hired on the 10 locally selected youth who received training through the Carpenters' Local Union 27 Joint Apprenticeship and Training Trust Fund to work on the project and continued to provide the youth with on-site training and support.

The following partners contributed to the success of the employment training aspect of this project both through in kind support, training and mentoring: Carpenters' Local Union 27 Joint Apprenticeship & Training Trust Fund, Youth Employment Services' Job Connect program, Gateway Cafe's Get in Gear program as well as the following City of Toronto divisions: Social Development, Finance and Administration, Facilities Management, Human Resources, and Toronto Employment and Social Services.

The facility at 1652 Keele St. was an excellent fit with the Partnership Opportunities Legacy Fund, which is being used to create new or enhanced social and recreational facilities in priority neighbourhoods. The POL Fund gives priority to youth-focused initiatives at the neighbourhood level and facilitates innovative capital processes to ensure meaningful community engagement.

It is anticipated that when the POL Fund is completed, $37.7 million in new leveraged infrastructure investment will have been made in Toronto's 13 priority neighbourhoods, of which $13 million is direct City investment. For every dollar the City invests in building community capital infrastructure via the POL Fund, the City has leveraged approximately $1.90 in partnership funding.

Pamela Grant, Executive Director of the Youth Challenge Fund, said she is inspired by the youth leaders at FYI. "Today's celebration is the end result of what has been a unique, youth-led development process four years in the making,” said Grant. “The youth of Weston-Mt. Dennis now have a space that's truly theirs. They've shown tremendous leadership, passion and perseverance, playing a crucial role in shifting the way institutions across the city interact with young people."

The project at 1652 Keele is the first of three youth spaces to be supported by the generosity of the Kostmans through their bequest to Youth Challenge Fund. For decades, George and Rachel Kostman quietly practiced their philanthropy to ensure that the young people of our community had access to space that they could call their own.

Of the 10 youth hired to work on this project, more than half will continue to work in the construction industry and one has returned to school to meet the requirements of starting an apprenticeship. All hours on the project can count towards the first year of an apprenticeship.

Lekan Olawoye, Executive Director of FYI, sums up the experience: "This building stands as a symbol of what young people can do when they are truly engaged. FYI is humbled at the opportunity to lead this project and work with such supportive allies/partners."

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents. For information about non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Media contacts:
Jane Scarffe, Communications Consultant, City of Toronto, 416-397-4062,
Lekan Olawoye Executive Director, For Youth Initiative, 416-652-9618,



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