ROK Central, MB Housing partner to open outreach centre
Lynne Parker, ROK Central executive director speaks at Friday's ribbon cutting ceremony outside of ROK Central and the Community Connections Outreach Centre new offices in the Manitoba Housing Complex on 11th St NW in the city's north end. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic)
A Community Connections Outreach Centre opened its doors in the north side of the city last week and is working to better provide programming and resources for families in need.
“We’re bringing the resources to the families instead of expecting the families to go to the resources,” says Lynne Parker, (ROK) Recreational Opportunities for Kids Central’s executive director. “Manitoba Housing had come up with the idea of some sort of centre within the Manitoba Housing complex in the north end of Portage, and it’s not just for this area, anyone can come here.”
Originally Recreational Opportunities for Children (ROC) - a provincial government initiative launched in 2011 - Parker got her start within the organization as its recreation supervisor where she worked to provide programming for families and all children and youth from low-income, high-risk families. After experiencing such tremendous growth, it was decided by the committee overseeing ROC to form a new non-profit. ROK Central, Inc. was incorporated on Dec. 23, 2015 with a volunteer board of directors. Fast forward two short years later and the undeniable growth is palpable, as Parker introduced the public to the new offices at a ribbon cutting ceremony last week.
“It’s unreal. I woke up this morning and thought, ‘wow, we’ve finally done it,’” adds Parker. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a dream of mine for years, ever since I left the Tupper Street Family Resource Centre. I just feel that this is the perfect spot to have something like this.”
ROK Central offers a number of recreational programs for area youth, including PALS on the Playground, an initiative Parker launched in 2012 that aims to provide youth with positive mentors to learn from and something for them to do in the evenings. The organization followed that up with its I Love to Skate program, where underprivileged children are afforded the opportunity to learn the game of hockey from professional instructors, outfitted from head to toe in equipment, all for free.
Last year alone, ROK Central provided recreation for hundreds of youth as well as servicing neighbouring communities such as Oakville.
“Over 500 different kids touched my heart. I don’t know what I’ve done for their lives but they have touched my heart,” laughs Parker.
Moving forward, the new office space – located at 13-545 11th St NW in the Manitoba Housing Complex – will allow for ROK Central to further expand its programming. Options such as parenting classes and an after-school program will be available in the coming weeks as well as weekly availability of a public health nurse - all thanks to partnerships made via the Community Connections Outreach Program.
“We’re kind of going to mirror the outreach centre after the one that is run in Brandon,” Parker adds. “Without all the partnerships that we have, we wouldn’t be able to make it happen. Everyone we talk to that wants to partner with us have the same vision. We’re going to make a difference and we’re bring the resources here to the families.”
According to Parker, what makes ROK Central’s programming successful is that no commitment is required by parent or child. The free programming isn’t something a child needs to register for and therefore won’t miss out on playing time, or letting down their team if they are unable to make an event.
“(Parents) have said (the organization’s programming) has alleviated any (worries) for them when they did take their kids to (events). The big thing is, things happen and (people) just can’t make it every week, that’s where ROK started.”
Although eligible for specialized government grants, ROK Central does not receive any direct governmental funding for recreation and therefore fundraises for financial support. ROK does continue to receive government support to run its one-one-one programming stemming from the 2011 provincial initiative that brought ROC to town. For more information visit rokcentralinc.com.