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Troubled youth reach out to the community

Christine Grimard
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 13/06) - Staff and inmates at the North Slave Young Offenders' facility are holding their fourth annual Santa's workshop.

The centre will be accepting new and used toys, which will be turned over to social service offices throughout the Northwest Territories.

The inmates - youth under 18 who are serving their sentences at the facility - help out by cleaning the presents, washing the stuffed animals, boxing, sorting, and wrapping the presents.

"They like to help out for Christmas," said Adrian Lizotte, youth officer at the facility. "The staff oversees it, but the kids do all of the work. Most are willing to do it, they really want to help out."

Ryan Strain, supervisor at the centre, said a few of the inmates may "grumble a bit," but noted that some of them were probably recipients of Christmas charity in the past.

Strain spoke of how staff understand the importance of this drive and getting presents to under-privileged children.

"We've seen first hand people who just don't have anyone at Christmas," said Strain. "(The inmates) understand it as well, that they are sending these gifts back to their communities."

The idea of doing a toy drive started off at the recreation department of the adult corrections facility.

With a lot of time, and lots of hands, Strain said the drive became a welcome cause.

Many of the adult inmates were allowed to keep some donated items to give to their families.

Community work is a large part of the activities at the young offenders' facility. The young adults are usually required to do community work as part of their sentencing.

Work for the toy drive, however, will not go towards those hours.