Mitzi Dean

Skookum food and coffee more than just a bistro

At-risk youth on the West Shore will soon be getting a hand up while handing out coffee.

At-risk youth on the West Shore will soon be getting a hand up while handing out coffee.

It shouldn’t take much longer until youth at Pacific Centre Family Services Association are serving up coffee and healthy snacks through its youth bistro program.

Skookum Food and Coffee is scheduled for a soft launch in September to test menu items at its location at the West Shore Child, Youth and Family Centre (345 Wale Rd.).

“It’s our general interpretation that skookum means something that is really cool and really neat. That’s what we are trying to do here,” Dean said. “We are excited and it makes sense we are doing this, the bistro has been sitting empty for years.”

The bistro will be open in full swing by mid-October, on Tuesdays and Thursdays to start, and open to the public.

“We hope to cater meetings here in the building and even deliver food to seniors,” Dean said.

All of the youth employees of Skookum Coffee will be referred through the association’s youth programs.The staff will not be paid hourly, but though an honorarium, which has yet to be determined.

The youth involved will span from 16 to 22 years old. Students at both West Shore Centre for Learning and Training and Pacific Secondary may be a part of the program and could use the experience in the bistro for credit.

“This isn’t just work experience, it’s about building relationship, self-esteem and confidence,” said Dean, explaining the youth will be working through mentorship as well. “It’s life skills just as much as it is employment skills.”

Nathalie Down, the program co-ordinator for the bistro, is a child and youth councillor and has 10 years of experience working in the hospitality industry.

She has bussed tables and bar tended and taken on many other positions in between.

“I left the restaurant industry because it wasn’t fulfilling at a community level,” Down said, adding this position can marry her two skills together.

She has a passion for working with at-risk youth and knows first hand hospitality jobs are an attainable goal for her clients.

Pacific Centre Family Services Association has been working hard to turn this dream into a reality and the association board is backing the project with more than $40,000.

The association has received some funding from Island Savings Credit Union and has other grants awaiting approval.

charla@goldstreamgazette.com