Putting at-risk youth to work assisting people who need a little bit of help around their homes is a win-win situation.

EGADZ Youth Workers “Action to Employment” is a project providing seasonal yard care services to seniors and other individuals in Saskatoon that need some extra assistance.

A youth mows a lawn.

Youth involved with EGADZ are helping seniors with their yard work thanks to a partnership that includes Saskatoon Health Region.

There are eight youth involved in the program who are supervised by EGADZ staff. Through the program training and real-life experience, these young people gain employment, safety, life, social and leadership skills, while the community members gain reliable, quality and generous support to enable them to live at home.

On June 29, “Action to Employment” began partnering these young people with seniors in Saskatoon Health Region’s Home First program. Home First is an enhancement to home care, focused on seniors by providing elevated levels of service which allow seniors to live safely and independently in their own homes. Initially, the Home First program has concentrated on medical care for seniors as they are discharged from acute care, discharged from emergency, or experience declines in their health while at home.  However, not all seniors’ needs are medical in nature which is how “Action to Employment” is helping to fill in those gaps.

“By helping youth help themselves, they learn the importance of helping others,” Don Meikle, Executive Director of EGADZ said. “A youth living in My Homes brought to our attention the importance of giving back to the community and the positive impact it can have on both the youth and the community members.”

Meikle spoke to Social Services and Saskatoon Health Region about partnering with the program, then approached local businesses for support. Saskatoon Truck Centre ended up donating a truck to the program, and Canadian Tire stepped forward with lawnmowers and equipment. Seed money was also provided by the Saskatoon Community Foundation, as well as Home First and Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“This is a real job,” Meikle told reporters at a media event held July 22, explaining that each youth involved in this venture had to apply and go through an interview process before they were hired, and their hiring was partially based on their goals and their attitude.

“It’s been a really good experience,” Meikle stated, “It’s had a great impact on our kids and on our seniors.”

Testimonials read at the event support that.

“It means a lot to have our yard cared for at a cost we can afford, as payment is made by donation only,” said one user of the service. “ For some people, this program could mean the difference in staying in one’s home or having to move into an apartment or condominium.  These women hopefully will develop a certain degree of pride in what they are contributing to society and realize its meaningful significance.”

Another testimonial said, “We just couldn’t believe how these young ladies could work and they also did good work, and work good together. This is such a nice program.”

The youth involved say they are happy to help these people out.

“Our team really enjoys helping the people that need the help. It’s a good feeling helping people that need it,” said Sally, one of the team members.  Of the seniors, she said, “They really love it. They appreciate all of our help.”

A youth speaks with media.

Sally, one of the youth involved in the program, speaks with media.

Tracy Muggli, director Saskatoon Health Region’s Mental Health and Addiction Services, called the project “a very creative collaboration.”

“We know there are a lot of seniors who want to remain in their home as long as possible. And sometimes that’s really difficult when you can’t manage your yard,” Muggli noted.  “It’s an opportunity for youth to build independence, not to mention a resume, and work towards permanent employment or employment opportunities in other sectors.”

Saskatoon Health Region’s Mental Health and Addiction Services staff will be conducting satisfaction surveys to assist with evaluating the program and are supporting those youth with mental health and addiction issues through a support group.

“Hearing the positive response from those seniors who are getting help with their yard work is a big boost to the self-esteem of these young people,” said Muggli. “That’s very important as they continue to develop the life skills that will help them build independence and move toward gaining full time employment.”

While Home First clients were the initial group accessing the services of these youth, people who are 50 years of age and older and require some assistance with yard care may also access the program. Having these young people providing assistance doing yard work in the summer and shoveling snow over the winter months will help seniors remain in their homes longer and reduce emergency room visits as a result of a fall or overexertion.

The partnership includes EGADZ, Saskatoon Health Region, Ministry of Social Services, Saskatoon Truck Centre, Saskatoon Community Foundation and Canadian Tires stores in Saskatoon.