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Partnering for the long run: SurreyCares and Orville Lee of Pathfinder Youth Centre Society

The work Orville Lee is doing in the community is deeply rewarding – but it isn’t always easy. He and his wife Ruth lead Pathfinder Youth Centre Society, (PYCS), a mission-driven nonprofit focused on coming alongside at-risk youth ages 15-30, helping them overcome the barriers that hinder their return to school or entry into the workforce. Recently, funding from SurreyCares Community Foundation made it possible for them to modernize their operating system, empowering them to work more efficiently.

“It helped us to streamline what we're doing,” Orville says. “We're thankful for the

funding.” This post-Covid grant was funded by the Government of Canada under the

Community Services Recovery Fund, and made it possible for PYCS to support and scale the

work they’re doing. The grant was part of a $400M boost from the federal government in the

wake of the pandemic, aimed at bolstering charities and nonprofits doing the important work of addressing persistent and complex social problems. With the headwinds faced by the nonprofit sector in the wake of Covid-19, the federal government distributed the funds to community foundations across Canada, who then administered the grants in their local communities. SurreyCares executive director Susan Richards says over $2.2M was given to nonprofits in Surrey, but their relationship with each organization is about more than just funding.

Orville Lee (second from left) and his wife, Ruth, with youth from Pathfinders program.

“We want to continue partnering with Pathfinder. We’re always looking for new ways to develop our relationships with the local nonprofit community,” she says. “We don’t just see it as a one-stop shop. We want to find other ways to partner and look at how we can build a long-term relationship. We’re actively engaging with nonprofit leaders and their organizations to see how else we can come alongside and support them, whether that’s collaborations or philanthropy – we are always looking at new pathways to supporting their vision.”

PYCS started out with a goal of being a safe haven: a place where local youth could

escape gang life, catching them before they fall through the cracks. More than 20 years later,

PYCS has become so much more. They now oversee mentoring, employment and life skills

programs, in addition to a bookstore where some of the youth they work with are employed. The organization has grown since it was founded in 1992. Each year, it serves about 90 participants across the Greater Vancouver area. Many of their program alumni go on to secure stable employment and have successfully completed their high school diploma. Pathfinders got its start right here in Surrey.

“I sleep pathfinders. I breathe it. I'll be the janitor – I'll be whatever it takes to make things easier or to make things better. To get things moving,” Orville says. “I'm willing to do that because I know the power within that.”

Like so many nonprofit organizations in Surrey, it’s the generous support of donors, combined with federal and provincial funding, that make it possible for them to do what they do. Always looking ahead to the future, Orville says he’s confident any present or future gaps in funding will be filled. For now, he wants people to focus on the youth they serve: smart, strong, resilient individuals who will be running the organization one day, he says.

"All they really need is encouragement. They need some opportunities. When we provide that, they fly."



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