Creating Leaders

Creating Leaders at Rossbrook House


When Rossbrook House Foundation brings Rossbrook House to the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg next spring, the fundraising gala will be emceed by two people who know the drop-in centre very well. Colleen Simard and Dale Turcotte have inspiring stories to share at the No Child Alone Dinner, on April 27, 2023.

Colleen is a volunteer Rossbrook House Board Director who hung out at the drop-in centre when she was just fifteen. “I’d come from up North and I was so happy to find a place where I could have a safe place to hang out, play pool, and have a nice meal,” Colleen says.

It has been a safe place for children and youth in the Centennial neighborhood since 1976. Providing programs, activities, and daily meals continues today.

Dale is 14 and is not only a participant, he is also one of the Junior Staff. “Rossbrook House has been a second home for me ever since the day I stepped in those doors as an 8-year-old kid,” he says.


The Junior Staff (or LET Youth Program) has been running for over 40 years, hiring youth who are regular participants. A typical week involves three shifts, after school and weekends. They prepare meals in the kitchen and help to set up and interact with guests at events.

Their work includes learning leadership skills, says Junior Staff Coordinator, Sheila Chippastance. “They’re learning that their jobs are important, showing up is important,” she says. “We tell them they are the leaders. I want the younger ones to be able to look up to them.”

The younger ones are, of course, the younger participants. Engaging with the children during programs and activities is the focus for Junior Staff. These interactions make a difference to all ages.

Thirteen-year-old Drayton, a Junior Staff since March, has been a participant since he was seven. He says the kids are his favourite part of his job. “The kids teach me that I don’t have to be in a rush all the time. It’s nice to talk to them, especially if you’re having a tough day.”

Emily, who is seventeen, became a Junior Staff earlier this year. “My whole family basically grew up at Rossbrook House,” she says. She also thinks the best part of being a Junior Staff is seeing the kids. “They know how to make your day better,” Emily says. When Emily isn’t working, she hangs out at Rossbrook House. “It’s like home, but better,” she says.

Ages 6 to 24 drop in for after-school programs or anytime on weekends and all school holidays. Programs are delivered in two age groups: Energy Plus (ages 6 to 11) and Intermediates (ages 12+).

Many participants spend a great amount of time at Rossbrook House. Some, like Dale, drop in daily. “Rossbrook House gave me opportunities to do things I would have not been able to do on my own,” he says. “I will forever be grateful for Rossbrook House.”

Kylissa joined the Junior Staff team this past summer. Now 16, she has been dropping in to Rossbrook House since she was 7 years old. When she isn’t working she likes to hang out with her friends and take part in the programs and activities available to her age group.

“I would like people to know how fun and welcoming Rossbrook House is,” she says.

Growing up at Rossbrook House.

Many Junior Staff become Senior Staff when they turn 18. Like Autumn, who is now 20 years old.

“I’ve been going to Rossbrook since I was 5 and became a Junior Staff when I was 12,” she shares. “I learned a lot. It helped me to mature. It’s great for a young person to understand what it means to have a job. Working with kids for such a long time helped me to want to pursue a career as a social worker. I also want to give back to my community, because that is what Rossbrook House is all about.”

Public Speaking.

Ask anyone who has attended a Rossbrook House luncheon, they will probably tell you what they remember most was that a youth spoke at the event.

Young people, of all ages, share their stories about what Rossbrook House means to them. In 2019, Kody (then a Junior Staff) spoke in front of six hundred people and shared his Rossbrook House journey that began when he was 7. “I consider it a privilege to be there for the kids like the Junior staff were there for me when I was younger.”

“I am humbled and honoured to be a co-emcee,” Colleen says. As a former reporter and experience as an emcee, Colleen plans to work with Dale to help him prepare for this new opportunity.

“I would like people to know that Rossbrook House is a safe space that gives many opportunities and has open doors,” Dale says.

Open Doors, Open Arms is the theme of the No Child Alone Dinner.

“Co-hosting the event is an amazing way to give back and connect with young people like Dale and the people that donate and believe in what Rossbrook House is doing for youth, families, and our city,” Colleen says.

Colleen and Dale look forward to seeing you at the No Child Alone Dinner, April 27, 2023. Proceeds from the dinner will go towards Rossbrook House programs.


Learn more about the Junior Staff and other programs at Rossbrook House: Click here.