The Nelson city campground is under new management.
When the campground came up for tenure this year, the Nelson and District Youth Centre decided to bid.
The Youth Centre like many other city funded organizations was forced to tighten up its budget this year, but they have seen an increase in the number of people using their services, so had to look at alternative sources of income.
“Part of our strategic planning was looking at where else could we create a source of revenue that would complement what we are already getting from the city to increase our staffing levels to meet the demand,” said manager Christine Schmidt.
The Youth Centre decided to pursue social enterprise and began to look at services in the community that they might be able to provide.
“We started to look at what Nelson has for small businesses. Nelson has great thrift stores, book stores and CD stores, which in other communities youth were doing because they didn’t have those services,” she said.
When the city campground came up for bid, the Youth Centre received support from city staff to put together a plan of how they would deliver the service and what they would do with it.
“What we proposed was that the revenue would go back into the Youth Centre to help with staffing as well as using it as a training ground for youth to help them build employment skills,” Schmidt said.
For the past 25 years the campground had been run privately and because of that the Youth Centre has had to do some management before youth can come in and get to work.
“It’s all in a bit of the preparation stage, because it was a private contract before and now Heather and Gord Olynyk are running it, they had to set up procedures for registration and reservations and stuff like that. Now that that’s in play we can start looking at some supported employment and job coaching abilities,” said Schmidt.
The Olynyks live at the campground and will soon be joined by the first youth employee, a campground assistant.
Schmidt said that by next year they hope to have eight to ten youth employees at the campground.
“We keep hearing from employers that customer service is really important, and where better to learn customer service than at a campground, where almost everyone coming is really happy and really energetic,” she said.
The Olynyks have been happily promoting activities in town like the weekly markets, and in return the campground is getting support from the community like the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.
“Now we are able to channel the revenue back into the youth centre, so at the end of our requirements of budget for the city it’s the same as what we proposed because we have this other source of revenue,” said Schmidt.