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Many hands, light work

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Fort Resolution (Dec 22/03) - Over the last few weeks, the Fort Resolution arena has been filled with teenagers.

However, instead of figure skating or playing hockey, the teens have been cleaning, hammering and painting after school and on the weekends

The teenagers -- beginning with a group of about a half-dozen girls -- have taken it upon themselves to fix up the arena.

In the process, they have inspired the community to get behind the project.

On Tuesday of last week, the girls -- along with a couple of boys -- were plastering walls and painting two upstairs dressing rooms. Downstairs, they were building two additional dressing rooms, where frames were up but rooms had never been built.

"More people are joining hockey this year and there's not enough room for people to change," 17-year-old Amanda Mandeville said in explaining the work.

Jessica Sanderson, 15, added girls are also going to be playing hockey this year and wanted their own change room. "Because we're in hockey, we didn't want to change in small bathrooms or with the boys."

However, she added the girls didn't start the work just for themselves.

The teenagers wanted the work to be a surprise for Corporal Sylvain Lemoyne of the RCMP.

Lemoyne and other members of the Fort Resolution RCMP detachment have been instrumental in reviving minor hockey in the community.

"He said he needed help in getting the arena done," said Destiny Lafferty, 14.

Lemoyne found out about the work before he left for Christmas break.

"The youth decided to take action and surprise me," he said.

"I couldn't believe the work they did."

The teenage workers praised Lemoyne's efforts to revive hockey.

"He put a lot of money into minor hockey for people who didn't have equipment," Jessica Sanderson said.

"And he helped kids stay out of trouble," her cousin Vanessa Sanderson, 18, added.

They said the arena work was their way of saying thank you.

Jessica Sanderson recalls Lemoyne's reaction when he found out about the work. "He had a big smile on his face."

The teenagers hope to have the work finished by the end of the year. (The arena, which uses natural ice, is expected to be ready for skating this week.)

The teenagers' initiative encouraged others in the community to get behind them.

On Dec. 6, for example, about a dozen adults showed up early in the morning to clean and wash walls, especially in the lobby area.

Deninoo Community Council recreation coordinator Tasia Lal said the effort by the teenagers and the community is wonderful to see.

"When kids are coming in and doing this work, what can you do but stand behind them," Lal said.

She said there was no funding to build the extra dressing rooms but, since the girls started the initiative, the Deninoo Community Council has helped with about $1,000 in supplies.

The teens also approached a local contractor and asked for and received some material and tools.

Jessica Sanderson said it was the first time she and the other girls had done such construction work.

"It's fun," she said, laughing.

Peppie Beaulieu is an adult overseeing the teen's work. Beaulieu explained the initiative arose from a Nov. 29 meeting of the Elders Justice Committee, which discussed youth issues in Fort Resolution. The meeting brought together youth, the RCMP and social workers.

"It was from there that the youth wanted to do something in this community," Beaulieu said, noting there is not much for them to do now. "I just wanted to support them," he added. "They were doing a positive thing and the community needs this."

The teenagers also want a youth centre. The community council recently acquired a building for such a centre, but it is not yet open.

With the example of the arena, Lal is confident that teens will enthusiastically support a youth centre. "They'll take it and run with it."