16 Nov Youth Central Alumni Profile: Patti Phelps
To mark this milestone Youth Central is profiling 25 of its alumni throughout the years. Youth Central’s Youth Are Awesome (YAA) program is helping out by interviewing and profiling the alumni. This article is written by Emily Donville, one of YAA junior editors.
Patti Phelps is one of 25 remarkable alumni being interviewed for Youth Central’s 25th anniversary. She was an integral part of the Youth Central (formerly Child and Youth Friendly Calgary) team and got involved in 1995 through her friend of 10 years, Penny Hume (Youth Central’s executive director). Patti worked with the organization until 2001 and part-time between 2005 and 2008 before she relocated to Arlington, Virginia.
Phelps joined the team when Youth Central was known as Child Friendly Calgary. She started out doing research on what was needed for local businesses to call them “child-friendly.” “There was no budget to pay anyone so I was happy to volunteer,” Patti said. Eventually, she assumed a paid position as a Program Coordinator for the Business Accreditation Program as well as a Children’s Conference Program, which organized activities for children, so families could travel to Calgary when their parents had conferences. Patti recalls a “long 15-minutes or so losing a mischievous 4-year-old boy at the Calgary Zoo during a Children’s Conference outing,” which is now among many of the memorable experiences she carries with her from her time at Youth Central.
Eventually, Patti Phelps became an Associate Director with Penny Hume, and quickly acquired the nickname of “Red-Pen Patti” as a result of her tendency to edit anything written going out of the office.
In 2001, six years after joining the team, Patti moved to California after her husband received a job opportunity, though this was not the last time Youth Central would see her. Patti and her husband returned to Calgary in 2005, and she soon returned to work with Penny part-time at what was then called Child and Youth Friendly Calgary as the “Coordinator of This and That” while also working for WestJet as a flight attendant.
Among her most memorable experiences, Patti recalls planning a Mother’s Day Brunch & Silent Auction at the Palliser Hotel, as well as various outings to all sorts of Calgary businesses with children to conduct inspections of their child-friendly features to see if they could be awarded the certification and get a CFC sticker on their door. One of her favorite accreditations was going down the bobsled run at Canada Olympic Park.
After three years, Patti Phelps left Youth Central and moved to Arlington, Virginia, where she currently resides. “It wasn’t planned but when I moved to Arlington, I retired as I had a busy new life here.”
Patti continues to volunteer during her free time and firmly believes in giving back to the community, a set of beliefs she owes to her experiences at Youth Central.
She remembers with enthusiasm the fun atmosphere and wonderful people she got to work with. “I really enjoyed working with the many wonderful board members over the years — Doug Lauchlan, John Curry, Joanne Cuthbertson, Dean Allatt, Cheryl Starr to name a few. It was always fun to overhear the kids involved in the various programs having meetings in our office space, they were so fun and inspiring. And the fantastic staff Penny has cultivated over the years is a testament to her leadership — Ros, Evie, Lisa, Tobi, Cameron, Michael, so many more!”
When reflecting on her career at Youth Central, Patti comments, “It was wonderful and gratifying to see the community buy into Penny’s vision of Calgary being a welcoming and nurturing environment for children and families.” Although the organization has gone through three name changes and numerous generations of volunteers, one thing remains constant, and it is the organization’s ability to shape a vibrant community.
“Whatever you do to help others, you get back 100 times!”