Since Sun Youth started in 1954, co-founders Sid Stevens and Earl De La Perralle have surrounded themselves with individuals contributing each in their own way to the development of the organization.
Many joined as students and continued to work full-time. Johanne Saltarelli recently named Executive Director of the organization after the passing of Earl De La Perrale, is one such person.
Johanne became involved with Sun Youth in 1975 through its sleep- away camp. “In those early years (before Batshaw Family Services were created) Sun Youth had youth workers. This job appealed to me instantly and fit in beautifully with my school hours,” she recalls. While studying, she would work evenings and weekends at Sun Youth. What attracted her the most was the variety of tasks at hand.
“You work with the youth in afterschool programs, answer a fire call, or help a family with basic needs. In other words, you do whatever needs to be done,” Joanne says.
Joanne especially likes working with young people. “I have been privileged to work with some amazing youth, eventually as director of our summer camp,” she says. “I believe we were able to provide an environment where they could discover and reach their true potential. They have gone on to be contributors in their respective fields, to our organization, and to the community.”
As Sun Youth’s new Executive Director, Johanne is fully aware of the challenges ahead. “As with all non-profits, there is increasing competition for donors and staffing.” There is also Sun Youth’s plan of getting its own building within the next three to five years, which Johanne calls the organization’s “forever home.”
“Our main objective will be to bring all of our programs back into the same building,” she says.
Johanne believes the organization has lasted 65 years because Sid and Earl were visionaries. “They worked hard to surround themselves with staff, volunteers, and donors who shared their vision and mission. Their strengths, our strengths, have always been to adapt to the needs of our community and respond as quickly as possible.”
“What we do, with the help of all our donors, staff and volunteers, helps to make people’s lives better, less lonely, less scary, warmer: and for the kids, ‘add a little more sun’. I get to meet and work with amazing people every day. They are creative, innovative, and inspiring people, working together to make their community a better place.”