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Hands On Street Ministries
Hands On Street Ministries
Hands On Street Ministries
Hands On Street Ministries
Hands On Street Ministries
Hands On Street Ministries
Hands On Street Ministries
140 Avenue F North
Saskatoon, SK, S7L 1V8
Phone: (306) 653-4182

Where Actions Speak Volumes

Founded in 1991 by Rick Langlais, Hands On Street Ministries has been changing the lives of children and youth in Saskatoon’s inner city with an approach centred on love, nurturing, and empowerment. Having risen out of a childhood and young adulthood marked by abuse, violence, and addiction, Rick shares his incredibly inspiring story in his book, Dysfunctional. Rick’s book provides a firsthand account of the cycle of abuse, poverty, and neglect that is far too prevalent in our inner city. Dysfunctional is a highly recommended read and provides a unique ability to fully understand the heart behind Hands On Street Ministries.
We sat down with Rick Langlais to learn about Hands On and how it all began over 20 years ago. Read on as Rick tells us about the opportunities that have been created for inner city youth and children through Hands On Street Ministries and the wonderful people of Saskatoon who come together to make it possible.
What is the history of Hands On?
My initial vision for Hands On didn’t quite look the way it does now. I started it in 1991 with the idea of creating a fight club for hardcore teenagers and adults who had nowhere else to hang out. Saskatoon was the murder capital of Canada that year, and I wanted to open a drop-in centre that would give people an outlet for their aggression in a structured way. I was a fighter myself, and wanted to be able to legally fight all day long!
So how did Hands On become what it is today?
The fight club was going great for three or four months, and then a few children started showing up. They were curious and wanted somewhere to go, but it wasn’t a place for them and I told them to leave. They kept coming back, and I kept kicking them out, until one day a little boy looked up at me and said “but I’m hungry” and a thousand memories from my own childhood came flooding back. The owner of the pool hall downstairs for some reason had recently obtained an entire truckload of cookies, so I gave each kid in the group two boxes of cookies and told them to leave. By the next day, of course the word had spread that some crazy guy downtown was handing out boxes of cookies and about 150 kids showed up asking for cookies. That day, Hands On started to become what it is today.
What does Hands On look like now?
We provide a safe haven for teenagers, youth, and children who are struggling with the basic necessities of life. We provide food, clothing, hygienics, and counselling in a loving and nurturing way. Hands On gives the kids a place to hang out and be themselves. We’re trying to apply everything we do in such a way that it nurtures and allows each child to grow to become all that they can be. We’re not here to tell them what to believe or where to go or what to do in life. Rather, our goal is to fan the flame for whatever it is that makes them unique, happy, and positive.
What is something that the kids need the most?
The kids need to know they are worthy. Unless we show them that they are worthy, how are they ever going to know it? How are they going to grow up to know that a gang isn't all that? Unless we show them better, they aren't going to have anything better to grab onto. I know what I didn't have as a kid, and I understand what it feels like. At Hands On, we create an environment where everything is built on respect, and we establish this by respecting the kids first. Our organization has morphed and changed into what it is today so that we can better meet the needs of the kids.
What are some of the activities available to the kids at Hands On?
We try to schedule one main thing a day. We have Creator’s Class, art projects, quilting, hockey, billiards, foosball, and campfire barbecues even in the winter. We have an auto body shop, which is something I never would’ve thought of. I was losing some of my older teenagers so I asked them what I could do to keep them around. They wanted me to give them something to do, and one said he wanted to build something. I remember just kind of flippantly asking if they wanted to build cars, and they were all over that idea. So I started working on getting an auto body shop that very day. It took about a year to get everything set up for them, including moving Hands On into a bigger location to accommodate the shop.
Do you have a core group of volunteers?
We have many volunteers come to us from the U of S. We are fortunate that my book Dysfunctional is used as a textbook for sociology classes, and the students can opt to complete volunteer hours and write about their experience at Hands On in lieu of writing a final exam. Similarly, students at Great Plains College who are studying early childhood education or are in the Youth Care Worker or Social Work programs can do their practicum at Hands On. We also have youth groups from various church organizations come in. Volunteers bring the kids such an energy and abundance and joy. Its so beautiful to see the bonds built between our children and our volunteers.
Are there any local businesses that consistently give to Hands On?
Oh yes. We have wonderful farmers that are very faithful in several areas. One group of farmers provides us with meat and another brings in eggs unconditionally, as well as potatoes. Other organizations donate monthly and annually. Two grocery stores in Saskatoon have consistently provided us with food for pick up twice a week, every single week. We’ve had the same accountant and same law agency since day one. Two of my Board of Directors have been with me for 20 years or better, so we’re a pretty tight knit crew.
What is your greatest need at Hands On?
Finances are always ongoing, but prayers are worth a million. I’d take prayer warriors over anything. We go through a lot of clothing, so lightly used and new clothing and undergarments are always appreciated. We have a toy room, so if you’re going shopping for your child, picking up something that another kid might like would really bless us. We’ll make sure it gets to the right kid.
Can you describe an outcome of Hands On that you didn't expect?
So many lives have been changed. Kids are bringing their kids, and I get to hold so many babies that have just been born because we’ve had the privilege of helping out their teenage moms. One thing that really surprised me was my love for the kids. When I started Hands On the intention wasn't for kids. I lost my baby boy years ago, and that experience was so painful that I didn’t think I’d be able to interact with children again. But these kids stole my heart, and here I am. You know you’ve made it when they start making you cards. The cards get me every time.
Do you have a success story that you’re particularly encouraged by?
There are so many. One of our girls has her own daycare now, and one has a roofing company. One girl we helped went back to school and completed grade 12, got her accounting degree, and now has her own non-profit initiative in Saskatoon.
What do you love about Saskatoon?
So much. The number one thing is the heart of our people, without a doubt. There are those who have the heart to survive, and those who have the heart to work so hard to give. I don’t know which I admire more. What a town we’ve got! Not everyone would support such a controversial ministry, but we’re here because there are so many dynamic people in our province that see this cause, and these children, as worthy. How lucky could we be?
Hands on Street Ministries is creating opportunities for Saskatoon’s inner city youth and children to feel loved, nurtured, and empowered. If you would like to contribute and become a part of this momentum, contact Hands On at (306) 653-4182. If you’d like a copy of Rick’s book, Dysfunctional, it can be purchased through the Hands On Street Ministries website.
As part of My Saskatoon’s One-to-One advertising campaign, Hands On Street Ministries has been chosen by local Saskatoon home builder, Haven Builders, to be featured on Give Back Saskatoon. You can read our interview with Sheri at Haven Builders by using the link below.