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Sault group focused on youth opioid use marks 10 years


As the temperature outside plunged below - 20 C on Saturday, volunteers with the group called Save Our Young Adults (SOYA) were busy preparing hot coffee and lunches for the Sault Ste. Marie's vulnerable population.

SOYA is marking 10 years of service, operating out of a temporary spot on Gore Street at Wellington Street.

The group's founder, Connie Raynor-Elliott, says the group has come a long way in the last decade.

"We see a minimum of 100 people every time that we're open," she said. "The community comes together, our team is fantastic, we're called the SOYA family. Onwards and upwards, we've really grown."

SOYA began as a support group for those battling addiction but has since expanded its mandate. However, Raynor-Elliott says the group is still centred on helping people in the grips of drug addiction. She adds while the group helps fill in service gaps, more needs to be done.

"Where is our withdrawal management, where is our treatment centre," said Raynor-Elliott. "We just need more services."

Raynor-Elliott is quick to credit the volunteers for SOYA's success. Emily Hodgkinson said she became affiliated with Raynor-Elliott and her group when she herself was looking for help.

"I can reach out to her if I'm having a hard time, I know I can tell her anything and she'll be there if I need something," said Hodgkinson. "She's literally 'Mama Bear' because of that. I don't call her that, but that's exactly what she is. She's a mom to those who don't have it."

Brooke Adams, another volunteer, is a Social Services student at Sault College who is completing her placement through SOYA. She's been volunteering alongside Raynor-Elliott for the past six years.

"She never stops," said Adams. "She works all day. She comes here, she does this, and she works tirelessly to make sure everybody has everything they need. And she's a great role model for lots of people to look up to."

Meantime, Raynor-Elliott said COVID-19 has put the brakes on SOYA's move to the old Verdi Hall on Queen Street West. She said the group's move-in date is now Feb. 1.

Until then, SOYA will continue to operate out of its temporary depot at Gore and Wellington. Top Stories

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