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A Launch Pad to Success

This January, the Gay Lea Foundation announced a $10,000 grant to Launch Pad Youth Activity and Technology Centre (Launch Pad), a unique skills development centre in Hanover, Ontario that teaches important life and career skills to youth ages 12-18. The centre is special, in that it works with local employers to ensure its programs connect with industry needs – a strategy designed to keep young people employed and engaged in the rural communities of Grey and Bruce Counties.

“Launch Pad is a youth centre with a mandate to produce economic development results,” says Emily Morrison, the centre’s Executive Director. “We want to enhance our region’s capacity to succeed and cultivate healthy, vibrant communities through the attention and retention of our youth.”

With their current trades-based development programs at maximum capacity, Launch Pad was ready to add another skilled trade to their repertoire. Enter the addition of a new woodshop, supported by the Gay Lea Foundation, which will allow participants to learn principles of the woodworking and construction trades, including equipment operation and health and safety best practices. Youth participating will also receive support in resume building and continuing education, while those at the intermediate and advanced levels will be matched to local employers for apprenticeship and job opportunities.

“The Gay Lea Foundation donation allowed us to conduct renovations in the centre’s garage so that it could be transformed into a commercial woodshop,” says Morrison. “This included things like electrical upgrades to handle the woodworking machinery, the installation of a dust collection system for health and safety, and insulation so the space can be used year-round.”

The new woodshop adds to the centre’s already impressive 4,800 sq ft facility that includes a commercial kitchen, welding space, trades areas, drop-in art space, technology lab, and teaching/conferencing areas. Gay Lea Foundation Chair, Rachel Caldara, was at the woodshop’s grand opening on April 26, along with Foundation Directors, Frances Johnston and Robin Redstone.

“What we saw at the Launch Pad event was a community that has really come together to support youth and show them that there are opportunities to find their passion, succeed and thrive within their region,” says Caldara. “There were repeated references to the phrase ‘creating a pipeline’, and that’s exactly what they’re doing: creating a pipeline for these kids to fill vacant job positions and create new opportunities that benefit the entire community in the long term.”

“This place is a dream come true,” says Morrison. “It’s a dream that it exists in our community and that we can open our doors to local youth, allowing them to fill their time with positive extra curricular activity that contributes to their empowerment, confidence, and connection to the community.”



Above left: Gay Lea Foundation Chair, Rachel Caldara (left) is pictured with Launch Pad Executive Director, Emily Morrison (centre) and Foundation Director, Frances Johnston at the woodshop’s grand opening  on April 26, 2019.

Above right: A student at work in the new woodshop. 


About Launch Pad Launch Pad Youth Activity & Technology’s mission is to provide youth 12-18 years of age in Grey & Bruce counties, with important life/career skills complementing both formal academic institutions and their learning sources. By offering a wide range of youth-focused training programs, Launch Pad enhances their knowledge and learning in a fun, safe and informative environment. The centre is open Tuesday to Friday from 3:30 – 8:00 p.m. for youth aged 12-18 years and offers after school/evening programming and a youth drop-in space.  Through generous sponsors, partners and granting agents, Launch Pad recently completed renovations that include a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, four-bay welding space and commercial woodshop. Launch Pad also offers full day camps throughout the summer months. For more information, or a tour of Launch Pad, visit  


About the Gay Lea Foundation The Gay Lea Foundation is the official registered charity and collaborative forum for Gay Lea Foods and its members, directors and employees to support families and communities in need. Since receiving charitable status in 2014, the Foundation has provided more than $957,000 in funding support for education, poverty relief and community well-being projects in Canada and around the world. The primary source of funding for the Foundation is an annual $150,000 contribution from Gay Lea Foods, which is supplemented by personal contributions from across the Gay Lea Foods family. Funding applications are assessed twice a year by the Foundation’s Board of Directors, which is comprised of Gay Lea Foods Directors, delegates, dairy producer members and employees.  

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