Father Emmett "Pops" Johns - The founder of Le Bon Dieu dans la rue turns 80 today!
Dans la rue founder Father Emmett "Pops" Johns and the director general of the organisation, Aki Tchitacov, in front of the commemorative plaque unveiled today to mark Pops' 80th birthday. (CNW Group/Dans la Rue)
MONTREAL, April 3 /CNW Telbec/ - Father Emmett "Pops" Johns, president and founder of Le Bon Dieu dans la rue, is celebrating his 80th birthday today. To mark this milestone, the organization unveiled a zinc plaque bearing his handprints on the façade of the Chez Pops Day Centre, located at 1662 Ontario Street East. With this gesture, the organization is paying tribute to the person who made Dans la rue a reality, by venturing into the streets one night in December 1988 with a second-hand van, which he bought with a personal loan for $10,000, to offer "help without judgement" to Montreal's street kids. "We are the organization that we are because Father went into the night and gave us our raison d'etre," said Aki Tchitacov, executive director of Dans la rue. An impact on tens of thousands of lives "When I think back to the first nights I spent on the Van, never could I have imagined that Le Bon Dieu dans la rue would be what it is today. Thanks to the support of thousands of volunteers and donors, we have had an impact on tens of thousands of young lives - and we continue to reach out to more and more every day," said Father Johns. In addition to the "Winnebago"-style Van, which offers up hot dogs and caring support to over 50,000 young visitors every year, Le Bon Dieu dans la rue, or "Dans la rue" for short, has broadened its services over the past two decades to include the Bunker emergency shelter, which opened in 1993 with 20 beds for youths aged 12 to 19, and the Chez Pops Day Centre, which was launched in November 1997. The Day Centre provides a wide range of activities to street kids, including an alternative high school, a cafeteria, employment and socioeconomic integration programs, on-site psychologist and nurse appointments, services for young parents, tutoring, a front-line outreach team and music, art and computer rooms. His true calling Born in Plateau Mont-Royal in 1928, Emmett Johns was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1952, after earning his bachelor's degree in theology from the Université de Montréal. Before founding Le Bon Dieu dans la rue in 1988, he was a parish assistant with various communities in Montreal and the pastor of Saint Johns Fisher in Pointe-Claire (1974-1986) and Resurrection of Our Lord in Lachine (1986-1988). He was also a chaplain for various organizations dedicated to helping young girls in crisis as well as the Douglas Hospital. Over the years, Father Johns' achievements have been recognized by a number of prestigious institutions. He is a Member of the Order of Canada (1999), an inductee into the Académie des Grands Montréalais (2002), a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002) and a Grand Officier of the Ordre National du Québec (2003). He has received honorary doctorates from Concordia University, McGill University, Saint Paul University and the Université du Québec à Montréal. And a 2004 Léger Marketing poll ranked Father Johns fifth on the list of the most admired Quebecers of all time. Growing obligations It costs more than $3 million a year to keep all of Dans la rue's services - including the Van, the Bunker and the Chez Pops Day Centre - up and running. In order to meet these obligations, the organization launched a $2.5-million giving campaign in December 2007. To contribute, please call (514-526-5222), write (Dans la rue, 895 De La Gauchetière Street West, N-90, Suite 220, Montreal, Quebec H3B 5K3) or visit us online (www.danslarue.org). About Dans la rue Founded in December 1988, Dans la rue is a community-based charitable organization that works with street kids and youths at risk in the Montreal area. Based on the "help without judgement" philosophy of founder Father Emmett "Pops" Johns, the organization offers food, shelter and friendship to homeless youths, as well as the resources and services required to help them get off the street. Dans la rue also runs a number of prevention programs designed to educate young people about the risks and consequences associated with living in the streets. Dans la rue has a team of more than 65 full-time employees and 135 dedicated volunteers who work with street kids to give them what they need to take charge of their lives. /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on the CNW Photo Network and archived at http://photos.newswire.ca. Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited members of the media/
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