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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