Manager's grab bag of life experiences make impact on youth centre's winning ways

What makes the Youth Centre tick? What makes it tick so vigorously it clocked the top accolade in the community section of the recent business awards?

More to the point who makes it tick? The answer's a team dedicated to giving this city's younger people a purpose in life, goals to strive for, encouragement to reach their full potential and free health care.

We know this because centre manager, Steve Holmes, tells us so, emphasising in his typical low key way it's no one individual, but the dedication of the centre's twin teams; the one that runs a host of youth-related programmes and those caring for their welfare via Rotovegas Youth Health headed by his opposite number, Dr Tania Pinfold.


A board of trustees, under long-time chairman Mike Keefe oversees both operations.

But with the chairman already featured by Our People (May 14, 2010) and Dr Pinfold's turn to be shoulder tapped coming, we hone in on Steve Holmes to let the world know what it takes to be at the administrative helm of the stellar performer the youth centre's become.

And what a grab bag of life experiences we garner, but before letting us delve into it he insists we record it was under the watch of his predecessor, Laurie Durand, that the centre took flight.

"He's such a skilled and respected man, he really took it from strength to strength giving me a great foundation to work on."

Steve didn't come into the job cold - he's been around young people for aeons, including a spell as managing the centre when it was Hinemoa St-based.

It now occupies the former YWCA's Te Ngae Rd premises (opposite Countdown).

If there's one person who can identify with those in their teenage years not thriving in the school environment Steve's your man.

He candidly admits to learning difficulties, quitting school before completing his 7th form year.

What a difference life in the real world can make make. Steve's working days began in Rainbow Springs' storeroom before moving behind the souvenir shop's counter.

"It got me very interested in tourism and the Japanese culture, it was a place I'd always wanted to see for myself."

He did, spending 18 months working in a golf course restaurant at Hidaka Cho, three hours north of Osaka, teaching English as a sideline.

"A very cool experience, I picked up enough basic Japanese for me to be able to use it okay."

On his return he capitalised on his new skill, tending bar in home-town hotels favoured by Japanese visitors. However inspired by voluntary involvement with a couple of the Living Well Church's youth groups Steve undertook an intensive internship at Auckland's Impact church, focusing on children and teenagers.

Better qualified, he became a civilian member of the police youth development team, working with first and second time offenders was right up his alley.

While with the police he was one of 12 New Zealanders selected to spend two months on board the Ship of World Youth, a Japanese government initiative.

Steve erases our idea of it being hard, physical yakka of the type experienced by those who sail on New Zealand's Spirit of Adventure.

"It was very posh, like being on board a cruise liner, but we worked very hard in a different way, sailing around the Indian Ocean learning about leadership and cultural relationships, developing young leaders. It was amazing, I got a huge lot out of that."

He hadn't long been home when he was offered the management role with the former youth centre. "It was more of a drop-in centre than here [Te Ngae Rd] but for five and a half years I did a lot of mentoring work."

Tourism tempted him to return as a tour driver for backpackers. "I took them all over New Zealand, got to see the country for myself, became a head driver, it was another amazing experience I've been lucky enough to have had."

Is there no stopping this man's endeavours?

From tour driving he became assistant manager of the Haupapa St Youth Hostel before flipping back to youth work, as a team leader overseeing youth employment programmes with the Rotorua-based Wera Charitable Trust.

In August 2014 he took up his present role.

That comprehensive list of achievements belongs to Steve Holmes' work CV. On the flip side's his 10 years with the Rotorua Musical Theatre

"I joined to work on my confidence, it's developed me as a person."

Here Our People has an embarrassing confession to make. Walking into Steve's office we'd blurted out we were sure we recognised his face - of course we did, he's played in a host of shows, including Juan Peron, in the theatre's August production of Evita.

How could we not have placed him? Reviewing it, we'd lauded his performance, describing him as the Argentinean president's doppelganger.

"I really enjoyed a role so challenging, difficult, singing in a way I've never sung before."

He's stopping the show as Lurch, the towering, growling zombie butler in The Addams Family, presently playing at Casa Blanca.

Next year he's making his directing debut, selecting Rock of Ages, a revival of '80s rock songs. Before that there's a planned three-week humanitarian trip to Angeles in the Philippines - "one of the most poverty-stricken communities".

This indeed is a man of many talents although he perceives it differently.

"I've had some great opportunities, some amazing experiences with some wonderful people helping me along the way."

Born: Rotorua, 1974.
Education: Westbrook Primary, Westminster Christian School (Auckland), Mokoia Intermediate, Lakes High, Impact church (Auckland).
Family: Parents: Roger and Jean Holmes (Rotorua), sister Jo Holmes (Auckland).
Interests: Working with young people, theatre, singing, (performs in cabaret groups Off Broadway and Show Time). "Helping people where there's a need."
On Rotorua youth: "They're amazing, have such huge potential."
Personal philosophy: "Life's experiences will either serve as a stumbling block or a starting block."

. Youth Centre 8
. Health Centre 14 including satellite service at youth justice facility
• 100-120 young people registered on the various skill share and development workshops (currently 10 after-school workshops running)
• Between 1000-2000 young people and whanau attended events and activities
• Youth using facilities such as dance studios and meeting rooms : 330
• Adults using these facilities : 370
• An estimated 1280 young people accessing health service
• Online support: 215 youth.
Total 2395 per school term.