Great job, great friends, great burger

Justin Crann
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Joe's Place program director celebrated with 25-pound beef behemoth

For Sean Gurnsey, Joe's Place is a lot more than a place to work.

"Growing up … I could have chosen a lot of negative options and sometimes I did, but (Joe's Place) was a positive choice that was available to me and it led toward some good decisions," he told the Times-Herald Wednesday. 

"I got into some trouble and I could get away from it here. Joe's Place probably saved my life in the long run."

Gurnsey was one of "the originals" to attend Joe's Place back when it was based out of its founder's apartment. 

Now the program director for the youth centre, he celebrates his birthday today. 

The occasion was marked on Saturday at the youth centre with a massive bacon double cheeseburger.

The burger weighed in at more than 24 pounds — 20 of those being a pair of massive beef patties, dressed four pounds of woven bacon, and topped off with cheese, condiments and a custom-made bun. 

It was all prepared by volunteers who also work with Joe's Place.

"They carried it in on a military gurney, and they had the burger on a 16-inch pan. They could have brought it out on a garbage pail. It was just a huge, monstrous thing," Gurnsey said.

The experience was memorable for Gurnsey and the more than 40 staff, volunteers and youth in the centre that night, and he said it lit up his Facebook as people snapped photos and posted them, tagging him in every one.

But more than just a tasty treat, the burger was reflective of the workplace, which Gurnsey described as "probably one of the funnest places to work."

"The very first day I got here, I knew I was in the right place because I hung my coat up next to a gorilla costume," he said. "There's probably no other place I could get to work at that would be as interesting as this one."

Gurnsey, who worked with youth as a pastor and in other capacities before taking his job at Joe's Place, said he got into the business at least in part because of the example Joe Dueck and other staff the centre set when he was coming up.

"It really changed my outlook on life, just watching Joe and the staff at the time and how they lived their lives," he explained. 

"It was different, and it was so much better, than what I was used to seeing. And because they were role models for me, it became a goal — and hopefully now I'm in the right place (to achieve it) — to be a good role model for others, too."

He said the centre made an impact not just on his life, but on the lives of his friends.

One of his friends, who used to make chainmail links while hanging out at the youth centre, went on to work at a business in Saskatoon that made chainmail, Gurnsey said.

"He ended up buying the company and moving it to Swift Current, and then he did some consulting on The Hobbit," he added.

He said that without the youth centre, his friend might not have had the confidence to take the job in the first place — similar to other Joe's Place youth who have gone on to work in kitchens and elsewhere.

"Joe's Place really impacted my life and the lives of my friends, and we've all gone on to do good things," said Gurnsey. "I look at where I could have ended up with what was out there when I was a kid. If Joe's Place hadn't been an intersecting thing in my life, I probably wouldn't be in a very good place.

"Actually, I can almost guarantee it," he added. "I know the roads that were available to me."

You can follow Justin Crann on Twitter or like him on Facebook.

Organizations: Times-Herald

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Swift Current

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