(File photo courtesy of © CanStockPhoto.com/tobkatrina)
(File photo courtesy of © CanStockPhoto.com/tobkatrina)

CK youth centres partner to boost programming as demand grows

A pair of youth centres in Chatham-Kent are taking a new approach in offering more programming for families and children after school.

The Blenheim Youth Centre and the Tilbury Solid Rock Cafe share a similar mission when it comes to providing a safe environment for youth to engage.

The two centres have partnered up for a "one mission, two sites" approach.

Emily Robert, executive director of the Blenheim Youth Centre, said there has never been a collaboration for as long as the youth centres have been around in Chatham-Kent.

She said each centre knew the other existed, but never interacted with one another or shared resources and networks.

"We run our programming on five pillars," said Robert. "They include recreation and leisure, civil engagement, arts and culture, leadership and life skill development, and education and employment."

In April, the youth centres received a $77,200  Resilient Communities Fund grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The funds were used to provide staff at the Tilbury centre, establish fundraising initiatives, and overall plan moving forward, in order to expand their reach in the community.

"This grant has allowed both youth centres to expand capacity and knowledge of community needs, gaps, opportunities for growth, and embark on a stronger partnership between both communities," said Robert.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, both organizations were completely closed to in-person for 17 months. Since then, both organizations have seen pre-COVID-19 numbers.

Robert said the centre in Tilbury has seen 115 new youth members that have never used the centre before. In May, the organization saw 46 youths utilize the space for that month alone. On a daily basis, about 15 youths come through the doors.

In Blenheim, the centre has seen 162 new youth members sign up. For the month of May, the youth centre saw 106 youths access the centre. On a daily basis, an average of 20 youths use the space.

"Working on a one mission, two sites approach has allowed us to create a larger more long-term impact on the community," said Robert.

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