After more than a year, the Collingwood Youth Centre is ramping up to finally open its doors again.
On Monday, Sept. 27, the centre will be re-opening to youth in Grades 7 to 12 for socially distanced drop-ins. Moving forward, the centre will be open from Monday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Lea Pankhurst, centre manager. “To have a definitive (date) where the doors are definitely opening is great. I’m seeing reactions from our youth on social media... they can’t wait to get back in.”
“Anyone who is in Grade 7 or 8 now has never had the opportunity to come here,” he said. “It’s a nice thing all around.”
Throughout COVID-19, the centre was closed. Some programs still continued, including the virtual cooking program.
Pankhurst, along with local youth were also able to use the centre’s 3D printers to make over 2,000 visors and backstraps for use in local hospitals. In addition to visors, the centre distributed 300 PPE bags for local seniors in the Simcoe-Muskoka area, which included sanitizer, a fabric mask, visor and gloves, and a small treat.
“We’ve done lots of virtual stuff like the cooking programs and virtual outreach. We were able to help more people,” said Pankhurst.
For the time being, the centre’s capacity will be capped at 14 youth at a time on a first-come-first-served basis. Pankhurst said that while capacity limits would allow for more, the decision was made to keep the limit low to allow the youth who visit to have more freedom of movement.
Masks and social distancing will be a requirement. Hand sanitizer stations are placed around the centre, and youth will be asked to sanitize their stations before leaving. Staff will be sanitizing high-touch areas every hour, and the entire centre will be fully cleaned every night.
Pankhurst is hoping to see some new faces at the centre this season.
“We’ve always pushed different age groups, from 12 to 18, different schools, different backgrounds, all together in one big room,” he said, noting that during COVID-19 lockdowns, those meetings were not happening.
“There’s a difference between meeting in person versus a Zoom or FaceTime call,” he said. “I think it’s really important.”
Over the next few weeks, Pankhurst says the centre will be starting up various programs again such as culinary and media.
For more information on the Collingwood Youth Centre, click here.