Nearly a year after moving back into its revamped Spruce Street building, the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Club’s Regent Park branch is still looking for funding to finish paying for the refurbishment.
The club’s home in an early-19th century church at 101 Spruce Street underwent a two-year renovation, with staff and children moving back into the new space last January 26.
“It was a $7-million renovation and the building was completely gutted,” said Amanda Neale-Robinson of the Kiwanis Boys & Girls Club. “We’ve been here since 1921 with an after-school program and it was good to move back in after spending two years in satellite locations.”
The revamp came at an opportune time, coinciding at least somewhat with the Regent Park Revitalization, which saw many local youth temporarily displaced.
In addition to nearly doubling the amount of usable space from 12,000 to 22,000 square feet, the revamp also included a technology room with state-of-the-art computers, improved gym facilities, a driving simulator and more.
This is in addition to existing after-school and evening programs which offer children and youth a chance to take part in arts and crafts or physical activities or cooking, nutrition or literacy learning classes.
“The cool thing about our club is that we run it like a grassroots organization,” Neale-Robinson said. “We take direction from the ground up. We listen to the needs of the community and the interests of kids.”
She cited a new knitting club that started after some of the youth who attend the centre expressed an interest.
The club offers an after-school program which runs from roughly 3:15 to 6 p.m. and night-time programs for youth. The centre also offers programming during school breaks, summer camp sessions and more.
The Regent Park Kiwanis Club was ground-breaking in piloting a safe walk program in which local youth pick children up from schools in the Regent Park and Cabbagetown areas and bring them to the centre. The youth also walk the children home when the after-school program ends.
“It started in 2004 in response to some violence in the community,” Neale-Robinson said. “Some parents were afraid to let their kids travel alone. Now we’re the largest employer of youth in the downtown east.”
The program won an award from the City of Toronto and has been emulated in other Kiwanis clubs.
Many of the new features in the renovated centre were made possible through corporate sponsorship, and the centre was renamed the Miles & Kelly Nadal Youth Centre after the Nadal family donated $1.5 million.
Now, the centre is looking to fill a few gaps in funding to help ensure the costs of the renovations are covered completely.
“There are still naming opportunities for foundations and businesses, but any funding will help,” Neale-Robinson said. “Really, we’re always looking for funding, whether it’s for our building or for programming, and we’re always looking for volunteers.”
For information on the centre or to find out about donation or volunteer opportunities, visit www.believeinkids.ca/101spruce