Checking out the new digs
Whitney Pier Youth Club officially opens newly expanded space
Whitney Pier Youth Club held an open house in its new building on Saturday.
She may have been the youngest guest speaker on the bill but seven-year-old Ava Carew probably summed it up best why the new Whitney Pier Youth Club will be a success in the community.
“The best thing about the club is that it can fit more people,” Carew said on Saturday at the grand opening of the club’s 111 West St. premises. “I’m here today because I love the club and I respect it.”
About 200 people visited the club on Saturday to hear speeches from board members and volunteers, to tour around the premises which are geared towards different age groups and to even share a piece of cake. For Chester Borden, the club’s executive director, opening day was a long time coming.
“You’re looking at over three years of fundraising and 19 months from when we moved out until we moved back in,” said Borden, adding the dream to create a bigger and better space started almost a decade before that. “It’s been a very long road. It aged me an extra five years but it’s done.”
And even now, with a much bigger club that can serve many more youth, it may not be enough.
“We’re almost maxed out as we speak — we have right now registered 145 kids — 80-plus elementary kids and 45 junior high and 20 high school,” said
Borden jokes that his new office, complete with a shiny red “boss” mug and artwork filled with inspirational sayings, is his favorite spot but deep down, there’s another area that he feels sums up the club best.
“I think it’s the kitchen because that’s the heart and soul of the club. We served last year over 13,000 meals and 22,000 snacks. I love the whole building — I’m very happy today. I think they (the kids) really enjoy it too.”
Sheraton Simmons, 16, has been involved in the club for the past 13 years and now considers it to be part of her second family.
“The club has done so much for me,” she says. “I volunteer after school, evening programs, whenever possible. The club is good because it take in the youth — it shows them what is right, what is wrong. We mainly focus on the one rule here — respect. You have respect for us, we’ll have it for you.”
Josh Dithurbide, 16, says he considers the club to be his second home. He also volunteers regularly, coming every day after school to help the younger children. He says while the club may be bigger now, it’s the spirit of the place that keeps him coming.
“Two years ago, this wonderful club was small, and did not have all the programs that we have today. But that was OK because kids still came to the club with smiles on their faces because they knew the club was fun and exciting. I’m here to help and to have fun.”
Pam Petrie, vice-president, secretary and board member of the club, became involved when her sons started going to the club for taekwondo and she now regularly spends 10 to 15 hours of her spare time each week volunteering her time. Despite all the hard work, she says it’s been worth the extra effort.
“The day that the kids came in here when it opened, they were looking around and they were amazed. It was worth it just to see the looks on their faces. A lot of hard work and late nights but it was most definitely worth it.”
People of all ages came to the Whitney Pier Youth Club on Saturday to inspect the premises after the club’s grand opening.