News

Community invited to Feb. 17 open house to see the new look at The Upper Deck and check out programs

By Jennifer Vandermeer, Norwich Gazette/IngersollTimes

Jacqui Armstrong, director of the Norwich Youth Unlimited group, invites members of the community to stop in to The Upper Deck open house on Saturday, Feb. 17 to see the renovations that have been made to the 17-year-old centre and to learn more about what happens there and the benefit for local youth.

Jacqui Armstrong, director of the Norwich Youth Unlimited group, invites members of the community to stop in to The Upper Deck open house on Saturday, Feb. 17 to see the renovations that have been made to the 17-year-old centre and to learn more about what happens there and the benefit for local youth.

NORWICH - 

There’s a fresh new look inside The Upper Deck youth centre in Norwich, and the community is invited to come have a look at what’s been done, and what’s been going on at the 17-year-old centre.

An open house has been planned for Saturday, Feb. 17 from 2 to 5 p.m. to showcase the interior renovations that include new flooring, furniture and a fresh coat of paint.

Centre director Jacqui Armstrong described the new look as fun and funky.

“It’s a place for kids,” she said. “We want to make it a fun but relaxing environment.”

All of the time, materials and furnishings were donated to update the centre. The renovations have been dedicated to the life of Josh Nap.

“We want people to come in and check it out,” said satellite director Jacqui Armstrong. “We want people to ask questions… to understand what we do, not just guess.”

The vision for the renovations started last summer and the work began in September. Volunteers and some of the centre’s youth patrons helped to get things done in time to reopen in November. In the interim, the centre’s fall programs were held in space provided at Norwich Baptist Church.

Armstrong said the youth have given their approval to the work.

“They think it’s really cool,” she said. “I think the biggest thing is they’re recognizing we did this for them and a lot of hours and a lot of hard work went into it.”

The Upper Deck continues to draw the community’s youth for its programming and activities. Every week staff track the number of youth who are attending and on an average Friday night, as many as 40 youth come and go.

“This is an amazing opportunity to keep kids off the street, in a supervised environment, where guidance and care are given, encouraging positive social behavior,” Armstrong wrote in the Norwich Youth for Christ/Youth Unlimited Impact Report for 2017.

This is the document she presents when requesting funding support from various sources. Youth Unlimited has a budget of about $100,000 and all of it must be raised in the community. Already for 2018 she has secured $20,000 from the County of Oxford, and on the day of the interview with the Gazette, she was prepared to make her grant request to the Township of Norwich council, which gave over $3,000 last year.

The impact statement includes the rundown of the programs offered by the organization as well as how many people are involved. Some programs include the weekly Friday evening drop-ins; student leadership nights; community garden; boys clubs; girls nights out; and the annual free community Christmas dinner which served 140 people last year.

The majority of the youth who attend the programs are between the ages of nine and 13, but Armstrong said there are some high school students who are part of the student leadership groups. The goal right now is to attract more of the older youth. The Friday night drop-in program is open until 9 p.m. for the younger students, and open until 11 p.m. for the high school-aged youth.

“We want to get the word out to high schoolers that there is a place for them,” she said.