At about twice the size as the old digs, the new location for the YMCA Centre for Immigrant Services offers a lot more to newcomers.
The centre recently celebrated its new larger space at 7071 Bayers Road with an opening party. For about a decade it operated out of a smaller space on Main Avenue. “It was a very cozy, homey place to be but we outgrew it and we were always juggling around for programming room,” says Jennifer Thornhill, senior manager. “Now we have three program rooms and one with a great kitchen. This allows us to have concurrent programs running like a sewing class going on a Friday afternoon with a youth group meeting in another room.”
There’s also a lobby with a little cafe. Manager Paula Latham says the lobby allows the space for people to get together and socialize before and after programs. The new space “is a really good balance between being able to offer one-on-one services to clients and being able to do group activities as well,” she adds.
The centre operates a number of programs including conversation circles, Saturday study skills, and seniors groups. It’s also a hub for community outreach including settlement staff who work with about 30 schools, plus programming across the province. Last year the YMCA worked with close to 3,000 clients, Thornhill says.
The centre receives funding through the provincial and federal governments and has been doing settlement work for over 25 years. Thornhill says it was one of the first to provide settlement services tailored to children and youth.
“Another niche we have is… looking at active living as a healthy tool for settlement,” Thornhill says. “When people come it can be very stressful and they want to know how they can get involved in the community and that program really helps.”