By John Swartz
A long road to reopening the Orillia Youth Centre, interrupted by a basement flooded by a leaky water heater, ended Saturday as the doors were opened to youth at 2 p.m. OYC director Kevin Gangloff was happy to be back in business.
“One thousand percent,” he said.
There were 7 people lined up to enter and rushing the door once opened was not going to be an option. Each had to answer a series of questions designed to reveal if they could enter, have their temperature taken, and sanitize their hands, before they could proceed – and of course have a mask. Those things did not mean much to 15-year-0ld Mitchell. He was just happy to be in the same room with someone else his age.
“I’ve just been staying around the house quarantining, making sure I don’t spread COVID, just keeping family safe,” he said. “I’ve called them (friends), texted them, had conversations, but I haven’t physically seen them in a while.”
The center looked bright and sparkly. A month ago it didn’t just look like it needed a cleaning to reopen, it was a mess with some of the basement contents distributed through out to dry from the flood, and a mucky path evident from the many trips from the basement to the dumpster for the rest.
“In terms of effort, staff all came together and sanitized everything under the sun.” Gangloff said. It’s probably going to look like a postcard image for a little while longer than normal too because visitors aren’t going to have free run of the room.
“We have stations set up. Youth are going to be assigned. Right now we’re looking at 45 minutes per station and then they’re going to shift,’ Gangloff said. “When youth get up they’re going to sanitize their hands, each station will be wiped down and then the youth will rotate.”
And for the time being, only a selection of the center’s resource materials will be able to be used. It’s all been evaluated according to how to manage cleanliness.
“All the games we have out are games that can be wiped down,” Gangloff said. This also means the programs created around various activities and knowledge passing, like learning to cook, won’t be happening for some time.
“We’re still going to provide meals and food and all those different things, but that’s all going to look different,” Gangloff said. “We can’t have volunteers in here right now. We want to do mask making programs, but I have to wait a couple weeks. We just want to be open.”
Unfortunately, a peek inside won’t reveal the usual mayhem of dozens of kids loose in play land as in the past. Cleanliness protocols mean it will look more like a TIE Club euchre event, everyone sitting down in groups, but with fewer people because of the size of the OYC.
“We’re only allowed to have 13 youth in here right now,” Gangloff said. “We might have to start booking youth in.”
For young people like Mitchell, it’s still better than the alternative.
“I like this. It’s a good idea. It’s been a while since COVID started, so just to have everyone come together in a low amount, a small gathering,” is good said Mitchell.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: 15-year-old Mya, greeted by OYC staffer, Todd Greenwood, was the first through the doors Saturday afternoon at the reopened Orillia Youth Centre.