For nearly 20 years, The Foundation of Resources for Teens (FORT) Youth Centre has been a guiding force in Western Niagara. Operating out of both Grimsby and Smithville, this non-profit charity helps steer young individuals in the right direction. Services, which are free of charge, are accessible to youth aged 11-18 and include everything from mentorships and counselling to employment assistance and homework help. The Centre's goal is to help kids prepare for their future, no matter their financial circumstances.
Each day is a little different at the Centre. On average, The Forth Youth Centre receives 10,000 visits from youth between its two centres each year. Their dedicated team of professionally trained staff, volunteers, and co-op students have created a wide variety of programs that are tailored to specific aspects of everyday life.
Kids in Grades 6, 7 and 8 are the first to show up – popping in anytime from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 pm. When they arrive, they have the option to make a quick snack and then get started on their homework. Then they’ll either spend time working on arts and crafts, completing a fun science experiment, or engaging in informal life discussions. Most importantly, the Centre is open to kids and teens who need a safe place to just hang out and be themselves. Equipped with video games, a pool table and musical instruments, there is always something to do at the Centre.
High school students are the next group to arrive. They’ll partake in programs that develop important life skills like cooking healthy foods, managing money and learning how to apply for jobs. As a way to give back each month, these students cook a meal that feeds 60 people for the Salvation Army. Not only does this put their cooking talents on display, but it also helps build their resumes.
Mental health is a primary focus at the Centre for high school aged students. The Centre is one of the few centres in Niagara to offer free professional mental health counselling to youth in crisis. This program is vital to ensuring West Niagara youth are receiving the immediate help they need. In fact, one of the Centre's future projects includes opening West Niagara’s first youth transitional housing service.
Though the Centre's programming is designed according to age, one topic that they focus on with every client is how to navigate through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In early Spring of 2020, the Centre was forced to close, which meant limited access to vital programs. Fortunately, within two weeks the team at FORT had set up reoccuring video calls with their clients and began facilitating programming virtually. As more young people learn how to cope with the mental health related consequences of the pandemic, the importance of the Centre's programming within Niagara has never been more evident.
Left: CAA Niagara tow truck branded with FORT Niagara logo in front of the Thorold Branch. Right: Peter Van Hezewyk, President and CEO of CAA Niagara,
and Beth Shaw, Executive Director of Foundation of Resources for Teens, at the official truck unveiling event.
The FORT Youth Centre was selected as a 2020 CAA Community Boost recipient, receive funding, marketing support, and much more from CAA Niagara. CAA Niagara is proud to partner with such an integral organization and looks forward to continuing to work together. To learn more about the 2020 Community Boost campaign, click here. Visit the FORT Youth Centre's website to learn more about the organization.