Dresden Sidestreets Youth Center aims to return to full swing

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DRESDEN — A youth center here has undergone interior and exterior renovations and is preparing for full operation as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down.

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The Dresden Sidestreets Youth Center received funding from the Chatham-Kent Community Foundation, South Kent Winds and a community improvement grant through the Municipality of Chatham-Kent which paid for new paving, windows and signage improving the exterior as well as renovations in a back room to provide more space.

“We’re just starting to pick up the pace,” said Tyler Ouellette, volunteer director of the youth center.

Before COVID, the center served 25 to 30 children after school each day during the week, but Ouellette said opening hours are currently reduced to Wednesday through Friday, three hours a day.

He added that the goal is to reopen every day of the week, but they are looking for more funding to do so.

Like virtually all nonprofits, COVID-19 has taken a toll on the center’s fundraising efforts.

Ouellette said the pandemic shutdown has prevented the center from hosting fundraisers, such as barbecues at community events. He added that changes made during COVID to the organization that was his main source of funding mean that funding is no longer available.

“We are currently short of reserves. . . and we are working on some opportunities now,” Ouellette said.

In addition to a completely renovated space, he said the center has the advantage of owning the building.

Noting that the center has leased space for years, he said the opportunity to purchase this building arose in 2013, “so we did this to become more sustainable”.

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There is space on the second floor of the building which is rented out for storage which helps to cover operating costs.

He said it costs about $40,000 to run the youth center five days a week year-round, which includes coverage for two part-time staff and supplies.

“We try to race in the most fiscally responsible way possible,” Ouellette said.

Tyler Ouellette, volunteer director of the SideStreets Youth Center in Dresden, is seen inside the facility at 175 Main Street. PHOTO Ellwood Shreve/Chatham Daily News jpg, CD

The center is also used by other community groups.

“The youth center has opened its doors to other organizations such as Dresden Shines to do Christmas decorating and organize meetings,” said volunteer Liz Kominek, who sits on both the boards of the Sidestreets Youth Center and the Dresden BIA and also co-chairs the Dresden Shines Committee.

“This newly renovated hall will be an even greater asset for future projects and (the building will continue) to serve as a community center,” she added in a written statement.

The renovations to the center have a positive impact on neighboring businesses.

“Having a more appealing street adds to the overall vibe of downtown,” said Myrian Armstrong of The Hub and Spoke.

“It was also great that the upgrades complemented not only their building, but also the style of our little stretch of downtown,” she added in the statement. “The impact of their work is felt far beyond their property, and we hope these types of projects will continue in the future.”

Ouellette said the youth center has been in operation in the community for 21 years, where children can hang out with friends, do homework or find a listening ear among staff and volunteers.

“It gives young people a place to go, especially in a small town like this that is safe and supervised,” Ouellette said.

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