Government grants support expansion, accessibility at BGC South East

From left to right: Gary McCabe, Treasurer of the Board at BGC South East; Harold Parsons, CEO at BGC South East; Jacqueline Collier, President of the Board at BGC South East; Denise Cumming, OTF Volunteer; Ted Hsu, MPP for Kingston and the Islands; and Mark Gerretsen, MP for Kingston and the Islands. Photo via BGC South East.

Two government grants were awarded to BGC South East on Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2024, which the organization will use to fund their expansion renovations and improve accessibility. The announcement event took place at the West End Community Centre, and saw both MP Mark Gerretsen and MPP Ted Hsu in attendance.

According to a release from BGC South East, the renovations were made possible with a $70,000 grant from the Government of Canada’s Enabling Accessibility Fund (ESDC) and a $150,000 Capital grant from the Ontario Government through the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF). The project has added accessibility features and expanded the program area to an additional 9,000 square feet that will benefit over 5,000 local children and youth, the club shared.

“As we celebrate the expansion of the BGC West End Community Centre, we’re reminded of the profound impact that strategic investments, like those from the Enabling Accessibility Fund, can have on our community,” said Gerretsen.

“This isn’t merely about physical renovations; it’s about breaking down barriers, opening doors, and ensuring that every child, regardless of their abilities, can fully participate in the vibrant life of our community. The Enabling Accessibility Fund’s support is not just financial; it’s a catalyst for empowerment and inclusion, shaping a future where no one is left behind.”

Scott Compeau, Director of Education & Innovation at BGC South East showcases robots and tech programs that children and youth will learn to build and code as part of new programs that will operate in the renovated spaces. Photo via BGC South East.

The $150,000 Capital grant from the Ontario Government and the $70,000 Enabling Accessibility Fund grant from the Government of Canada were used to fund over half of the renovation costs associated with the construction of new accessible doors, gender-neutral washrooms, and a large play area at the organization’s West End Community Centre, according to BGC South East. These improvements now allow the West End Community Centre to hold over 64,000 square feet of programmable space.

“The Boys and Girls Club is an institution in Kingston, and collaborative funding from both the provincial and federal governments is necessary to unlock its potential. BGC South East has given so much to this community, and this new expansion will allow it to give so much more,” Hsu expressed.

When asked for more details, Amanda Guarino, Director of Resource Development and Communications shared that the organization’s West End Centre currently has 55,000 square feet and the expansion will allow them to have 64,000 square feet of programmable space. The new 9,000 square feet area is located behind the gymnasium, and will be accessed by walking through the front doors and through a new hallway by the gymnasium.   

“This funding came at a critical time. The West End Centre is bustling with activity every day, starting with aquatics programs at 5:00 a.m. until evening youth programs. Expanding our service space, and making the facility more accessible for children with disabilities will allow us to serve even more families in need.”
stated Jacqueline Collier, President of the Board of Directors, BGC South East.

In response to Kingstonist’s inquiries about how BGC South East’s West End Community Centre will be affected by the redevelopment of the Frontenac Mall, Guarino explained that BGC South East has a lease until 2042 at the West End location, and “will not be affected by the redevelopment of the Mall.”

According to the release, BGC South East provides safe supportive spaces and positive mentoring relationships where young people experience new opportunities and develop confidence and skills for life. Since 1993, the organization has been serving the Kingston and area community with research-based recreational, educational, and experiential programs in areas of sports, science, arts, nutrition, and technology for children and youth ages 0 to 18.

Guarino also noted that final renovations will continue into the new space, and said that BGC South East is looking forward to opening new programs starting in September 2024.

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