By Lorene Keitch
The old Invermere Library has been given a makeover to become the new home of the Summit Youth Centre Hub.
On a recent stop at the new hub for Invermere youth, the pizza-scented place was active. Three guys played a video game while another two collaborated on a computer game; a handful did the classical-teenage pastime of ‘hanging out’, while another worked on his skills at the music production stand. There were 15 youth in the new digs on a cursory look through the building. It was clearly the place to be on a Friday afternoon.
Dan Lewis, affectionately dubbed ‘the Old Man’, presides over the hub. More friend than leader, but with some mentoring, monitoring, and management thrown in, Mr. Lewis has worked hard to create a welcoming place for youth of the Valley.
“We’re wanting to create a space where everybody can come,” said Mr. Lewis, adding that there is an ever-widening circle of youth making the centre a part of their week.
The old library moved to its new location at the Columbia Valley Centre just over two months ago. The Summit Youth Centre retrofitted the joint for its new users and opened the doors on Wednesday, November 1st. The walls of the first room are now swathed in orange and purple; the open floor plan gives space for teenagers to mill about freely; the pool table sits prominently in the centre of the main room. A kitchen setup, with the old centre’s counter salvaged for memory’s sake, stretches across the back wall, while a giant TV and corner couch fill the opposite end. In the second room, there’s couches for Xbox and lounging, and a bank of three computer stations, as well as a band set-up, complete with headphones so rocking out does not need to interfere with hanging out.
Library patrons will recall the old jail that housed a children’s train table, couch and youth books. The former jail will soon be home to a virtual reality cube, courtesy of local realtor Geoff Hill. While the youth can play games in the cube, Mr. Lewis envisions educational opportunities, like ‘traveling’ to the Taj Mahal or the Great Pyramids through the system.
Dubbed The Cube YC2, it is a “complete immersion virtual reality cube,” shared Mr. Lewis. “The kids were so stoked about it.”
With the move, the Summit Youth Centre has re-branded to the Summit Youth Centre Hub, to encapsulate what the place is all about.
“We want this place to become a place for youth (12 to 18 years old), to find out what’s going on in their town,” said Mr. Lewis. “This place is a home away from home for kids. It’s safe; this is the biggest thing – it’s where you feel accepted.”
The centre sees an average of 220 visits per month, with a typical day bringing in 14 to 18 youth, such as Jade Hayward, who comes to the centre on average every Friday.
“You get to meet new people, you get out of the house, and it’s something to do with friends,” she said of why she comes.
Gabe Verge comes because he likes to hang out with his friends, watch movies, and play games at the centre.
“The new space is pretty cool,” he said while parked out in the kitchen area.
Ryker Tallis told the Pioneer he liked the new kitchen space, which he used the night previous to make goulash for everyone at the hub – “it tasted pretty good,” he exclaimed.
“I like how it (the new centre) has a lot more space,” Ryker said. “The old one was really crammed.”
Summit Youth Centre is a nonprofit organization, run by Mr. Lewis and overseen by a board of directors. They are funded through grants as well as a lot of individual donations. Mr. Lewis remarked they could not have completed the new space without the invaluable support of the District of Invermere, which provided the space, Home Hardware, as well as Shawn Murray of S.O.R.S. Construction, CDL Flooring, Ptarmigan Cleaning and Taynton Bay Electrical.
Mr. Lewis says while keeping the centre running can be a lot of work, it is well worth it.
“Sometimes you find treasure in the least expected places, and where you find it, you invest in it,” Mr. Lewis explained of his work with youth over the past 12 years. “The reason why I do this? The 12 to 18 year olds are literally the future.”
The Summit Youth Centre Hub is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4-8 p.m., Fridays from 2-10 p.m. and Saturdays from 6-11 p.m.
The centre will be hosting a grand opening for the public to come have a look, meet the staff and learn more about the Summit Youth Centre Hub. The open house takes place Saturday, November 18th from 2-4 p.m.