By Tristan Marks
Grimsby’s FORT (Foundation of Resources for Teens) will be closed for Christmas, starting Dec. 24 and reopening Jan. 4.
Once reopen, the youth organization will run its after school program from 3-5:30 p.m. and its teen program from 5:30-8 p.m. Office hours will run from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Programs finish an hour before office closing to gice FORT staff time to thoroughly clean the building as part of Covid precautions.
FORT is also following all strict guidelines to ensure the safety of youth and staff.
Currently, up to 15 people may enter the centre at a time, including youth and staff.
FORT staff take temperatures, contact information from anyone entering and take great precautions to enforce social distancing. Strict cleaning policies and hand washing are in place. Masks must be worn at all times except when eating.
Executive director Beth Shaw said that the FORT’s programming is focussed on helping youth adjust to the difficulties of life during a pandemic.
“Recently, the FORT has noticed an upswing in youth mental health needs, and as a result we are responding to these new challenges by creating programming that addresses isolation, online school assistance, and providing professional mental health counselling to those in crisis,” Shaw said.
To address these issues, FORT aims at helping youth to get up and out of their rooms, see friends, get help with homework, and participate in positive programming.
Although programming only lasts from 3-8 p.m., Shaw said assistance is available for kids and teens who need it from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
The Niagara Distress Centre at 905-563-6674 or Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 is available if an emergency arises.
The youth centre is also prepared to operate via Zoom to stay connected with its kids since the province moved Niagara into red zone COVID restrictions.
This year more than ever, the FORT needs support from the community to continue to reach kids and teens with its programming.
“It’s been a very difficult year for the FORT,” said Shaw. “We have lost all ability to fundraise, which has taken a major toll on our operating budget. This year, should you be in a position to donate, please consider a donation to the FORT.”