Hardwick Youth Center becomes a beacon for young people

HARDWICK – The Hardwick Youth Center serves as a resource for young people, ages birth to 18, from Hardwick and the surrounding villages. Its intention is to be a safe place where young people can go be themselves and meet other children, fostering friendships between them.

“What makes the center unique is that we are a city-funded, donation-funded center,” said director Laurie Desjardins. “We work in partnership with other organizations such as East Quabbin Land Trust Youth Educator, Eagle Hill School, Workshop 13 and Stone Church. We take ideas from our children about what they would like to do throughout the year.

City Administrator Nicole Parker responded, “The Youth Center is an incredible asset to the city because I believe youth are our future. Here they are engaged and supported through activities and stewardship. They embrace all seasons and learn that being active is fun and that a healthy lifestyle is essential for a well-rounded being.

She went on to say, “The center offers games, activities and art for them to express themselves creatively. Almost weekly, they take trips to parks or destinations to fuel their bodies and minds. I encourage all families to take full advantage of this wonderful resource that Hardwick offers its residents.

The youth center was established in the 1980s by a group of townspeople – Eric Volheim, Lucinda Childs, Barbara and Ron Newton, Rod and Linda Leehy. Later, Elizabeth and Jerry Reilly joined the band. The youth center was originally started for teenagers to give them a place to go in a rural area. Since its inception it has evolved and there are no other surrounding towns that have a youth center paid for by the taxpayers of Hardwick and the surrounding villages.

The center receives about 90 children of all age groups. They do a lot of activities with them like air hockey, foosball, hikes, walks and sports at Gilbertville Memorial Park. The center recently brought back community dinners where they teach children how to cook and use fresh vegetables and herbs.

Due to COVID-19, they had to limit the number of children they could have. The center also had to plan most of its activities outdoors. During this winter they have moved indoors and integrated the youth dinners they organize at the stone church. The center is currently open and accepts students from grades 6 to 12 at this time. The Friday group with Paula is also open from 10am to 11am on Fridays.

“Our hope is to get our numbers back up,” Desjardins said. “We would like to have more volunteers so that we can bring all age groups back. If anyone has a talent or interest that they would like to share with our teenagers, we would love to have you come along.

She continued, “Our future goal is to open a summer camp for young people. The most rewarding part of my job is watching children grow; connect with them, listen to them and observe the connections they have with their peers.

Any child who wishes to register can come to the Youth Center and complete a basic form. The Hardwick Youth Center is located on the second floor of the Hardwick Municipal Building. The hours are Wednesday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Email hardwickyouthcenter1@gmail.com or check out their Facebook page for more information.

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