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Doors open at Cochrane's first-ever space for teens

Cochrane youth now have a local spot to spend their after-school hours – the Boys and Girls Club of Cochrane and Area (BGCC) has officially opened the doors to the community’s first teen space, The CLUB.
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Cochrane youth now have a local spot to spend their after-school hours – the Boys and Girls Club of Cochrane and Area (BGCC) has officially opened the doors to the community’s first teen space, The CLUB. “It’s really just a laid-back atmosphere where kids can come and just be,” said Executive Director Jill Bilodeau, noting that the new space will focus on inclusiveness, belonging and relationship-building. “They can play video games, board games…and make their own snacks and stuff.” Additionally, Bilodeau said, teens can benefit from the support of youth workers available on site, or sign up for workshops and classes to learn valuable life skills like cooking. The CLUB, located at 204 Fifth Avenue West, will be open Monday to Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m. – “critical hours” for youth aged 13 to 17 looking for a healthy way to spend their free time, Bilodeau said. “We’ve had the idea [for The CLUB] for a while, but after the Cochrane Cares survey came out, it was identified as a gap within the community – teens just didn’t have a place to go,” she said. “We’re trying to fill that gap by providing that safe space for them.” Renovations on The CLUB’s space began in September 2018, Bilodeau said, with the help of contractor Rob Tegart of Four Leaf Corp. According to Bilodeau, the building needed to be completely gutted, so Tegart was able to start fresh and create a brand-new facility. “He did an amazing job – he donated over $40,000 in time and materials and supplies for us, so that we could get the project done,” she said. “He’s very passionate about the youth space.” The rest of the community has been supportive as well, Bilodeau added. The facility opened Jan. 28, and Bilodeau said more than 60 teens have already been through the space, while local residents and businesses have stepped forward to see how they can help. “With the numbers we’ve seen this first week, I feel that we are definitely a part of the community,” she said. “It’s a big accomplishment for BGCC, for the staff and our members, and for the teens in the community. It’s a wonderful addition.” Now that The CLUB is up and running, Bilodeau said, BGCC will begin to look at opportunities to expand its program offerings to accommodate the needs of local youth – using their input to guide the process. “We’re going to take the lead from the teens and ask them what they would like to see, moving forward. Our goal is to facilitate more programs for the teens,” she said. “I think, if we have the opportunity to have the teens come into the club and form positive relationships, healthy relationships, it can help in their future choices.”