TORONTO - A couple years ago, 100 percent of Toronto residents who responded to a community survey said there weren't enough activities for youth in the area.
That didn't sit right with the Rev. Lloyd Hill - and rather than simply shake his head and say "that's a shame," he decided to do something about it. On Jan. 28, the Gem City Youth Center opened its doors on North Fourth Street between the His Hands Extended Food Pantry and the Shepherd's Closet clothing store.
It's been a hit thus far, hosting anywhere from 18-25 kids every Friday and Saturday night.
The Rev. Lloyd Hill takes aim at the goal on the air hockey machine at the recently opened Gem City Youth Center in downtown Toronto. Hill said the facility fills a longtime need in the community.
"It's been something needed for a long time," said Hill, who is the pastor at Abundant Life First Assembly of God Church. "It's been I don't know how many years since the last youth center they had in the community - a long time ago."
There's no admission to use the center, which is open from 7-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and is geared toward students of middle and high school age. Features include a ping-pong table, pool table, air hockey, television, Wii and Xbox 360 video game consoles, and plenty of board games. Snacks and soft drinks are available for purchase.
Hill said some children have a blast moving from activity to activity, while others simply are looking for a place to sit down and socialize for a while.
"Our goal is to get kids off the street and have a safe place for them to come where they can enjoy themselves. ... Overall, the kids are really good kids - they just need something to do," he said.
According to Hill, there are about a dozen volunteers who serve as adult chaperones while the center is open, and each volunteer is background-checked.
In the future as funding allows, Hill would like to purchase an arcade basketball game, a larger flatscreen TV and additional Wii and Xbox games for the center.
"We're trying to stay away from all the violent games," he added.
"There's too much other stuff we can do and have a great time without going in that direction."