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Community effort at Underground Gym

Day of action sees tradespeople contribute skills to refurbish new space for youth centre.

THUNDER BAY – A little elbow grease and a lot of goodwill helped the Underground Gym get its new Victoria Avenue location a step closer to completion on Saturday.

Local businesses, tradespeople, and other volunteers joined forces for a day of action to revamp the youth centre, which will offer a wide variety of activities and supports to area youth.

The event was organized by Langen Glass, which holds an annual day of action to lend its skills to the community.

New owner Barry Atkinson stepped in to replace the centre’s front windows with stronger glass after they were smashed last week.

On Saturday, the company helped provide mirrors for the building’s gym and hair salon. He said he’s more than happy to contribute to a good cause that provides a safe space for kids.

“Peter’s been around for a while, he’s been helping the community – he’s always popping up when someone’s in need,” he said. “That’s why we came down and gave him a hand.”

Around half a dozen painters and glaziers with Painters & Allied Trades Local 1671 worked to install the mirrors and paint several rooms in the new building.

“The Underground Gym is an important part of the community,” said Andre Pellerin, business representative for Painters & Allied Trades Local 1671. “For me, the gym is [a place] I thrive in, so I want to see that for everyone else.”

Underground Gym founder Peter Panetta said the help from all corners of the community has been overwhelming.

The move into the new building was a necessity after the previous location on Simpson Street suffered severe water damage following a fire at an adjacent building in 2019.

It wouldn’t have been feasible without the community’s generosity, he said.

“The cost is low because so many people are donating and volunteering their time,” he said. “There’s been so many people on board – I can’t even name them all, it’s unbelievable.”

The organization has had to pay for some materials, but labour has come from volunteers, he said.

Once fully refurbished, the new building will offer a gym with a boxing ring and equipment, art room, computer, lab, and peer support room.

It will also boast a music space complete with instruments, with local music teachers donating their time to offer lessons, a hair dressing salon, with a hair dresser similarly willing to mentor interested youth, and a tutoring room where students can access support.

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