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Underground Gym moves to membership model

The Underground Gym, a longtime youth centre in Thunder Bay's south end, says overwhelming demand is behind its decision to limit services to those enrolled as members.

THUNDER BAY – A 25-year-old Thunder bay institution is moving to a membership-based model it says will ensure its services help those most in need amid growing demand.

The Underground Gym and Youth Centre, which provides access to activities, meals, and supervision for vulnerable children and youth at its Victoria Avenue headquarters, put out a Facebook post over the weekend asking anyone who utilizes its services to become a member.

Owner Peter Panetta said the old policy was letting in anyone at any time, but overwhelming demand has forced him to consider a different strategy.

“We have had up to 50, 60 kids in here, [and there is] just not enough room to accommodate that many kids,” he said. “We did put a cap on the number of kids in late spring, early summer because there were just too many kids. There was a waiting list of about 20 to 25 kids waiting to get in.”

The new policy will also set out certain criteria members must meet to be considered eligible, Panetta added, from requiring caregivers to contribute volunteering hours to considering family income.

"If somebody’s [parents are] working and have a really good paying job, I don't think [that the kid] needs to be here," he said. "They could really afford to go and take boxing [lessons] somewhere else or [perhaps] art classes and music lessons."

Panetta expects the organization to initially cap membership at 75 children, and any child after that will be put on a wait-list.

With files from Leigh Nunan, TBT News


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