UPPER DECK D R O P I N A T T H E Tillsonburg’s youth centre continues to reach out

I t’s been 23 years since Rayburn Lansdell first began develop- ing a youth centre in Tillsonburg and as you might expect, much has changed in that time. His hair colour, for instance, is decidedly greyer. His eyesight too, isn’t what it once was. “I have to have my reading glass- es with me in meetings or I’m in trouble,” he laughs. But it’s not just Lansdell who’s changed; society has changed too. Two-parent homes have become the exception, not the norm. Drugs have become more potent and easier than ever to obtain. And then there are the exponential changes in tech- nology. Thanks to a fast and unfet- tered invention called the Internet, kids now have unlimited access to everything the world has to offer— for good and for ill. “Most every young person you meet is carrying a cell phone or an iPod or some other electronic de- vice, ” says Lansdell. “And they take those things with them everywhere. You’ll see a group of kids sitting to- gether and they’ll be texting the per- son sitting right beside them.” Yet as challenging as the new re- ality seems, Lansdell believes there are at least three things that have stayed the same.

“Kids need a place to go, people who care and a purpose to live for,” he says emphatically. “It was true when we started the Upper Deck, and it remains true today.” Giving kids a safe place to go The Upper Deck got its start on the second floor of the Town’s old post office building (hence the name). When that building was torn down to accommodate an expanded Tillsonburg Town Centre, the Deck moved to Harvey Street before even- tually settling into its current home at 19 Queen Street in 1999.

“This space has served us well over the years,” says Lansdell, ges- turing to the main activity room, where various pool, ping pong, foosball and air hockey tables sit ready for the next lunch hour rush or evening program. Around the perimeter of the room sit an assort- ment of well-loved restaurant-style booths and soft sofas. In the corner is a well-stocked snack bar. Head further back and you’ll eventually come to a sports room, where post- ers of Mats Sundin and other long- retired Maple Leafs hang on the walls.


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