Wayside Centre

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Wayside Centre

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Wayside Centre has existed in the Ontario community of Fort William, now known as Thunder Bay, since 1912. Originally given the name of the Wesley Institute, through the years its name has been changed to Wayside House, Wayside Church, Wayside Church Centre and the Thunder Bay Boys and Girls Club. Rev. Hiram Hull of Wesley Methodist Church asked the board of Home Missions for a minister to serve the Italian and Slavic population living in East End of Fort William in 1909. The Epworth League from Wesley Methodist Church bought a 2 storey house and a one storey hall at 706 McTavish Street for what was to be known as the Wesley Institute. Rev. J.M. Shaver came in 1912 to superintend the work at the Institute. He prepared a textbook to teach basic English, and a Miss Foley, a social worker, came to work with the girls and women. Night classes were offered in English, Civics and History. Courses were also offered in cooking, sewing, and housekeeping for the women, and manual training and sport activities were available for boys. In 1923, the two buildings were replaced by a new structure called Wayside House which had a small pool, clubrooms, drop-in centre, office, kitchen and washrooms. This building continued its work with new Canadians and youth. A chapel given the name of Wayside Church was added to the building during World War Two to accommodate Japanese Canadians who were moved into the area from the West Coast. This congregation was also known as the Tomookai Japanese Christian Community. In 1969 the Home Missions Committee set up a co-operative team ministry during which the building was renamed the Wayside Church Centre. On April 15, 1971, the building was given over to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada with the United Church of Canada overseeing the operation of the organization until October 12 of that year when the responsibility was given to a Citizen's Board. It was officially sold to the Boys and Girls Club in 1982 with the provision that if at any point they no longer needed the building, it would be transferred back to the United Church of Canada. Extensive renovations were also done in 1982. The renovated building was officially reopened on January 12, 1983.

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