A safe haven where children can learn, grow and receive hope for a better tomorrow. That’s how officials describe the Boys and Girls Club of Augusta, and why they raised more than $3 million to invest in the club’s space at Division Street and the lives of the children who are members.
Club officials cut ribbons and dedicated the renovated and expanded space Tuesday.
“The Harrisburg area has about 1,000 children in it. Many of them are without a father and are at risk for becoming residents of the juvenile justice system. They are most likely to become unwed parents,” said Mark Maund, who was serving as board president when the capital campaign began and plans for the facility improvements were drawn up.
However, because of the Boys and Girls Club’s E.W. Hagler Center, the statistics are changing.
“The Boys and Girls Club has a track record,” he said.
Since 2009, no child who has been a consistent club member has entered the juvenile justice system or become a parent, and every regularly participating high school club member has graduated on time with a plan for the future, according to the club.
Since it began, the local club has impacted the lives of more than 20,000 children with its after-school and summer programs. The club has five focus areas for its participants: character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills; the arts; and sports, fitness and recreation.
Some of the problems at the building, which hadn’t been renovated much since the club was established at the Division Street site in the late 1950s, included a severely leaking roof and a gym that flooded regularly. The air-conditioning system needed a major overhaul because at its peak summer performance the building temperature was still in the mid-80s. The technology in its labs was lacking and couldn’t keep up.
Students coming to the Boys and Girls Clubs not only participate in sports and arts programs, but there’s a new STEM lab to give children a boost in science and technology. The building also sports a brand new teen center. And there’s a new atrium and welcoming check-in space for an after-school snack.
Nationally, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America serve more than 4 million young people in 4,000 clubs.
“When we look at clubs doing it right, we look at Augusta,” said Paula Mackelburg, director of organizational development for Boys and Girls Clubs of America, who was in town for the ribbon cutting and dedication.
The organization had a goal of nearly $4 million, but so far, it has only raised about $3.36 million. Additional funds would be used to improve the outdoor fields behind the building, according to board member, Millie Klosinski.
“There’s no park in this area,” she said. “We want the community to be able to partake of the fields.”
To learn more about the Boys and Girls Clubs of Augusta, which has seven local clubs, visit the website at www.bgccsra.org.