Originally created 03/09/02

Youth club looks for Columbia County site



The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is searching Columbia County for a site to build a new facility, the executive director of the Augusta club said.

Jerry Noland said a Columbia County resident who wishes to remain anonymous has offered to donate enough money to build and operate a new Boys and Girls Club in Columbia County.

"Location right now to me is the big key," Mr. Noland said.

He said there has been quite a bit of interest in a new club from residents of the Grovetown area. But the donor "didn't care for the idea of Grovetown. He wanted something more like a central point. But what is a central point in Columbia County?"

Mr. Noland said the Boys and Girls Clubs' regional director in Atlanta has agreed to compile figures on costs of a new club or several small clubs in Columbia County. Those figures, he said, are expected to be ready by the end of this month.

"He told me he would come prepared with all the facts and figures that I needed to take back to my donor," Mr. Noland said.

The regional director, Mr. Noland said, "may come back and say, 'You need several small ones. You need one in Evans, one in Martinez, one in Grovetown, one in wherever.' ... But the donor is more interested in something like centered in the middle of Columbia County. To me, I don't know what that is right now."

The prospective donor is "very serious about it. I've been meeting with him once a month," Mr. Noland said. The donor has already given more than $600,000 for the operation of the existing clubs.

"I'm very optimistic," he said.

He added that boys and girls in Columbia County need a club just as much as children in downtown Augusta.

"I worked in a club on Long Island (N.Y.) and found out that those kids on the north shore of Long Island ... had just as many problems and maybe even more, in a different way, than a lot of the kids that I serve right down here in downtown (Augusta)."

Barry Fleming, the chairman of the county commission, said the establishment of a Boys and Girls Club in Columbia County "is a wonderful idea."

Mr. Fleming said "the most dangerous time (of day) ... for teen-agers and younger children is between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when a lot of two-parent families are not at home."

It is during this critical time that the Boys and Girls Clubs provide activities that keep children safe, Mr. Fleming said.

"The county government would be happy in any way we could to assist them in their endeavor," Mr. Fleming said.

Reach Rick Green at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 110 or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.