A new place to call home

By Melanie Ruberti

April 12, 2014

The Boys and Girls Club of West Georgia is growing. So much so, the group announced on Thursday they’re formally moving to a new location in June.

The group will leave their current location off Juniper Street in LaGrange, and settle a few miles away in their new home at the old Cannon Street Elementary School. Executive Director, Bart McFadden, said they’ve outgrown their old facility, which used to be a church.

“It wasn’t designed to hold programs for kids. The sanctuary wasn’t meant to be the gym that it’s had to be,” explained McFadden.

According to Club Director, Stephanie Campbell, they currently have too many programs, and not enough space. The rooms at the Juniper Street location are small and cramped, with little room to move around.

“The previous facility didn’t really allow us to serve the number of kids who may have wanted to participate in our Strings program, in partnership with the LaGrange Symphony orchestra,” she said. “At the Cannon Street facility, we are now blessed to have a music room. That alone will allow us to take the enrollment with the LSO Strings program and double it.”

Right now, the club offers a variety of programs, such as: Academic Success, Healthy Habits, Smart Moves, Dance, and Girl Scouts, just to name a few. At the Cannon Street facility, McFadden said, although built in the 1950’s, it was designed with children in mind. When they move, McFadden expects the number and quality of the club’s programs will also increase.

“It gives us more space, plus diverse and comprehensive programs,” McFadden explained. “We can reach out to a larger amount of partners to bring more experiences to our kids and give them more exposure to things they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Among those things being added: a larger computer lab, a gymnasium for children to exercise, a garden, a playground with grass, and a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) lab.

“It will be set up with science tables, and serve between 25 - 30 kids,” explained Campbell. “It will allow us to do projects, that will teach these children the four components within STEM. We can bring in other individuals to teach them. I think our STEM lab is going to be our hot spot. It’s going to be an area that will draw people’s interest. It’s also going to show people, ’ hey, we’re not babysitting!’ We are providing programming that is crucial and important to our members enrichment, our members lives. It’s going to take us to the next level.”

Cmapbell said it will also expose children to more technology and robotics. In addition to the lab, the Boys and Girls Club also received new computers. McFadden said even more, exciting changes are also in the works for the group’s teenage members.

“It gives us the opportunity over the next 12- 18 months, to strategically expand our programming for teens,” said McFadden.”Teens need dedicated space. At the old facility, it’s nowhere to be had. Here, they’ll have dedicated rooms, a computer lab and a game room.”

“Teens are in a different place in life,” added Campbell. “They need more comprehensive programs featuring technology, finances, looking into jobs, taking college tours. They’re looking to graduate high school on time and have a plan for what’s coming afterward. “

The Boys and Girls Club of West Georgia is the only Boys and Girls club in LaGrange. They’ve been at the Juniper Street site for seven years. McFadden said in 2012 they were serving 50 children on a daily basis. That number grew to more than 100, which McFadden said prompted the need for additional space. When the club makes the official move to Cannon Street, McFadden said they hope to add another 100 members, plus their families.

The group started holding some of their after school programs in their new facility this week for children who attend Hillcrest and Franklin Forest Elementary Schools. McFadden said the new facility is part of their partnership with the Troup County School System and is at least partially funded by the Callaway Foundation. He said the group will be officially moved in time for their summer program that begins on June 2nd.

“It’s mutually beneficial,” McFadden explained. “With us taking over the vacant building, we’re basically creating extended learning time for kids in the school system.”

“All of our programs are truly geared towards developing our members,” said Campbell. “We are impacting our children’s lives with quality information and quality programming. Something they can take with them through out life. These kids will come in smart, and leave smarter. They learn something each day, every week. They can go home and say ‘guess what I learned today!’ They’ll be able to use it as they transition between elementary school, to middle school, to high school, and even into college and adult life.”

The Boys and Girls Club is open from 2:30 - 7pm, Monday - Friday, student holidays, teacher work days, spring break, and even some of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. During the summer, the club is open 7:30 am - 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Summer camp is $80 per member, and includes lunch.

To learn more about the Boys and Girls Club of West Georgia, like them on Facebook or call (706) 819-9698.