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Boys and Girls Club may get new digs

Officials say they hope construction may begin this summer on anew Boys and Girls Club facility.

The enlarged facility would be located in the same location asthe current building, across Second Street from the countycourthouse.

The new facility was made possible when the county received a$350,000 federal Housing and Urban Development grant last year.

“Hopefully, with this HUD money we can demolish the oldbuilding, but if not we’ll have to build around it,” said BobbyBell, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Lincoln County.

The county board of supervisors will begin advertising soon foran architect to design the facility, but architectural plans cannotbe made until negotiations for more land are complete, Bellsaid.

“I’ve been negotiating with the Catholic church for some moreproperty,” Bell said. “My feedback from that has been verypositive. They’re very receptive to our proposal and acknowledgethere are some good things happening (in the club).”

There appears to be little doubt that the organization willreceive some donated land from the church, Bell said, but theamount of land has not been determined. Until that is determined,the architect would not how much land he had to work with, hesaid.

“I believe, though, that we’ll start seeing some progress aroundJune or July,” Bell said.

The current facility, which has housed the club since it wasformed around 16 years ago, has degraded, he said. The building is”in bad shape” and needs major roof repairs.

Bell estimated the facility serves an average of about 75children a day in its after-school programs.

“In the summer months, we get up to about 110 and have to startturning them away because we don’t have the space for them,” Bellsaid. “We don’t want to have to do that.”

The new facility will be able to accommodate significantly morechildren, but how many more cannot be determined until the finaldesign is approved.

Bell, however, has drafted a proposed layout for the buildingfor the architect’s review that includes some of what he and otherboard members would like to see incorporated into the newfacility.

The current facility is only divided into two large rooms – aplay area that also serves as a study area and a meeting room.

The board’s draft also includes classrooms, a smallmulti-purpose room and a kitchen for the preparation of snacks.

“With another building, we can design it to separate thechildren by age groups,” Bell said. “This would great benefit themand make it easier for us to provide instruction. Kids thinkdifferently at different age levels.”

The new facility would also allow the organization to designmore programs for older students, he said. If possible, Bell saidthe club would like to build a gymnasium.

“We’re losing kids at the age of 14 because we don’t have anyrecreational opportunities for them,” Bell said.

The gym would provide an opportunity to attract older studentsthrough sports.

Attracting older children is important, Bell said, because sincethe program began 16 years ago he has seen only one child whoparticipated in the club get sentenced to jail time. Bell has beenan officer with the Brookhaven Police Department for 24 years.

“We teach them to be responsible,” he said. “We try to teachthem to give back to their community.”