The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence received a $5,000 donation from the Mario V. Chalmers Foundation toward a new teen center that will enable the club to serve five times as many teens.
“The big idea is that there are a lot of middle school kids and younger high school kids going home by themselves and hanging out with kids in unsupervised places,” said Colby Wilson, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club. “We need to provide positive, academic based, fun programming for these kids after school and during the summer time.”
The donation is part of the Mario V. Chalmers Foundation’s pledge of $25,000 that will go toward the teen center over the next several years, Wilson said.
“We’re happy to be working with Mario and the foundation and very grateful they feel that this is a project that is going to make a difference,” he said.
The club’s current 6,000-foot teen center at 1520 Haskell Ave. is overcrowded with the approximately 70 teens who use the building after school each weekday, and the center has had a waiting list for the past two years, Wilson said.
“We’re losing kids after fifth grade that can no longer participate because we don’t have the space,” he said.
Wilson said the new center will be between 20,000 and 25,000 square feet and will be joined by a covered hallway to the newly completed Lawrence College and Career Center, 2910 Haskell Ave.
“By building next to the college and career center, we’re going to create a program plan that utilizes both facilities all day long,” Wilson said, noting the layout would enable the center to serve five times as many teens.
The project’s timeline, which is dependent on fundraising efforts, is to break ground in fall 2016 and have the new teen center open by August 2017, Wilson said. Donations toward the center totaling approximately $1 million have been received from foundations and individuals in the community, and the club has the ultimate fundraising goal of $5 million.
“We’re spending a lot of time educating folks on the need for this new teen center, the work of the Boys & Girls Club in general, and making people understand what we do and how this new teen center is going to impact the community,” he said.
Wilson said one of the long-term impacts, especially considering the partnership with the Lawrence College and Career Center, is economic development. The new center plans to have a culinary kitchen, technology spaces and will use the LCCC for career development.
“The next step really is not just getting that high school diploma, but what’s the plan after high school?” Wilson said. “Is it four-year college, community college or a skills program? These are the things kids need to know.”