Home sweet home

By Melanie Ruberti

June 6, 2014

Summer is starting off on the right foot for campers and staff at the Boys and Girls Club of West Georgia in LaGrange.

The group permanently moved into their new facility this week, taking over the old Cannon Street Elementary School. The excitement of the move was permeable throughout the building, especially among the campers.

“It’s awesome,” said 7-year-old camper, Hannah Skipper. “It’s really fun and we get more experience each day.”

“I like going to different classes,” said Makayla Woodard. “It’s cool. I love the building… it’s fun.”

Campers now rotate through out the expansive facility: from classrooms, computer labs, game rooms, and art and music rooms, to the gymnasium, a playground, reading nook, cafeteria, and much more. The teens even have their own space separate from the smaller campers.

“More space, more kids, more rooms, more people to help out,” said 12 year old Andy Boykin. “We’re more serious about it. We want to take care of this building.”

“You can exercise more. In the other building there wasn’t a lot of space,” explained 16 year old Halana Nixon. “There’s more opportunities for kids to come here that couldn’t come to the other place.”

The Boys and Girls Club was previously housed in an old church off Juniper Street. The structure was built back in 1926, and according to Chief Professional Officer, Bart McFadden, not really suitable for children and teens.

“Our staff did remarkable stuff in that building,” said McFadden. “Then they come over here [Cannon Street facility] and dropped in to the proverbial gold mine. The staff enjoys it as much as the kids.”

McFadden said the new facility is also within walking distance for more children. Right now, the organization has 225 campers enrolled in their summer program. Sixty children are on their waiting list to get in.

“We’re serving more kids, doubling our numbers, and have a better level of program quality,” McFadden explained. “It’s a night and day difference from our other building.”

“Were offering a wider array of programs that are more diverse,” he added. “We have a music class through our partnership with the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra….we can have more kids in the program and now they have their own space.”

Many of the Club’s programs, like one called “Brain Jogging”, are aimed at preventing summer learning loss. They have a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) lab, where students learn more about the four subjects in a fun manner. Campers have access to computers where they play online educational games. Each component broken down by age groups and are housed in separate classrooms. Something McFadden said many of these students wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

“Exposure can be limited for lower income students,” he said. “So we’re making these foundational experiences available to them.”

“I like it when we learn about science,” said seven year old Jamiya Virgil.

“I like going to the computer lab,” said camper Paige Johnston. “We get to go and play educational games online.”

McFadden said the group is just getting started. Soon, they’ll be planting a community garden in conjunction with West Georgia Health, plus hold cooking demonstrations for campers and their parents. In July, the older students will discuss and plan a mock government infrastructure plus create models of their city.

Wednesday was only day three in the new facility for the Boys and Girls Club. And while they’re still working out some kinks, the new home already seems to be a big hit for campers and the staff.

“I like the Boys and Girls Club because we learn a lot, go on field trips, and make new friends,” said Jamiya.

After school registration for the Boys and Girls Club programs will begin on July 7. The organization is also looking for people to sponsor children during the summer program. For more information, call the Boys and Girls Club of West Georgia at 706-812-9698.