The New Boys & Girls Club Provides A Safe Place For Local Students
When members of the Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty resumed the school year in January, they walked into a brand new state-of-the-art building. Located on nine acres on the site of the former Union Elementary School, the club is a safe place for children to go after school who might otherwise go home to an empty house. The 30,000 square foot facility was built to serve students in grades 2-12 from Lakota elementary schools.
“There are so many opportunities available to them [because of the new facility],” says Bridget Graber, Boys & Girls Club CEO. “This is a safe, nurturing place for children to come after school to make friends, complete homework, develop healthy lifestyles and learn how to become good citizens and community leaders.”
The $6.8 facility features a full-sized indoor gym, an outdoor basketball/volleyball court, an art room, media center, green room, multiple classrooms, a café, clinic, meeting spaces and more. The club is open Monday through Friday after school and full days during the summer.
West Chester philanthropist Patti Alderson, who is assistant treasurer and resource development officer for the club, led fundraising efforts for the project, which began in 2013.
“[The need for a club] was brought to me many times. I didn’t know much about the Boys & Girls Club, but yet it kept showing up in front of me,” Alderson recalls. “So I thought, ‘Well if anybody’s going to make it happen, I guess it’s going to be me so I better get moving.’”
Alderson got to work by applying for a $750,000 grant from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, and began fundraising among local residents in 2015. In total, she’s raised more than $7.6 million for the Boys & Girls Club.
“I feel very blessed to live in a community like we do, and I think it has such a big heart,” Alderson says. “When people know there’s a need, they respond.”
For the more than 200 students who walked into the new club, their wide eyes were met with not only a beautiful facility and engaging activities, but also with a warm welcome from team members and volunteers.
“Every child is welcomed from our community. It is not for the rich or the poor, everyone is welcome,” Alderson explains. “If you can afford to pay, you can pay $50 to join. If you’re on free or reduced lunch, it can be as little as $5 or $10. We turn no one away.”
In fact, the facility can host up to 500 students, a goal which Graber and Alderson hope to achieve in the coming years. To continue reaching more children, the club will rely on donations from community members, who can sign up on the club’s website to make a monthly donation at nearly any price point.
For every child who’s entering the new building this year, Alderson hopes they feel like they have a place to belong.
“I hope that they feel welcomed and loved. We want them to walk in and believe they belong somewhere because so many kids feel alone, like they don’t fit in anywhere,” she says. “Every body’s welcome at the Boys & Girls Club.”