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home : columnists : columnists November 18, 2017


11/2/2017 4:00:00 AM
Boys & Girls Club to say 'farewell'
The Times photo by Betsy ReasonBoys & Girls Club of Noblesville executive director Becky Terry greets Club kids as they drop off their backpacks and coats in the check-in area of the Club. The building, at 1448 Conner St., which will have a public Farewell Tour event on Friday, will close and move to a new Club building thatís currently under construction two blocks east.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville executive director Becky Terry greets Club kids as they drop off their backpacks and coats in the check-in area of the Club. The building, at 1448 Conner St., which will have a public Farewell Tour event on Friday, will close and move to a new Club building thatís currently under construction two blocks east.

By Betsy Reason
Editor


Standing inside the entrance at the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville after school one day last week, I couldn't help but get a little choked up as I watched kids get off of their school buses and walk through the doors of the Club.

The kids, mostly smiling, checked in their coats and backpacks and went on their way to the art room to paint, or to the kitchen for a cooking class, or to the gymnasium to play basketball.

The 1448 Conner St. building -- the former Noblesville High School built in 1910 -- has been home to Club kids grades K-12 since 1969.

But it won't be long until the building closes for holiday break in December, and the Club moves to its new 34,000-square-foot Tom & Soni Sheehan Boys & Girls Club, under construction just two blocks east.

Before then, alumni and friends of the Club are invited to "play again" at the building's Farewell Tour event at 6 p.m. Friday as the club says "thank you" one last time to the building, which is for sale.

Friday night, attendees will have an opportunity to reminisce and tour the historic building, while sampling hors d'oeuvres from local eateries, following a brief program. Guests can play pool and ping pong in the games room, enjoy a bag of popcorn from the snack bar and shoot hoops in the upstairs gym. The Club will be open until 8 p.m.

Becky Terry, the Club's executive director, said the informal event gives the community one last opportunity to come through and reminisce and share memories. "Just the charm and character and the history of that building, it's going to be hard to leave behind. But hopefully, we can recreate that in the new space, and create new memories," said Terry, who sat down with me last week to share her thoughts. "For kids who have been coming since they were 5 or 6 (years old), it's kind of a second home."

She said there will be "pieces" of things that will be moved to the new building, which could also have a "history wall" about the Club.

In 1951, a group of Noblesville residents started the Boys Club, using the third floor above what is now Kirk Hardware on the Square in downtown Noblesville. In 1969, the Club, which had outgrown the space, moved to its current three-story building on Conner Street. In 1975, the Club opened to girls.

Since 2010, the Club -- which this year has a record $1.1 million organizational budget and last year served 2,280 members -- has seen a 22 percent increase in membership. Moving to the new facility will immediately provide the ability to impact 53 percent more youth.

In February 2015, the Club kicked off a Build & Grow Capital Campaign to raise $6 million for a new facility, with plans announced in February 2016 to construct a new club next to the current Boys & Girls Club Community Center at 150 N. 17th St.

When the Club shuts down for holiday break in December, it will remain closed until after the move, and also during a brief period when staff is being trained in the new building. An opening date hasn't been announced. "We most likely will have a two- to three-week shutdown," said Terry, who soon plans to give parents a heads-up as to the timeline.

Since the capital campaign started, construction costs have grown to $6.7 million. But that now includes a fenced and lighted outdoor playground, which was originally on a "Phase II" wish list and is being funded by the Club's Ladies Auxiliary, which also sponsored the new Club's kitchen and is funding a Club "GIving Tuesday" video; the auxiliary will have its annual auction fundraiser on Feb. 24 at Harbour Trees Golf Club.

Terry is thrilled that the Club can "really make that space into what we want it to be for the kids." Club kids were invited to vote on the color of the playground, which will be unveiled in 2018.

While the new Club's square footage is less than the current Club, the new program space has increased. The new two-story Club will have an art room, tutoring room, learning center, interactive tech lab, fitness room, music room and stage, plus multi-purpose room and space for partner programs. A patio on the roof will be accessible from the art room and learning center. During Terry's latest construction walk-thru, she said the building is taking shape, with drywall going up, paint hitting the walls and fixtures being installed. "It's starting to look very real," she said.

The community can still get involved, by sponsoring spaces at the new Club, ranging from $5,000 for a playground bench to $1 million for naming rights of the Community Center. Plus, the Club is selling 250 personalized bricks for $500 each in a "Pathway to Great Futures" walkway. "

It's never too late to donate," she said, humbled by the community support. Community Health Network is sponsor of the lobby, Riverview Health is sponsor of the gymnasium, Allegion is sponsor of the new teen center, and The Farmers Bank is sponsor of the health and wellness station.

The new Club will have one gymnasium but could potentially add a second gym if the campaign were to raise an additional $1 million. A vestibule with secured doors connect to the current Community Center, where there are four existing gyms that are used for Club basketball and volleyball weekdays and rented out on the weekends.

The Club will have a dedicated cafeteria so the games room will no longer need to close down during meals, which are currently offered free to Club kids on Mondays and Thursdays. "We would look to increase that," said Terry, who is also looking to add a daily snack program in anticipation of "an increase in kids attending."

Terry expects more kids to join the Club at the new location. "I think there's a little bit to be said for our new facility. I think it's a draw, in and of itself," she said. "And hopefully the program additions that we are able to put in place will also be a draw."

She said, "We're always listening to what the kids are telling us. We're always trying to adjust based on what's hot, what's not, what they're into......We're always trying to adapt and make sure we're relevant."

"We're excited, and we're ready," Terry said. "....Now, the question of what's next is looming."

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.





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