Boys & Girls Club of Cenla re-opens bigger, better

By Bill Sumrall
The Light

The club that “beats the street” beat fiscal odds to make a comeback Thursday, Jan. 21.

About 45 people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Louisiana to mark the grand re-opening of its renovated facility at 1801 Sylvester St. in Alexandria.

“We’ve come a long way in a year’s time,” said Rosa Fields, who serves as vice chairwoman of the Boys and Girls Club board of directors.

Fields was referring to re-establishing the mission of the organization.

In December 2008, The United Way of Central Louisiana’s announced a cut of $86,000 in funding for the organization, which led to the closure of the Pineville Boys and Girls Club site in January 2009.

At a press conference March 23, 2009, Alexandria Mayor Jacques M. Roy announced $100,000 in funds already available in the current year’s city operational budget to go toward the Boys and Girls Club facilities and programs.

Mayor Roy, who did not attend, was in Washington D.C. attending a conference of mayors, according to published reports, but Council members present at the grand re-opening included Harry Silver, Ed Larvadain and Everette Hobbs.

“We wanted to thank everybody that has been instrumental and we want to thank the whole community, especially Mayor Roy and the City Council, for all that they’ve done in helping with the total renovation of the building,” Fields said.

“The city owns this building and so they really stepped up and made it what it should be … They just totally redid it from top to bottom, and for that we are grateful because that’s the foundation and that’s where all of this begins,” Fields said.

The Boys and Girls Club currently serves more than 100 children but that number grows to some 500 in the summer months, according to Jeremy Ward.

Ward, who is the Triple Play coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club, helped give a tour of the renovated facility, which includes a computer lab with 14 workstations upstairs.

“Our building has been renovated, there’s still some minor tweaks that are going on, but it’s going to be a fabulous facility,” said Zina Curlee Paige, chief professional officer for the organization, about the 16,500 square foot building.

Willie Spears, chief volunteer officer, said, “It is indeed a very exciting day for the Boys and Girls Club of Central Louisiana.”

Spears said last January they faced an awesome task upgrading the structure and its furnishings.              “We had broken equipment, we had broken furniture and we knew something had to be done,” Spears said.

But their first “call to order” was to save the club finances, Spears said, noting they inherited a checking account that was some $6,000 overdrawn plus some $20,000 in arrears.

However, Spears said that, thanks to the outpouring of support from the community, they ended 2009 raising $400,000 and had a $100,000-plus surplus.

Next, they turned their attention from fiscal to physical needs of the facility, Spears said.

“Our kids deserve better. We’ve got to improve this facility. We didn’t know how we were going to try but we knew it had to be done. So we put together a little, if you will, proposal, and we went to City Hall,” Spears said.

Not only was the mayor in support but the entire city administration, Spears said.

“All of this is made possible because of the city. We have new tile on the floor, we have ceiling tile, we have paint on the walls, we have an upgraded technology center, we have furniture, we have new people, new programs,” Spears said.

Guest speaker Jerry Prejean of Lafayette, who represented the Boys and Girls Louisiana Alliance, announced a $2,500 electronics package for the Alexandria club as part of an overall $60,000 given by SamSung distributed nationwide.

Spears called it “a renovation, if you will, inside and out.”

“We were enormously blessed in 2009 and we have challenges that we’ll have to meet in 2010 but I think we have the leadership, we have the dedication and we have the will to make this organization continue to grow for our boys and girls,” Spears said.

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