Published: Nov 06, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Nov 06, 2012 04:12 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Valerie Foushee pointed past the playground at the path she used to take to sneak into the Lincoln Center gym.
This is my neighborhood, the county commissioner told a small crowd outside the Pine Knolls Community Center on Sunday.
Back then there werent a lot of options, Foushee said. In the 1970s, Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church moved a building on to Johnson Street that became the community center.
But its never been able to meet the need. Now, with a second building planned on two town lots next door, a new Boys and Girls Club will serve up to 70 kids after school and during the summer.
It still wont meet the need, club leaders said at a groundbreaking Sunday. More than 600 families in Chapel Hill and Carrboro live on less than $15,000 a year, according to the club. More than 400 live on less than $10,000.
But its a long way from 2004 when Joann Shirer-Mitchell started looking for a way to bring after-school programs to children whose families could not pay for them and learned about the club.
Shirer-Mitchell, now the groups vice president, led a litany or prayer of thanks the group recited together at Sundays ceremony.
The new club will be part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Eastern Piedmont, which includes a club in Siler City that already has a waiting list and one planned for Person County. Supporters have raised about $250,000, enough for construction, and are now raising the $150,000 a year they estimate it will take to operate it.
I love the Y, love the ArtsCenter, board president Ben Perry said. They have scholarships, but they cant cover everyone. I think the need now is greater than ever.
Boys and Girls Clubs dont make much from fees. Families at the new Orange County club will pay only $10 to $20 per child per year.
Money will come from grants, including a $10,000 federal grant through the town to renovate the existing community center, and fundraisers like Dancing with the Stars of Carolina, which pairs local celebrities with professional dancer like the hit TV show. The next event is scheduled for April 2013.
Supporters say Boys and Girls Clubs have a track record for making a difference in kids lives.
A two-year Columbia University study found communities with clubs in them saw a 22 percent reduction in drug activity and a 13 percent reduction in juvenile crime, among other benefits.
Celebrities who attended the clubs include Bill Cosby, Jennifer Lopez and Denzel Washington.
Washington, whose new movie Flight opened last weekend and is already generating Oscar buzz, has said the club was a steadying influence during tough times. When it comes to Boys & Girls Clubs, he says on the national organizations website, I know what Im talking about.
Mitchell was serving on the public housing resident council when she saw the impact community centers were having on those neighborhoods that had them.
She expects four of her six grandkids will attend the new Boys and Girls Club and said it has been hard raising money for something that donors could not see.
Hopefully now that the towns can see were very serious about the program, well get more support financially.