September 4, 2012

Boys & Girls Club moves into Chattooga

Jamie Jones

— SUMMERVILLE — The Boys & Girls Club of Gordon, Murray and Whitfield Counties will soon add another county to its name.

The organization, which is headquartered in Dalton, is expanding into Chattooga County with the grand opening of its 14,000-square-foot building in the Summerville Square Shopping Center planned for January 2013.

“This is going to be a great success,” said Jason Winters, Chattooga County sole commissioner. “This has the potential to have the biggest effect of anything we’ve done in the past 15 years.

The local Boys and Girls Club chapter was founded in Dalton in 2002. It has grown to serve more than 1,800 children in three counties. Children arrive at the club after school at 3:25 p.m. and stay until their parents pick them up at 6:30 p.m. five days a week. While at the club, they receive help with homework, exercise and take part in a variety of programs. Between 150 and 200 children will be served at the Chattooga County club during the school year, with that number increasing to about 500 total when summer programs are included.

Building the program from scratch has included many volunteers and help from the local government. Officials with Chattooga County School System and Trion City Schools have agreed to bus students to the club after school.

Community board members include Eddie Elsberry, Berry College; Pam Meredith, Mohawk Industries; Wyatt Rollins, Shaw Industries; Scott Shinner, Georgia Power; and Vergil Tudor, Zaxby’s.

One of the initial problems Boys & Girls Club officials faced when launching in another county was a place for the children to congregate. That problem was solved fairly quickly. Larry Howard and his wife, Connie, are leasing the building to the Boys & Girls Club at no charge.

Sunrise Church was the building’s most recent tenant. The church configuration sectioned the building into a large worship hall in the front, several smaller classrooms that were used for Sunday school, a gym, a kitchen and a teen area upstairs. That setup will remain for the Boys & Girls Club. Renovations are needed. The Georgia Baptist Builders are donating the labor.

The Howards, who have seven grandchildren, saw a “real need” for the organization.

“Connie and I had already talked that there was a need for a Boys & Girls Club,” Howard said. “And I really didn’t want to come in here and strip this building out and tear it up. I met with them and told them what I wanted to do with it. After that, they’ve taken the ball and run with it. Everybody we’ve talked to, I don’t think we’ve heard a negative voice yet.”

Alvah Beasley worked at the Dalton Boys & Girls Club unit for about four years. Now residing in nearby Rome, he will head up the new unit.

“Words can’t express how excited I am to expand our services to Chattooga County,” Beasley said. “I think the impact on the community will be great. I’m looking forward to branching out into the families on more of a daily basis.”