The newest location of the Boys & Girls Club of Frederick County has been open since July, but a ribbon-cutting and open house Tuesday served as a way to make it official.
The new club, which is across from Lincoln Elementary School in Frederick, is the fourth location in the county and just down the street from its main spot near McCurdy Field. The other two clubs are housed at Emmitsburg Elementary School and Ballenger Creek Middle School.
The club has classrooms such as an art room and a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) room. The new location provides after-school programming for elementary-age children who live in the area or attend nearby schools.
It becomes one of 3,000 Boys & Girls Club of America locations nationwide. The organization’s mission is to serve youth in disadvantaged circumstances.
“We’ve got a significant portion of our population of our young people that could really benefit from what the clubs can provide and ... it makes us feel good to be able to provide that to them,” said Dean Rosen, chair of the board of directors of the Frederick County chapter.
Mark Lancaster, another member of the board and one of the main figures behind the opening of the new location, agreed.
“It’s a dream come true for our club,” he said.
The new space is housed in the “A” building of Lincoln Elementary, an addition of the school that is used primarily for the Frederick County Public Schools SUCCESS program — a secondary transition and vocational education program for students with disabilities who are 18 to 21 years old.
The local Boys & Girls Club is leasing about 3,000 square feet of space, but it can also use the designated “shared spaces,” such as the cafeteria, once school is out for the day.
“We were able to partner with FCPS because we’re sharing the building space. [It] keeps our costs down so that we’re able to invest in what’s really important, and that’s the kids,” Lancaster said.
He also said the location was chosen based on the feeling that it would have the longest reach.
“We wanted to be in an area where the Boys and Girls Club would be most effective. There are some Title 1 schools here and the need is here,” Lancaster said, referring to schools that traditionally have higher populations of low-income students. “And it’s walkable. ... Children can take their bikes here, they can walk here. I’s not a long commute.”
Also, the number of kids they can now serve has increased. According to Lancaster, the main location could hold only 50 kids, but the new location can hold 200.
FCPS Superintendent Terry Alban said the school system was happy about the partnership.
“FCPS is very excited about the location of the Boys and Girls Club in the same building as our SUCCESS program. This organization provides a great service to members of our community and we have appreciated the collaboration with them,” Alban said in an email.
The new location was funded almost entirely through donations, with the biggest portion coming from Carl Miller, who gave $500,000.
“What really makes us special is that it really is thanks to the generosity of those right here, which is what this club’s all about,” Rosen said.
The club will host its after-school programming from the time school is dismissed at 3:30 p.m. until 6 p.m.
Neechelle Robinson has two children at Lincoln Elementary who also attend the after-school program at the new location. She doesn’t get off work until 5 p.m. and said it’s nice to have such a close location for her kids to go after school.
“It gives them a safe place to grow and to express themselves in a positive way,” Robinson said. “And they’re picky, so to see that they love it and the interaction that they have with the staff is amazing, so I like it.”
Rosen said making kids feel safe is one of the club’s primary goals.
“It’s a safe environment for kids to grow and learn [and] it’s a tremendous opportunity to give kids an alternate path. ... That’s why we call it the club,” Rosen said. “We want it to be a club atmosphere; we want everyone to feel included and a part of something, because I think that’s what kids look for. I think that’s what they need.”
Additionally, the programming is all purpose-driven, be it teaching kids sensible eating habits or promoting responsibility and leadership.
“[The programs] help them grow into useful members of society and provide them an opportunity to move forward in their future, whatever that may be,” Rosen said.
Miller, who is in his 80s, was the official ribbon cutter. After handling extremely large scissors and trying four times to successfully cut the ribbon, the donor shared a few meaningful words.
“The children are entitled to something more, and I’m glad we could get it to them,” he said.