McDONOUGH – Supporters of a new Boys and Girls Club in Henry County stressed partnership over politics at a stakeholder meeting on Wednesday morning.
The meeting, which included representatives from the cities of Hampton and McDonough, as well as the Henry County government and the Henry County School System, covered a variety of topics, including the efforts to make the program a reality in the county, as well as a fundraising effort to help fund the program.
“Welcome to hope and opportunity for our youth,” said Dee Clemmons, the District 2 commissioner who has championed the Boys and Girls Club for the county. “That’s what it’s about. Thank you for accepting Henry County in the Boys and Girls Club family.”
Clemmons has worked to bring the program into the county, and noted her own experiences in the Boys and Girls Club. Clemmons was a student and a teacher in the Boys and Girls Club program.
While nothing appeared to be finalized concerning locations for club facilities, one location was mentioned as a possibility.
Multiple individuals, including Mary Elizabeth Davis, superintendent of Henry County Schools, said the old Henry County Middle School could serve as a facility for the Boys and Girls Club, a facility that Davis said “could be a great match” for the program.
A second facility will be constructed on the west side of the county, a “full fledged” facility, as Clemmons put it, that will carry a $2 million price tag.
In the proposed SPLOST V project list, seed money totaling $2 million was earmarked for the construction of Boys and Girls Club facilities in the county.
Davis said there was a gap in serving middle school youth in the after-school hours, and partnering beyond the boundaries of the school communities could be a way to address that matter.
According to Clemmons and Craig Elrod, McDonough city councilman, groups have attempted to bring the Boys and Girls Club to Henry County for 30 years, with some efforts coming agonizingly close at times, including a group in Stockbridge around a decade ago.
“We’ve been trying to do this for 30 years in Henry County,” Clemmons said. “The time is now. As Henry County grows and changes, we become more community-oriented.”
“I’ve seen groups try to do this, but something would derail it, and see it come so close was heartbreaking,” said Elrod.
Elrod said that the city of McDonough, the county, and the school system partnering together for the program will help “push it over the finish line.”
“We have a true partnership this time,” Elrod said. “A true partnership will get things done. It’s not being done for one thing or one person. This is an investment in our youth. If we don’t (invest in youth), what’s the point of everything else?”
The program will be under the direction of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Georgia. Their president, Phillip Bryant, spoke of how the organization operates as an after-school program.
Bryant boasted of the program’s 97 percent grade progression rate and its 100 percent graduation rate for high school seniors in the program.
“We’re doing this for the young people,” Bryant said. “We’re making sure the kids advance to the next grade level, get them to graduate on time, and get them into college or get into the military. We give them an incentive to not sit around and do nothing.”
During the meeting, Clemmons proposed a fundraising program to help take care of the program’s expenses. The program proposed would involve 2,500 residents committing to donating $100 a year for three years (worth $75,000 in total), 10 businesses committing to $5,000 a year for three years ($150,000 in total), five businesses committing to $10,000 for three years ($150,000 in total), the Henry County government committing to $150,000 for two years ($300,000 in total) and the four cities committing to $100,000 for three years ($1.2 million in total).