Marion County, SC - MARION COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – After nearly a decade of failed attempts to bring a Boys & Girls Club to Marion, the club doors are finally open.
More than 100 parents, children and Marion community leaders celebrated the advent of their new Boys & Girls Club Wednesday afternoon. They are relieved to see the 10-year effort finally come to fruition.
"I was hoping we would get one for a long time," Curtisteen Williams said. Her daughter works at the club, and her two grandsons attend after school.
"It's good for our kids to help get them off the street and have a safe time," Williams added.
The economy posed the biggest challenge to launching the club, as said by Neal Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee Area. He attributes a large part of the project's success to the contributions made by the Rural Area Leadership Institute.
"Without RALI, I'm not sure if there would've been the ground swell again to start a Boys & Girls Club," Zimmerman said. The club is one of two projects adopted by the Francis Marion University branch of RALI. They joined the effort to bring the club to Marion two years ago, and Zimmerman said it brought about a resurgence of excitement.
"It is a tough economy," Zimmerman admits. "It's going to be tough for us to maintain programs and grow it, but my gut tells me that the Marion community really will step up to the plate."
Dozens of Boys & Girls Clubs across the country are closing their doors due to lack of funds. Zimmerman said Boys & Girls Clubs in the Pee Dee have been raising and increased amount money each despite the weakened economy.
The club in Marion has an annual budget of $100,000. City leaders are hoping to reach $250,000 through various fundraising efforts.
"We want kids of high character. And that goes from ethics and morals to volunteering in your community," Zimmerman said. "Education is number one. We want our kids to achieve in school, but also become tech savvy."
The club offers a homework assistance program and triple play program that promotes fitness and healthy eating habits. They have a Nintendo Wii console, and will soon feature a technology center with 10 computer stations.
"My children participate in it, and their children will participate in it," Francis Marion President Luther Carter said during the formal ceremony. He pledged to donate $3000 to the club and to purchase two additional Wii consoles.
"It's fun because you meet new friends almost every day," James Washington said. Fifty children currently attend the club. Program directors are hoping to see that number triple.
The club is open Monday through Friday from 2 -6 p.m. during the school year. Club directors hope to keep the facility open during the summer months. Membership is available to all children who live in Marion County and are between the ages of six and 18.
For more information, go to www.bgcs.org/.