PITTSBORO — Almost eight months after announcing plans to host area youth at Pittsboro’s Kiwanis building on Credle Street, representatives of the town’s budding Boys & Girls Club say the organization is changing tack and will likely begin operations at a different location.
The new Boys & Girls Club has been in development since before the pandemic began. Early on, the group’s advisory committee established a local partnership with Pittsboro’s Kiwanis Club and planned to use the latter’s downtown location, as previously reported by the News + Record. Plans were underway to renovate the building, with Hobbs Architects donating much of the design services, and some local construction companies volunteering labor. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in April.
But those plans are likely to change now that a building at George Moses Horton Middle School has become available.
“Last fall, we looked at and reviewed a lot of locations, and Horton Middle School — as it was called at the time — was one of those,” said Pittsboro Commissioner Kyle Shipp, who has spearheaded the local effort to open a Boys & Girls Club. “They didn’t really have a good location for us, but they said there was another building over there that might be available later, like thinking about a couple years from now.”
The building, George Moses Horton Middle School’s Professional Learning Center, has been vacant for much of the last year. Before then it was used as a training facility for school staff, but those functions are moving to a new administration building currently under development on Enterprise Drive, according to Shipp.
“Dr. Amanda Hartness, (assistant superintendant for academic services and instructional support) from Chatham County Schools is on our board,” he said. “So they started construction on the new admin building and she said, ‘You know, we primarily use the Professional Learning Center during the school day. We could probably share that building for a year or so until the new building is built, and then hopefully it would be the permanent home of the Boys and Girls Club.’”
Operating from the GMH campus would save the club vital time and resources. Ongoing renovations at Kiwanis threatened to force back the Boys & Girls Club’s tentative opening.
“We’ve been going through, obviously, all the renovations with Kiwanis,” Shipp said, “and with construction pricing and timelines and stuff like that it was really starting to have a pretty big impact on when we would be able to open the club.”
The new location offers other advantages as well, including enhanced accessibility for GMH students whom surveys show are the most likely to join the Boys & Girls Club, Shipp said.
“It’s the perfect setup,” said Daniel Simmons, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina, a three-county organization based in Sanford, which will oversee Pittsboro’s location in addition to its Siler City branch and others in Harnett and Lee counties.
“I mean honestly, I just can’t imagine a more perfect setup to start a club,” he said. “And the thing I keep thinking about as it relates to this project is just the partnership we have with the school systems. Boys & Girls Clubs thrive and are at their best when they have strong partnerships with local schools, and it’s hard to imagine a stronger partnership than having a Boys & Girls Club in a separate building on the campus of the school.”
The decision to shift gears was strictly based on the GMH building’s ideal fit for the Boys & Girls Club’s needs, Shipp emphasized. It does not reflect any strain in the organization’s relationship with Pittsboro’s Kiwanis Club.
“I want to be really clear about that,” he said. “Kiwanis is still a partner of the Pittsboro Boys & Girls Club, and Kiwanis and Boys & Girls Club nationally are still partners as well. So nothing changes there ... We’re not breaking up with Kiwanis, and we’re still looking forward to partnering with them.”
On Monday, Shipp and Simmons presented a memorandum of understanding to the county’s board of education to formalize the partnership and officially reserve the Professional Learning Center for Boys & Girls Club use. The board adopted the MOU by unanimous vote.
Having secured a building that requires little modification makes a summer opening date seems more realistic, Shipp said. The last major inhibitor is the Boys & Girls Club’s funding goal. Before it can begin operating, the club must raise $220,000. So far, it has reached about 25% of the goal — roughly $56,000.
“I think it’s a strong start,” Simmons said, “and I think a strong enough start to where, hopefully, it’s going to inspire other investors in the community to step up and make an investment in the kids of Pittsboro. I think having 25% in hand is a very strong indication to the community that this is something that people want, and that it’s something that our kids in Pittsboro need. And so it’s going to happen.”
To make a donation to the Pittsboro Boys & Girls Club, visit https://qrco.de/PittsboroBGC or send your contribution to PO Box 551, Pittsboro, NC 27312. Parents and children interested in joining the club are invited to fill out a survey at http://qrco.de/PBGCsurvey.
Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @dldolder.
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