Boys and Girls Club of Washington County working to add gym

Photo by Michele Newbanks Rebecca Johnson points out where the new gym will be when the renovations finally get underway at the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County.

MARIETTA — A much-needed expansion of the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County would add a new gym and classrooms to their facility.

Executive Director Rebecca Johnson said the club is located in what used to be a warehouse and only the front half of the building is currently in use.

“The back half is going to be developed into a gym and we’ll develop the adjacent area into a concession stand, a couple of classrooms and locker room,” she said.

She said the expansion will cost an estimated $855,000 and most will hopefully come through a grant through Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“The community resiliency grant is targeted at building recreational space, a belonging space for youth, teens and young adults,” Johnson said. “By having the gym, we can expand the number of kids we serve and the programs we offer.”

Photo by Michele Newbanks Brock Boice, 11, of Marietta, and Timothy Simons, 11, of Reno, play a game of Monopoly in the cramped teen room at the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County on Friday.

She said they would be able to offer sports, as well as be available on the weekends. There is a waiting list now of local children who want to come to the club, but there is no space to serve them.

The grant will provide $500,000 toward the project and Johnson said they hope to get the paperwork finalized by July, but other fundraising will need to be done to fund the remainder of the project.

Johnson hopes the architect can be hired and the contractors started by September.

“It’s going to be very involved,” Johnson said of the renovations. “The first step may be removing the old roof structure. It has an old wood roof structure with water damage and fatigue.”

She noted the roof would need to be removed and rebuilt before the gym can be built underneath.

The estimated cost would include the roof, the gym, classrooms, concession stands, locker rooms and restrooms. Johnson noted the price per square foot for the areas which will require water, such as the concession stand and restrooms, is always higher.

“But it’s all overdue,” she said of the renovations.

David Browne, executive director of the Washington County Board of Behavioral Health, said Johnson had spoken to the board about helping fund the expansion.

“We have levy funds that are not allocated yet,” Browne explained.

He said one of the conditions of the state grant the club is applying for is that the money must be spent first, then the state will reimburse the club.

Johnson had asked the board for revolving funds to get and keep the project rolling, Browne said.

“She would be using the board’s dollars, but the state would reimburse her,” he said. “She would then give the money back to the board.”

The board was asked by the club for $60,000 as the revolving fund.

“It’s a great use of levy funds,” Browne said. “That place is going to be used all the time.”

Johnson had also asked for $20,000 from the board to use for “whatever needs done,” he said.

“But that’ll take a little more discussion,” he said.

Browne said the whole city is short on gym facilities and having them at the club will give the children something to do.

“Some of these are the most at-risk kids,” he added. “She’s fulfilling a need for day care and it’s very affordable for those on the lower income scale. It’s a no-brainer for us to help.”

The Boys and Girls Club has been at the current facility on Lancaster Street since 2012. The building was the former home of Magnum Magnetics and when owner Gary Murphy donated it, the structure became the Harmar Community Center.

“It’s currently getting transferred over from the community center to the Boys and Girls Club,” Johnson said.

The club is running about 90 children a day during the summer, with 60 to 70 a day during the school year. It is running a summer camp which offers different programming for the different age groups. Youth can learn about gardening and healthy habits and good eating, as well as spending time outside playing at the park. They take a field trip every Friday and go swimming once a week.

Programs such as the Smart Girls and Passport to Manhood teaches participants about taking care of themselves and their bodies. They also learn respect for others.

“The Boys and Girls Club in general is about character building and being good citizens,” Johnson said.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com