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Boys and Girls Clubs need more donations

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com · 340-2438

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Morgan and Lawrence counties need a budget upgrade, said David Varner, who heads the organization.

Varner, chief professional officer, said the overall budget needs to increase from $300,000 to about $700,000 to operate efficiently the six public clubs in Decatur, Hartselle and Hillsboro. Another club is operated for juveniles in trouble.

The club is raising about $150,000 plus United Way Funding.

“We need to increase our funding events and donations, and we’re asking the public to get involved in supporting us,” Varner said. “United Way donations are down this year and our share will be down.”

The Red Shield Boys Club organized by the Salvation Army in 1948 is the forerunner of the clubs. The Boys Club of Decatur incorporated in the 1950s in an old Quonset hut behind Fire Station 1 on Gordon Drive Southeast, then relocated to a spot beside Fire Station 4 at Third Street and Fifth Avenue Southwest in 1964. The clubs welcomed girls in 1977.

“We’ve grown from that location to seven free-standing clubs or in partnership with others,” Varner said. “For example, in addition to the club inside St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, in March the First Baptist Church of Hartselle started a club.”

The Decatur Housing Authority built the Sixth Street Northwest Unit and bought the building for the Beech Street Unit, a former Church of Christ building. The club at Hillsboro on Lawrence County 400 is in an old school building constructed in the 1930s.

“Decatur Housing provides utilities and maintenance for Sixth Street and Beech Street,” Varner said. “Our partnerships with other organizations help because we don’t have to pay overhead to run them.”

Varner said the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame is incorporated in the Boys and Girls Clubs and functions as a committee to raise money for the clubs. That amount is $18,000 to $20,000 a year.

The clubs also form partnerships with local and area elementary schools to promote such educational tutorial programs as Lightspan Adventure.

“I actually taught the course at old Courtland High School for a year when we first initiated the program for grades nine through 12,” Varner said. “Through our grant, on average about $10,000 of educational equipment was distributed to the schools.”

Varner spends much of his time seeking grants from the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, a pass through to the Boys and Girls Clubs. The largest he has received is $75,000 that he acquired last year to help with internal resource development.

He said the clubs also partner with Athens State University, Calhoun Community College and Wallace State Community College that send students for volunteer tutoring.

“We had more than 100 students come from Athens State last summer,” he said.

The Beech Street Club next to the East Acres housing project is in a high traffic area, however, membership is falling and equipment needs repairing, During the 1996 calendar year, Beech Street had 86 members ages 6 to 18 compared to the 281 at the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church unit. In the past, Beech Street has averaged 25 youths daily and is now averaging 11. Scholarship money is available.

Equipment needs replenishing, for example, the bumper pool table and two foosball tables need recovering. Boys and Girls Clubs

Boys and Girls Clubs of Morgan and Lawrence counties operate these public clubs:

  • First Baptist Church of Hartselle unit.

  • Hillsboro unit.

  • Beech Street unit.

  • St. Paul’s Lutheran Church unit.

  • Sixth Street Northwest unit.

  • Third Street Southwest unit.

    Ronnie Thomas

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