The Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren (BGCVB) hosted a special open house Thursday evening (March 7) as it celebrated the grand opening of its new building addition.
Constructed over the last year, the new wing adds 5,000 square feet of classroom, learning center and office space to the more than 50 year-old structure.
The evening kicked-off with guided tours, given by club members and staff. The students showed visitors around the new facility and explained how they utilize the extra space for studying, crafting and playing after school.
Following tours and refreshments, BGCVB Executive Director Cindy Faldon welcomed everyone and introduced guest speaker Tom Hough, who served as the long-time Boys and Girls Club of America Regional Service Director.
“This club wouldn’t be where it is today if it were not for Tom,” said Faldon. “He has been instrumental in in the growth of the club over the past several years.”
Hough praised the club for its accomplishments and noted that the organization has come a long way in recent years.
“This club has been through good times and bad,” said Huff. “In the last five years you have become a true community organization that I would put up against any other.”
Faldon then took to the podium again to begin a long list of thank yous and recognitions. She began by thanking the Board of Directors and crews involved with the overall construction and planning process.
United Way of Fort Smith Area (UWFSA) was also honored for its support of the project. A United Way Community Partner, the club receives a monthly allocation from UWFSA to help fund operations. In 2011, United Way awarded the Boys and Girls Club an additional $150,000 Community Impact Grant to jumpstart the renovation.
During the recognitions, Faldon expressed her appreciation to Richard and Helen Hodo and Ed and Shirley Yeager for their generosity to the club in recent years. She also thanked the Van Buren School District for housing BGCVB at its career center during construction.
“Anytime we go to the Van Buren School District, they are always looking out for what’s best for the kids,” said Faldon. VBSD allowed the club to use the JJ Izard building for its summer program and for two additional months until it was safe for the club to return to its home.
Faldon also acknowledged club founder Earl Robinson. After returning to Van Buren in 1958, Robinson helped establish the club in a building on Main Street. He later wrote a grant to help fund the building of the club’s current structure in the Van Buren City Park. Robinson, who was in attendance, was given a standing ovation by the crowd.
Honorees were presented with special doorknob awards. Crafted by volunteer Harold Hamm, the awards featured a knob, painted by club members, and the artist’s name, picture, and plans for when they grow up. The students personally distributed each of the awards during the event.
Following the awards presentation, club staff, members, donors, supporters and the board of directors gathered for an official ribbon cutting ceremony with the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce.
The Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren averages more than 200 children a day in its after school program. The club teaches health and life skills, encourages participation in arts and helps empower youth through its character/leadership development and career preparation programs. BGCVB also provides sports, fitness and recreation activities, as well as mentoring, tutoring and special summer programs designed to boost self-esteem and build confidence in young students.