Boys & Girls Club shows off Fort Craig Club
By Matthew Stewart| (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nearly 15 months ago, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Blount County had a dream.
The nonprofit eyed the former Fort Craig School of Dynamic Learning, visualizing a more centralized location and improved facilities to better serve its students. Board members were hopeful about the organization’s future — one that they showcased Tuesday for community members.
“We knew it could be wonderful and thought it would be wonderful,” said Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judge D. Kelly Thomas, a member of the nonprofit’s board of directors. “We’re just getting started with the Fort Craig Club. It’s going to be something that nobody’s ever seen before — something special.”
Since moving into the building, the Boys & Girls Club of Blount County has expanded its programming with the assistance of community partners. Maryville Christian School, Maryville College, Maryville High School and the Maryville-Alcoa-Blount County Recreation & Parks Commission are providing volunteers who are working with club members.
The nonprofit, which is occupying the former school’s first floor, has established activity, arts and crafts, game and technology rooms. The Fort Craig Club is also using the building’s cafeteria, gym and playground facilities.
As a result of the move, students have access to expanded gym and playground facilities, newer furniture and improved technology. They have 16 computers, or twice as many computers as before.
Club members also have opportunities for fellowship and fun. They can test their skills at the air hockey, foosball and pool tables. Play board games. Read a book.
“Our club has everything,” said Anthony Locke, a third-grader at John Sevier Elementary School. “I used to attend the Eagleton Club, which was kinda small compared to this one. We couldn’t go outside as much. Not to mention, we didn’t have a lot of stuff. We had a huge field, a basketball court and a sand box. I had fun there, but this club is huge. We have a lot of space. Our arts and crafts room is actually two rooms, and the gym is twice as big as Eagleton.”
The elementary-schooler also likes the new club’s carpeting, increased book offerings and cafeteria. He’s constantly finding new, fun things to discover and do at the club.
“My family usually picks me up after dinner, close to 6 p.m.,” Locke said. “I keep wanting to stay another hour (until the club closes at 7 p.m.) because I’m having so much fun. I look forward to coming to Boys & Girls Clubs each day.”
Alexia Morrison, a third-grader at Sam Houston Elementary School, agreed. “It’s so much fun. We get to paint and play each day. I love the gym and monkey bars. It’s really, really fun to be here.”
Visiting families were equally impressed with the new club, and many enrolled their children after touring the new site Tuesday night.
“I was very impressed,” said parent Thomas Reeves. “It’s something respectable for kids to do and keeps them out of trouble. As a parent, I was very pleased to see that this is a safe place for my son. Not to mention, they’ve got all kind of fun things for him to do. He’s going to have a great time.”
“When I found out about the Boys & Girls Clubs (of Blount County), I really wanted to join,” said son Nathaniel Reeves, a seventh-grader at Alcoa Middle School. “When we got here, we saw the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Afterward, I felt confidence walking through these doors. I knew it’d be a good place. I was impressed that they’d take the time to open this place for us, and everyone was so kind, courteous and loyal to us. I’m proud to be a new member.”
He’s looking forward to potential dodgeball games in the gym and pool games in the teen room, in addition to spending time in the computer lab and sitting on comfortable sofas to watch TV.
City support noted
Board members feel the same passion as club members.
“It’s almost too good to be true,” Thomas said. “The support we’ve received from the school district and city of Maryville has been fabulous. One of the truly great things about the city of Maryville is the way we support each other.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Blount County is currently serving 75-80 students daily. Officials hope to have 100-115 members by the year’s end.
During the school year, the Fort Craig Club provides free transportation from Alcoa Elementary, Alcoa Middle, Alcoa High, Eagleton Elementary, Eagleton Middle, Foothills Elementary, John Sevier Elementary, Montgomery Ridge Intermediate, Rockford Elementary and Sam Houston Elementary schools.