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Hope for the holidays: Boys and Girls Club of Alameda

Submitted by on 1, December 16, 2008 – 11:30 amNo Comment

Wedged between the old Woodstock school and the jumble of squat apartment complexes that line Atlantic Avenue is a rubble-strewn lot. It might not seem like much to folks whizzing by in their cars at the Island-high speed of 35 miles an hour. But George Phillips sees potential.

Perhaps that’s no surprise: Phillips runs the Boys & Girls Club of Alameda, and it’s his job to bring out the best in the kids the club serves. Here’s the future he sees for this little concrete lot: A 25,000-square-foot youth development center with a gymnasium, teen center, games room, computer lab and space for an exhaustive list of activities that would serve 3,400 kids a year, or almost three times the number of kids who turned up at the club’s old location on Lincoln Avenue in a typical year.

“In my opinion, it’s the most important effort the community has made in years,” Phillips says. “Nobody’s ever done anything like this in Alameda.”

Three years ago, Phillips was looking at seismically retrofitting the Boys & Girls’ old clubhouse next to Haight School, a job that would have cost $2 million. But that amount wouldn’t have improved the facility or services in any way that was noticeable to the kids the club serves. (The building has since been sold; the club is operating programs at Chipman Middle School and in some of the Island’s public housing complexes.)

The area around the club’s old spot had also come up economically, shedding its designation from the U.S. Census Bureau as a low-income neighborhood. So it was no longer an easy walk for the kids the club typically seeks to engage.

Phillips was able to secure a dollar-a-year lease from the school district for the land behind Woodstock, which is easily accessed from three elementary schools, Chipman Middle School and Encinal High, and the BASE charter school, which is at Woodstock.

Now he and his board of directors have to finish raising the $10 million it will cost to get the center built. So far they’ve got close to $6 million, including matching grant funds.

“Kids today are faced with more decisions in a month than I was in my whole adolescence. A safe place where they are taught, where they are able to make good decisions, is critical,” Phillips says.

In addition to the traditional sports and activities, the new center will offer services that are unique to Boys & Girls clubs, including a dental clinic and family legal aid.

The center will be open to school-age kids after school every day, on holidays and during the summer; it’ll be available to the school district to use during the school day. The club plans to break ground in January, and to have its new home open in October or November 2009.

The club is offering an array of sponsorship opportunities to anyone who donates at least half the amount needed to pay for the center’s different spaces (Phillips is asking anyone interested in those opportunities to call him at 510-522-4900). And he said that any donations the club gets before January 1 will buy the club an equal amount in matching grant dollars.

The Boys & Girls Club has set up a website with a wealth of information about the new center, including a really cool 3D rendering. For all of that (and to donate), click here.

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