Expanded Boys & Girls Club opens in Rutland

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(Host) Kids in Rutland will soon have a new place to hang out. The Boys and Girls Club of Rutland County hopes to open its new headquarters on Merchant’s Row in downtown Rutland, in just a few weeks.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, club officials hope the extra space and more central location will boost membership.

(Keck) One of the biggest complaints about the old Boys and Girls Club – located across from the hospital on Allen Street – has been size. Rich Thompson-Tucker, the Club’s executive director, says their new headquarters will provide almost five times more space. And he says being right downtown, the club will be much easier for kids to get to.

(Thomspon-Tucker) “We looked at 35 different sites over the past 18 months to finally find this one. And we’re pleased that it’s allowing us to have a separate teen center for the 13-18 year old kids. Because as you know, sometimes the older kids don’t want to hang out with the younger kids and vice versus.”

(Keck) Workers have spent the better part of the summer transforming the offices, lobby and even the vault of the former Howard Bank into kid-friendly computer labs, art studios and game rooms.

(Thomspon-Tucker) “We’re now moving into the big teen center space which we’re very, very excited about. This large room will feature two tables up front for board games and socializing, and two regulation size pool tables, they’ll be a foosball table and we’re very excited about a 20-foot climbing wall that we’ll be putting on one wall of the teen center to give teens the opportunity to get some of that energy out.”

(Keck) Six to 12-year-olds will have their own space as well. Plus, there’ll be a full kitchen, computer lab, snack bar, art studio and quiet rooms for homework and meetings. Local businesses donated cabinets, countertops and appliances, and a local Rotary club did much of the painting. Thompson Tucker says the community support has been vital. In all, he says the renovations will cost about $115,000 and should be finished by the end of this month. He hopes to open the club in mid August. Besides being good news for the kids, Thompson-Tucker says it’ll also be good for Rutland.

(Thompson-Tucker) “We see on the front pages of the papers drug busts and crack rings being busted and we believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We feel that if we can get those kids involved in something constructive, something worthwhile and something wholesome before they get sucked into that awful stuff, that’s a very, very critical thing and an important thing to do for this community.”

(Keck) The club will be open seven days a week 2:30 to 7:30 pm during the school year and 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. during school vacations.

Despite the benefits, some downtown business owners were apprehensive about the Club’s new location and the potential for kids loitering. But James McNeal, president of McNeal and Reedy, a men’s clothing store on Merchant’s Row, says after talking with Boys and Girls Club officials, most businesses are now very excited to see the Club open.

(McNeal) “I think it’s wonderful, I think they’ll be great neighbors. I think everybody that has concerns or questions. I think the greatest thing would be for them to come down here and see the facility after they’re open and maybe find some time in their busy work week and volunteer.”

(Keck) Any child between six and 18 can join the club for $10 and volunteers are needed. Executive Director Rich Thompson-Tucker says about 500 kids are currently members of the Rutland County Boys and Girls Club. He says they hope the new facility will help them grow to 1,500 members within a few years.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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