The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County offer kids a safe, structured place to go after school. But some kids have trouble getting there.
The club wants to reach children living in public housing in Gainesville, and will open a satellite location at Melrose Apartments’ Innovation Station this fall.
“It’s going to be an opportunity for all of our kids that live in public housing — but Melrose in particular because the location is convenient — to be able to participate in an after school program that is structured and proven successful,” said Beth Brown, executive director of the Gainesville Housing Authority.
The after-school program will run from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday for children in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to Steve Mickens, chief professional officer for the club.
Brown said the satellite location will help families who might want to send their children to the club but have trouble getting them there.
“Any of the kids can go to the Boys and Girls Clubs at its location, but transportation can be an obstacle and some of our families feel more comfortable staying in the environment where they’re living,” Brown said. “This will be a great opportunity for them to participate in a quality program.”
This is not the first time the Boys and Girls Clubs have teamed up with the housing authority. Mickens said the club used to have locations in Harrison Square and Atlanta Street Apartments, but they closed after funding ran out.
The goal, he said, would be to get after-school programs for all the children living in public housing. Harrison Square is their next potential location.
“Harrison Square has a computer lab in a space that’s mixed with our offices, but I think there’s potential there to make something happen,” Brown said. “And we’ll have to see what happens at Atlanta Street, because we have proposals to redevelop that site.”
Mickens took his administrative staff on a tour of several housing locations this summer to propose the idea for the satellite location.
“We went through different neighborhoods, and one thing I noticed was all the kids outside playing,” he said. “And I said, ‘You know, there is a need for us to get back into housing for these kids.’”
The after-school program will focus on homework help and tutoring, plus provide enrichment activities and lessons about living a healthy lifestyle.
“My heart was breaking when I saw those kids after school outside playing,” he said. “There’s nothing at all wrong with playing outside, but in this day and age, we have to focus on giving kids something constructive to do, and that’s what this main focus is.”