The Boys & Girls Clubs in Jefferson probably is not like any other club that you’ve seen.
Instead of a brick or concrete structure, the Jefferson club is composed of a doublewide trailer; well, two doublewide trailers joined together by a shared uncovered, wooden deck area.
Six years ago, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America decided to expand to Jackson County, and with the help of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, the Jefferson club opened at 412 Gordon St.
It’s not uncommon for start-up clubs to use doublewide trailers until they are able to find a more fitting building. What is uncommon is for the transition to take this long.
"We moved here in 2003, and we were only supposed to be in these trailers for two years — two-and-a-half years at most," said Michael Williams, executive director of the Jefferson club. "We’ve definitely stayed here longer than we expected.
We’ve outgrown the facility, and we need to find a more permanent home."
The club’s doublewide trailers sit amid a vast concrete parking lot with a few basketball goals set up for club members to utilize since there isn’t an indoor gymnasium available.
Currently, the Jefferson club serves about 50 students each day. Williams said that number could easily double or triple if they had room to accommodate more kids.
"The need is there — we just don’t have the room," he said. "If we had a bigger facility, we’d be able to bring in more of the older kids. A lot of the teenagers don’t want to be at a Boys & Girls Club if they are stuck in the same areas as their little sister or brother. A bigger building would mean more teenagers off the streets. We really need to be able to reach out to the older kids as much as we reach out to the younger ones."
In order to attract older attendees, the club would need an upgraded computer lab — something they don’t have now, Williams said.
"The older kids require more interactive computer programs compared to the smaller kids," he said. "Right now, we have a few laptops for the kids to share, but if we want to bring in more teenagers we would have to update our technology. We’d need a full updated computer lab, and that would create security issues that we couldn’t accommodate in our current club."
Jefferson Boys & Girls Clubs officials would like to be able to bring in a 2,500-square-foot pre-fabricated metal building and place it on the 12-acres of property that the club currently occupies.
"This is really the perfect location for us. We’re very close to four different public housing areas. A lot of the kids just walk over to the club," Williams said. "This is a great location because we’re near the right population of kids — the kids that need us the most. The Jackson County school system has been great partners for us and have been great in leasing this property to us."
The Jefferson club currently is trying to raise funds to make visions of an updated facility a reality. According to Williams, they’re looking at a $400,000 tab to accomplish the task.
"Ninety-five percent of kids who go to the Boys & Girls Club graduate from high school, and 85 percent of all Boys and Club alumni say that the Boys & Girls Club saved their life," Williams said.
"If we are going to be serious about helping these kids, we need to be able to offer them the technology and skills that they need to succeed in the work force or in post-secondary education. We need a bigger facility. We have to do something, or else they are going to be out in the streets not being productive."