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Boys & Girls Club moves into new Downtown Clubhouse

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Talk about an upgrade. The Boys & Girls Club of Auburn opened the doors to its “huge” new Downtown Clubhouse Monday with the hopes of accommodating triple the youngsters they could host at the old High Street site. The move from the old firehouse-turned-clubhouse at 1103 High St. to a three-building compound at 679 Lincoln Way has been a long time coming, and settling in will take some time. But as of Monday morning, youngsters were already at home, testing out the new gym, exploring the wilderness imagination playground and exploring their creativity in the new art center. “This is like nothing we’ve ever had,” said Randy Tooker, Boys & Girls Club of Auburn’s chief professional officer. Expanding from 4,500 square feet at the old clubhouse to more than 15,000 square feet at the new site on the Community 1st Bank “campus” makes a “huge, huge difference” as far as what the Boys & Girls Club can offer its members, Tooker said. The best part is knowing that the Boys & Girls Club holds the keys — the club closed escrow for the majority of the property in February, and the recreation center is on a 20-year lease from Community First Bank. The old firehouse the club used as its Downtown Clubhouse for the past 10 years is a city-owned building and not designed to be a youth development center. Highlights of the new clubhouse include a recreation center which will soon be equipped with basketball hoops and sports court flooring, a full kitchen, conference rooms, a study area, computer lab, a teen center that takes up the whole third floor of the clubhouse, an art center housed in its own building, an outdoor stage, and the aforementioned playground, designed to resemble the features of the American River Confluence. Last summer, the Downtown Clubhouse accommodated an average of 56 “members” per day. Tooker said that, with the new facilities, the club hopes to accommodate nearly triple that attendance, welcoming some 150 kids daily to the new site. Tooker said it seems fitting to move into the Lincoln Way site, a permanent youth facility, just in time to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn. “Being able to have a place now, a dedicated structure for youth development, is huge,” Tooker said. More space means more options for the boys and girls participating in the Downtown Clubhouse’s summer program. Cooper Landram, 10, had already participated in a percussion group session and went for a hike, all before noon Monday. “It’s pretty neat, all the activities we get to do,” said Cooper, a Boys & Girls Club member since first grade. Sara Heflin, a four-year member of the Boys & Girls Club, is also impressed. “It’s pretty nice. It’s bigger,” Heflin, 14, said. “The teen room is better and we have more space. They have a lot more space and activities. Nevada Inocencio, 19, is a club-member-turned-staff-member who thinks boys and girls will benefit from the new facilities. “To have a three-story building and a gym, I think that’ s great for the kids,” he said. “There’s so many more opportunities for them to branch out.” Tooker said the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn wouldn’t be anywhere near this landmark if it wasn’t for donations of time, funds and equipment from community businesses, service groups and individuals who continue to give of themselves. “This building, and this club, is a huge statement to the kids about how much the community cares about them,” Tooker said. “The community in whole has been huge in getting this done, and quickly.” That said, work isn’t done, and Boys & Girls Club staff members are working on a massive to-do list. “We have lots more projects we want to get done,” Tooker said. “We’ll be putting out a big call.” The Boys & Girls Club of Auburn is also gearing up to launch its Community Campaign to raise the $375,000 needed to make this move complete. “Now we have a home where we can serve a lot of kids, but we still need the support of the community to keep this going for a long, long time,” Tooker said.