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E.V. Cain students enjoy new Boys & Girls Club building

Permanent site has more room to do homework, hang out
By: Michelle Miller-Carl Journal News Editor
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Boys & Girls Club members at E.V. Cain finally have a place they can call their own. The perks at this after-school spot are a full kitchen, private bathrooms, up-to-date computers and plenty of room to hang out. After years of sharing classroom space with E.V. Cain, now there’s a permanent portable building on campus to house the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn’s E.V. Cain extension site. Although the club has operated an after-school program at the school since 2001, club members would sometimes have to switch between classrooms depending on the school’s needs. “Having this gives the club a sense of identity, a place to belong where we’re seen as a separate entity than before, when we were sharing classrooms,” said Randy Tooker, chief professional officer with the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn. “It helps to have our members believe ‘This is our club, this is where we go.’” The 2,000-square-foot portable building is now perched at the edge E.V. Cain’s recess blacktop. The portable was designed to be used as a clubhouse, Tooker said, with a kitchen, bathrooms and computers. Although students started using the new facility after returning from winter break in January, a formal ribbon cutting will be held Friday. Tooker said it was a partnership between the City of Auburn, the Auburn Union School District and the Boys & Girls Club that helped secure and administer a Community Development Block Grant to pay for the project. The $500,000 block grant allowed for the purchase of the portable, site work necessary to locate it on campus, brand-new equipment for inside and two eight-passenger vans for community field trips. Some of the funding also supports the Boys & Girls Club programs. Auburn competed with similar-sized cities to get the federal grant money. With added red tape and the hurdles of coordinating between various local, state and federal agencies, the project took nearly four years from when the grant application was first submitted. “There were extra layers of complexity,” said Will Wong, Auburn’s community development director. “It’s one of those things. For a small city, it’s nice to get these funds, but we realize it takes quite a bit of staff time to make it happen.” Tooker hopes to boost enrollment from around 55 members per day to an average daily attendance of 85 now that there is a permanent facility on campus. Members are already raving about the new portable. “It’s way better than the old classrooms,” said Chelsie Resetar, 13, who was looking up biographical information on Rennaissance figures online during Wednesday’s “Power Hour” homework time. “(In the other classrooms) you would not get to have as much freedom, it was more strict. But here I can talk to friends, listen to my iPod and hang out.” Elijah Haven, 11, likes that there are more tables on which to do his math homework and better computers. Ethan Espinoza, 11, enjoys playing boardgames, drawing and cooking in the clubhouse. With a full kitchen, kids can now make tacos, cupcakes or even chicken chow mein in honor of Chinese New Year. Jenelle Woolsey, extension site coordinator, is giving the kids tips on everything from how to crack an egg to how to clean dishes. Other benefits have been having bathrooms inside the portable, so members don’t have to ask permission to leave, and being near the blacktop, to make supervised playtime easier. But the biggest change for the students might just be in their pride. “It’s neat because the kids are proud of it,” Woolsey said. “They want to keep it nice and be respectful of the clubhouse. The old rooms had carpet stains and chairs that were broken, so it’s nice because it’s new they can keep it that way.” The Journal’s Michelle Miller-Carl can be reached at michellem@goldcountrymedia.com.