Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbia to expand

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COLUMBIA — The Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbia has big plans for the expansion of its Seventh Street location.

Having just reached its million-dollar fundraising mark, the club is well on its way to its ultimate goal of $2.5 million. 

The project will include renovating the existing 10,000 square feet and creating an additional 14,000 square feet.

The expansion will target high school-aged kids and will include a recording studio, full culinary kitchen and a brand new multi-purpose gymnasium.

"It'll enable us to build some positive relationships with them and mentor them about how to avoid drugs and alcohol and crime, and why they can go to college," said Executive Director Valorie Livingston.

According to Livingston, Columbia has seen an increase in crime and robberies, and it's important to provide older kids with a constructive place to go that will help keep them off the streets.

"Our community is in crisis," Livingston said. "If 42 percent of the Columbia Public School District is in poverty and qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch, we're talking about 7,000 kids that need help."

The club's main focus is reaching kids who are most at-risk and may come from single-parent households or families with lower incomes. 

"They come here with low self-esteem and things of that nature," Operations Director Deronne Wilson said. "Through programming and through staff, we're able to turn that around and build more confidence," said.

According to Wilson, the expansion will also serve a purpose outside the interests of The Boys and Girls Clubs. 

"There's such a lack of gym space in this community, that with the addition of a gym, we'll be able to attract a lot more kids and young adults to come in and utilize our facility for practices, games, and tournaments," Wilson said.

The club hopes to raise 75 percent of the money in time to break ground in the fall. If everything goes as planned, the expansion would be opened by next year.

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