Boys and Girls Club 20th

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COLUMBIA - In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Boys and Girls Club, Columbia's location hosted a grand opening Wednesday. 

It included a public ribbon cutting ceremony by Columbia Chamber of Commerce ambassadors, and a proclamation by Mayor Brian Treece followed by refreshments and a tour.

The club welcomed the community into its new 14,000 square foot facility. The expansion includes a larger cafeteria, full-size culinary teaching kitchen, gymnasium with a performing arts stage and state-of-the-art recording studio.

Executive Director Valorie Livingston said the expansion is necessary for young Columbians.

"There's a lot more shootings in our community, there's a lot more drug activity in our community and I think the City of Columbia recognizes the opportunity that the Boys and Girls Club can be part of the solution," she said. "We strive to be a youth serving agency in the community and a larger facility with more strategic programming allows us to do that." 

The project took nine months to complete. The Boys and Girls Club raised $2.5 million through its capital campaign project, Changing Lives One Kid at a Time. The city council contributed $500,000 to the project.

The club provides afterschool programming and sports programs for elementary and middle school age children. It provides youth in the Columbia area with various programs that fall into five core program areas. Those program areas are character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, fine arts and sports, fitness and recreation.

The new facility now caters to junior high and high school students. 

"To have more programs that are more age appropriate for them," Livingston said. "We saw the drop off in the junior high and high school age so brand new attractions will hopefully excite, recruit and retain them." 

Cyrilla Galbreath, a member of the Downtown Optimist Club, said the money her organization donated is well spent.

"It's the cause, it's the children, it's a group that we feel is really important to support. We feel that it is our duty to help provide them with activities and things needed during afterschool care," Galbreath said. 

Livingston said the club's participants are eager to use the new amenities.