New Boys and Girls Club to open on Tuesday

By Tammy Keith Originally Published January 20, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 18, 2013 at 12:37 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

— It was quiet as two Boys and Girls Club of Faulkner County staff employees walked through the new facility in Conway, but come Tuesday, it will be full of excited children.

Executive Director Robert Wright said it can’t open soon enough.

“We’re ready to go. The kids ask every single day, ‘When are we going to move?’” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them; they ask.”

No one could blame them — they’re moving from a cramped facility in downtown to a modern one almost twice its size at 15,000 square feet located at Robins Street and South German Lane.

Wright and Ronda Warneke, director of development, are just as excited when they talk about the new club.

Warneke stood in what will be the arts room, fresh paint on the walls and lots of cabinets.

“We’ve never had a space like this before. I’m not artsy at all, but I love this room,” Warneke said. “This is an exciting room for me just because of all the ways we can use it.”

In addition to functioning as an art room, the space can be used by the club’s small groups, Smart Girls and Passport to Manhood, she said.

Another room will include a big-screen television for students to watch programs on bullying, texting and driving, etc., and the programs can also be opened up to the public.

The bright library/multipurpose room, with lime-green paint on one wall and multicolored carpet of blue, lime, teal and orange, was empty, but it will be full of books and the latest technology.

“We will be able to stream video,” Warneke said.

Hewlett-Packard will provide computers, which will open a whole new world, Warneke said.

“We’ll be able to add 13 programs, just by moving,” she said.

“When we say this will allow us to enhance our programs, that’s such an understatement,” she said. “There’s no comparison” to the former facility, she said.

“I joke that we don’t even have voice mail [at the old club].”

The downtown facility is the Bob Nabholz Unit and the program’s headquarters.

Land for the new building was leased to the Boys and Girls Club of Faulkner County for $1 a year. The facility is being paid for with a successful $2 million fundraising campaign. It also includes private-foundation grants.

The individual rooms are off the main activity room, where the pingpong and pool tables and such will be. The polished-concrete floor bears the blue Boys and Girls Club logo.

The basketball gymnasium will allow two games to be played at once — a curtain can be lowered from the ceiling to divide the gym. The dance team, which has been forced to practice in the arts room, can use the gym, too, Warneke said.

The concession area in the main room has a galley kitchen with drawers and counter space galore.

A concession window opens to the basketball court to serve the crowd.

Warneke said another advantage of the new facility is that it is handicapped-accessible.

“Let’s face it; I’m not sure we had anything considered accessible” at the former location, she said.

“We just can’t grow much more where we are,” Warneke said.

Wright said he expects the Boys and Girls Club of Faulkner County to grow because of the new facility.

“We’ll probably add 50 people,” Wright said.

Approximately 250 children ages 5 to 18 use the three Boys and Girls Club locations on a daily basis.

The club also has a unit at Grace United Methodist Church in west Conway and one in Mayflower.

The club is open from 3-7 p.m. during the school year and from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the summer. The cost is $25 a year to join the club and $25 a week, unless students receive free or reduced-price lunches. For those students, the club is free each week.

Wright credited the successful fundraising campaign to its co-chairmen, Bill Hegeman and his son, Brad Hegeman, both of Conway, and the community for responding.

Warneke agreed.

“Just the people of this community — absolutely wonderful,” she said.

The downtown building has been sold to the St. Joseph School Endowment and Charitable Trust.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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