ROGERS -- Matt Taliaferro called it a "huge moment."
Taliaferro, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Benton County, stood before a crowd of about 30 there to celebrate a ribbon-cutting for the club's renovated Rogers Unit on Friday morning.
The ceremony marked the culmination of a renovation project at the 83-year-old red-brick building that houses the club at 409 S. Eighth St. Accompanied by staff, board members and patrons, a smiling Taliaferro used a pair of oversized scissors to snip a red ribbon amid cheers and applause.
"Parents know that when they send their kids here, they are coming to a safe place where they're going to learn, play and grow," said Taliaferro, who thanked his staff, the board and donors. "When the kids walk through our blue doors, we help them to be better students in school, better citizens in our community and we help them understand how to live a healthy lifestyle."
The project cost more than $300,000 and began over two years ago, Taliaferro said. A grant from the city got the ball rolling and paid for replacing the gym floor, he said.
But that was just the start for revamping the Rogers Unit.
"After that, we continued to do things, and it got to a point where we realized we needed to go out and ask for some more help," Taliaferro said. "We got huge donations and then started a complete renovation. We can't thank the community enough for their support. A lot of work went into this renovation. Without the support of the community, we wouldn't have been able to make it happen."
The Rogers Unit was closed all of last summer while most of the renovation work was done but has been open to kids since then. The last of the work was done in the past couple of months, Taliaferro said.
Mayor Greg Hines and Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Raymond Burns joined Friday's gathering.
All that was missing were the students. But they'll be at the club before long. The summer program starts Monday, Taliaferro said.
"We make it so they do rotations throughout the day," Taliaferro said, when asked about what the children enjoy most.
That includes playground and gym time as well as learning activities and art and science projects, Taliaferro said. There will be free field trips, he added.
The facility serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade, Taliaferro said. There are costs, but he said the club tries to keep them affordable. There's a sliding scale for students on free and reduced-price lunch programs.
"Our goal is to make this accessible to as many families as we can," Taliaferro said. "Membership rates cover less than 20% of our income. So we go out and raise over 80% of what it takes to run the club from the community."
In the summer, the club provides breakfast, lunch and a snack, Taliaferro said.
Hines said he was a latchkey kid growing up and had to watch out for himself at times, try to do the right things and make good decisions. He pointed to the importance of the structure the Rogers club provides for students.
"I walked home from school, did all those things on my own, the homework and trying to find something fun to do without causing any damage to property," Hines said. "We come together annually, and we celebrate all these accomplishments of the students in your program. But the real story that is untold is what doesn't happen as a result of all these students having access to this facility, to this program. We'll never know those. We're grateful as a community and congratulate you on this rededication."
Burns also praised the program.
"You're building young leaders, and that's important to our community," Burns said.
United Federal Credit Union, the city of Rogers and local donors provided the financial backing for the just-completed renovation, according to a news release. Included in that work was an overhaul of the learning center, adding safety features and making upgrades to improve the overall experience, according to the release.
Stephanie Riffle, regional vice president of the credit union, presented a check for $30,000 to the club for the learning center.
"United supports every Boys & Girls Club in all the six different states that we are in," Riffle said.
The building, built in 1940, once served as the Rogers National Guard Armory, Taliaferro said.
Costs for membership at the Benton County Boys & Girls Club Rogers Unit:
DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR
$120 a month
$60 a month for students on free or reduced-price lunches
$70 a week
$35 for students on free or reduced-price lunches
Source: Boys & Girls Club of Benton County