Commissioner Lisa Cupid dropped by the center, which provides recreational and educational programs to disadvantaged youth outside of school hours.
“These kids are the future,” Cupid said Friday. “Facilities like this one are so valuable to the community.”
The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta has provided services to the metro area for more than 75 years, with 27 clubs scattered throughout 10 counties. The Matthews Boys and Girls Club, off Fontaine Road by Veterans Memorial Highway, is one of four clubs in Cobb.
Eight-year-old Shalar Niedes had a hard time picking his favorite thing about the club.
“I like the game room, the computer lab, the bathrooms,” he said. When asked to choose one thing, he said “I can’t, I like everything!”
The changes to the 10,608-square-foot facility were plentiful and much needed, said Emily Carter, director of foundations and government grants for the clubs.
“We’ve been waiting for these changes to happen for a while,” she said.
The center applied for funding in 2011 from the Cobb Community Development Block Grant, which supports county projects aimed at serving low and moderate income people, Carter said.
After receiving the grant for the renovation this year, Carter said Fischer Contractors of Alpharetta started work in June. Construction wrapped up Aug. 11, just in time for the first day of children’s programs.
The work included painting, improving the flooring and sectioning off a portion of the game room for a new computer lab.
Academic success is important to the club, said Dominique Oscar, executive director of the clubs, who added the expanded computer lab will greatly help the kids. The lab uses a learning program that blends games with lessons and produces assessments that show what the children are struggling with.
Workers also added new handicap accessible bathrooms, a new kitchen and pantry and updated the gym. The entire facility received new insulation and an improved air conditioning system.
“I swear, it used to get about 160 degrees in this building,” Oscar said. “You could have come in here and lost 10 pounds just standing still.”
The teen center, which sees about 31 teenagers daily, also got a makeover.
“We asked the teens what changes they wanted to see,” Oscar said. “They had no idea we were actually going to make the changes. When they came back from summer break they couldn’t believe it. They came to me saying, ‘You did this for us?’ and ‘How much did this cost?’ I told them it’s a blessing and to just enjoy it.”
Oscar said he wants the teen program to be a place where teenagers can be themselves and have a voice. Poetry nights are a staple at the program and counseling is always available. The program also promotes community service.
Changes to the club have been received warmly by the children, Oscar said, and added they love to play and dance on the new floors. They also prefer the new, brighter colors scheme.
Although the renovations are complete, Oscar still has plans for the club. Efforts to build a new playground in April are already underway, he said.
Membership to the club is $50 annually and is available for ages 6 to 18.