by Kate Evans
The Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle plans to buy part of Berkmore Place, a commercial business complex across from Widmyer Elementary, as a new location for their Morgan County club. The building
houses Reed’s Pharmacy, Tri-State Community Health Center, a dentist’s office and other businesses. The club hopes to move there by early spring.
The Boys and Girls Club is still located in the Morgan County Community Services Building on South Green Street where they’ve been located since they opened in 1996. The Community Center is being sold and the club needs to leave the premises as soon as possible.
Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle Executive Director Stacie Rohn said Ken Reed offered to sell them the part of the building they were originally going to rent for the club’s new location. Their $800,000 loan from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for purchasing that section of the Reed’s Pharmacy building has been approved and the funds are on their way.
Rohn said the renovations and move couldn’t take place until the loan paperwork went through. They’ll need a capital campaign to pay off the loan early. The club will also have several renters that have space in the part of the building they’re purchasing so there will be some rental income.
The Morgan County Boys & Girls Club will be located in the former War Memorial Hospital Physical Therapy space in the Reed’s Pharmacy building. Rohn said the new club location will have a recreational area, game room, a main education space, a library, a commercial kitchen, a cafeteria and a dedicated space for teens.
The commercial kitchen is very important for the hot meals they provide for club members and the meals they make for Morgan County Schools afterschool programs and summer programs.
Commercial kitchen, library
The Boys and Girls Club received an additional $35,000 in funding for club renovations, installing a commercial kitchen and helping with moving expenses- $25,000 from Morgan County Commission and $10,000 from First Energy Foundation. Rohn said they’re not just changing out the kitchen but they’re also putting up doors. Accordion walls will be installed so they can make a space larger or smaller if needed.
Rohn said there’s a renovations team in place that’s ready to start work as soon as she gives the word. She’s hoping to find grant money to replace some furniture from the old location that has a lot of wear and tear.
The Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation has sponsored the library and has given the Boys and Girls Club $4,000 for books for the new club location.
Rohn said she’s looking forward to the renovations and move.
“It’ll be fun. It’ll be a nice new club for Morgan County,” she said.
Meanwhile the club has been downsizing considerably to maximize its use of every inch of space in its future quarters.
Once the last state USDA paperwork has been completed, Rohn said they’ll close on the building sale with the Reeds and begin the renovations.
“Ken and Talley Reed have been very generous and great supporters all the way,” she said.
Before they looked at space at Berkmore Place, the Reeds had donated land for the Boys and Girls Club to build a new club on the site. For now their main priority is to get the club moved and stabilized in a new building location.
Once the Boys and Girls Club reopens it will continue its same programming. Club activities include homework help, indoor games, outdoor sports, arts and crafts, computer activities, cooking, drug and violence prevention programs and community service clubs.
Some 65-75 club members were attending before the club closed to members due to the pandemic. An average of 65-100 kids attend daily year-round. The Morgan County Boys and Girls Club offers an after-school program and a summer camp program.
The Boys and Girls Club continues to serve weekly meals to families with children through meal pickups at their South Green Street location. Morgan County Unit Director Sandy Mellott said that they’re serving over 1,000 meals a week to around 115 Morgan County kids per week.
People pick up their meals on Monday and have to call the club on Friday at 304-258-6741 to reserve their meals for the following week. They get five dinners and five snacks for each child that’s under 18. The children don’t have to be Boys and Girls Club members, Mellott said.
The food service will continue through April because of a new grant that came through. Mellott hopes another grant extension will continue the meal program through the end of the year.
Mellott said she contacts registered club members every week to touch base and see how they’re doing. If they’re struggling, she’ll tutor them over the phone. Mellott has four club members that’s she’s tutoring regularly each week. She is also referring kids to the Morgan County Partnership for tutoring.
Mellott said the club tried to offer online activities for members but kids were so full of doing things online they didn’t get enough participants. Mellott has been sending activities out with meal deliveries. She sent a reading activity and a create an “I have a Dream” poem or art activity for Martin Luther King Day. Kids get little rewards for participating-small cupcakes and candy bars.
They’ve been getting rid of a lot of things they no longer need at the club with their downsizing before the move, Mellott said. Some items have been pitched in the dumpster outside and other things have been given to families in need.
Mellott said she can’t wait to have kids back at the Boys and Girls Club.
“I sure miss them. It will be so great. To get back to that will be wonderful,” she said.