William Bryant Rozier

New School Year…Now the Work: The Expanded Boys and Girls Club

William Bryant Rozier
New School Year…Now the Work: The Expanded Boys and Girls Club

Included in the renovation checklist for the upgraded Boys and Girls Club facility that opened on April 17, 2019 at 2606 Fairfield Ave., the cool factor was unashamedly a priority for President and CEO Joe Jordan. The ideas on paper for the new facility, built with funds from corporate and individual support (an amount that exceeded their $8.3 million goal in 11 months), had to align with the program flow of the club, but, also…had to have a contemporary feel.

Jordan took notes when he visited other new Boys and Girls Clubs across the country; he didn’t want a sterile feel and that’s what he felt when visiting some of those other sites. “Your environment…that physical structure…has something to do with your mental game,” he said. “I wanted to make sure the new building uplifted spirits. I wanted my staff and our members to walk in and feel energized.”

A lot of time was spent on the cosmetics, for example. The Boys and Girls Club blue, strewn throughout the building, is offset by complimentary colors for vibrancy. “All of that mattered,” Jordan said. “I think I presented some challenges for my general contractor [Michael Kinder and Sons] because I was so focused on the cosmetics.”

As reported in Issue 9 | Volume 2 of the Fort Wayne Ink Spot, the club now boasts a full collegiate gym with three basketball courts, a full performance stage, five learning centers, a tutoring room, and a dance and fitness studio. The second floor, dedicated to teenagers, features an E-gaming and technology room, an expanded art room, and a Planet Fitness workout room. A special room on the first floor is allocated for the introduction of building-trades skills for members, helping to usher in some of the new programs the new facility can now hold.

The Boys and Girls Club, as its re-constructed now, is more of a community center now than it has ever been. “We want to make sure we are utilizing the building to its fullest,” Jordan said, “to make sure it’s a [true] community resource.” New organizations are using the facility to meet. “Even the [community] partnerships we had, we’ve expanded those partnerships,” he said. The club has created a new program to provide services for children who are wards of the state “who may not have the ability to go to school, so they can come to the Boys and Girls Club now,” he said.

But the club’s still an afterschool-focused nonprofit and August 2019 marks the first time the redesigned, 42,500-square-foot Boys and Girls Club is going to do what it was meant for.

Out of three Boys and Girls Club locations, the Fairfield spot is a school-based, drop-off site; their biggest partner is the Fort Wayne Community Schools system who bus in the kids. Then there’s Fairfield Elementary right down the street. Half of charter school Timothy L. Johnson’s kids are bussed in.

A cool, new building with new and previous expanded services…means more attention, ultimately more kids through the doors. “Do I anticipate being at capacity within the next year or so? Yes I do,” Jordan said. “For the last five years, we’ve seen close to 2700 kids a year. 80% were ages 12 and under.”

The question that other Boys and Girls Clubs, and other like-minded groups, nationwide face is how to serve the 12 and over kids, according to Jordan. “Between the ages of 13 and 18, you can make one mistake, and it can derail your whole life. If you don’t have the kids at that most crucial part of their adolescence then, you may not be able to create…great futures.”

Jordan’s research into the “secret sauce” of reaching teenagers, with those groups that were succeeding in impact that target age range, led him to three basic conclusions: 1.) Older kids need to have a bigger space, 2.) they are more conversational and relational so they want a lounge-feel to their environment, and 3.) there should be a dance studio, a point that surprised Jordan, who said that 90% of executives asked suggested it. Teenagers also wanted a pathway to jobs so a strong workforce development component was coded into the redesign.

During the two and a half-year process, from fundraising asks to opening day, Jordan kept coming back to all the smiling faces of the children when they saw the building. When April 17 (new Day One) came, “[the feeling] was indescribable,” he said.

For more Boys and Girls Club information, including sign-up procedures, hit up their website at BGCFW.org.

I run Scrambled Egg(s) Design and Productions, based out of Northeast Indiana. In addition to producing in-house company projects, I also create advertising materials for companies and organizations, with an emphasis on interactivity.