By Howard Packowitz
BLOOMINGTON – Bloomington aldermen enthusiastically endorsed plans by the local Boys and Girls Club to build a multi-million dollar clubhouse at Sunnyside Park on Bloomington’s west side.
Alderman David Sage called it a “great project,” while council members Amelia Buragas and Jamie Mathy said they were in favor whether the council opted to sell the 3.25 acres for a dollar, or rent the space to the Boys and Girls Club.
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The council Monday night directed staff to draw up a lease agreement in which the organization will pay the city a dollar a year for the next century.
“That’s our dream to be on the corner of Illinois and Erickson. It’s in our neighborhood. It’s in the community we belong in,” said Boys and Girls Club CEO Tony Morstatter.
The Boys and Girls Club reported 94 percent of its members are below the poverty line. It provides services for about a thousand kids, offering adult mentorship and educational tutoring, while serving tens-of-thousands of meals. Boys and Girls Club Resources Development Chair Holly Houska expects more children, particularly on the west side, will need help that’s not offered by other social service agencies.
“We have an epidemic of children at risk in our hometown, and we need to face that truth,” Houska said.
She said the partnership between the organization and the city sets a “wonderful precedent” for the government to recognize underserved and underprivileged.
“To lend a helping hand up, not a hand out, to those who are trying very hard to realize the opportunity that some of us have in life,” said Houska.
Boys and Girls Club leaders would like to build a 50,000 square foot clubhouse, about three times larger than the current building on West Illinois. The cost, to be financed by private donations and grants, would run about $12 million.
Howard Packowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org