Officials break ground for new Boys & Girls Club

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Ground was broken on new building Sunday afternoon

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

After 17 speakers stepped onto the stage Sunday afternoon and talked about the importance of the new Boys & Girls Club, Patti Alderson, building campaign chair, nearly forgot the purpose of the gathering: Breaking ground.

Alderson thanked everyone for coming before someone in the audience said: “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

That’s when many of the same speakers — including Alderson’s good friend and financial supporter of the building, former Speaker of the House John Boehner — stepped into the grassy area and took a ceremonial shovel of dirt.

The new, larger Boys & Girls Club of West Chester and Liberty club will be located at the site of the former Lakota Union School at 8735 Cincinnati Dayton Road in Olde West Chester. The school was recently leveled, making room for the $9 million project, of which $6.2 million has been raised.

A ground-breaking ceremony for the new Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty was held Sunday afternoon and included numerous dignitaries. RICK MCCRABB / STAFF
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A ground-breaking ceremony for the new Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty was held Sunday afternoon and included numerous dignitaries. RICK MCCRABB / STAFF

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The club will work closely with the Lakota schools and its 18,000 students, 20 percent of which qualify for free or reduced lunches. Alderson and others stressed that while there is tremendous growth in the area — both commercial and residential — there are residents who are in financial need.

“It’s going to be a great future for our kids,” Alderson said after the ground breaking. “It fills a gap for so many families, who have a lot of hard-working families, who have nowhere to put their children after school between the hours of 3 and 6, the most dangerous times of the day for kids. They will have a club that can support the whole community.”

Explore» READ MORE: West Chester Boys & Girls Club gets Lakota backing, money

Groundwork on the new club, which will be 30,000 square feet, or six times larger than the other club, began nearly three years ago. Alderson said the project is on schedule, and she anticipates the club to open in late December 2017 or in January 2018.

“I always dreamed that this day would happen,” she said. “It’s better than I ever could have imagined.”

Boehner, who has lived in the community for 42 years, said West Chester has experienced tremendous growth with the addition of more diversified residents.

“There are kids in need,” said Boehner, who noted children are in school 9 percent of the time. “I’ve been a big believer in making sure the kinds of infrastructure that’s needed in our communities is there.”

Explore» READ MORE: Boys & Girls Club plans $6.5M building to replace school

Then, as expected, Boehner got emotional.

John Boehner, former speaker of the house, said there are kids in need living in West Chester and Liberty Twp. and he believes the new Boys & Girls Club will provide after-school programming for those students. RICK MCCRABB / STAFF
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John Boehner, former speaker of the house, said there are kids in need living in West Chester and Liberty Twp. and he believes the new Boys & Girls Club will provide after-school programming for those students. RICK MCCRABB / STAFF

As his voice cracked, he said: “What we do here and what we do in communities around our country is a foundation for what makes America America.”

Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Attorney General, said he frequently is asked what “keeps him awake” at night. His quick answer: Heroin epidemic.

“If I think about it for a while, I think the biggest challenge facing the state of Ohio, and it’s probably no different than any other state: We have children — not just in Appalachia, not just in inner cities — but in every Ohio county who unless there is some help, unless there in something like the Boys & Girls Club, the odds are them loving the American dream, and fulfilling all the potential they have are not as good,” he said. “What you are doing is giving them that chance, that opportunity.”

He said Boys & Girls Clubs are “changing lives.”