Dennis Francis always liked his Norwood Boys and Girls Club in Anniston.
The 11-year-old likes his new, larger club even more.
“It’s got more room,” Francis said. “I learn a lot here … I really like the arts and crafts.”
The Boys and Girls Club of East Central Alabama held an open house Wednesday for its new building between Norwood Homes and Norwood Park. The approximately 5,000-square-foot building is more than twice as large as the previous Norwood club building, allowing the program to serve more children than ever before, club officials say.
“It’s expanded our abilities … it’s now our flagship location in Anniston,” Johnny Byrd, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Club of East Central Alabama, said of the new building. “It’s enabled us to reconnect with the community itself and stretch out beyond our previous service area.”
Boys and Girls Club is a nationwide organization that provides educational and recreational services for economically and socially disadvantaged youths. The East Central Alabama chapter has eight clubs in Anniston, Jacksonville, Talladega, Lincoln and Roanoke and serves about 400 children annually.
Located in a former storm shelter constructed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the new Norwood club sits across the street from its old location at Norwood Homes. Byrd said the old club space was big enough to serve nearly 55 children a year. The new space made it possible to easily serve 77 children this summer, Byrd said.
Inside the building are tables for studying and arts and crafts, a section for snack time and other for games, including pool, ping pong and foosball.
“We’re so excited to have so much space,” said Tiffany Henry, unit director, who manages the day-to-day operations of the Norwood club. “We’re able to offer programs to several more children instead of having to work with small groups.”
The club had to move after the Anniston Housing Authority decided to relocate some of its management services to Norwood Homes. Partnering with the Anniston Parks and Recreation Department and the Anniston city school system, the Housing Authority helped the club move into its new building, said Sonny McMahand, executive director of the housing authority.
“We gave them some relocation money,” McMahand said.
The Norwood club gained more than just some extra space, though.
The two Lowe’s Home Improvement stores in Anniston and Oxford spent $5,000 and provided 30 volunteers to buy new computers for the building and to construct amenities, including a gravel pathway from the parking lot and an outdoor pergola with picnic tables. The volunteers also planted shrubbery around the building.
“We were happy to do it,” said Walt Brothers, manager of the Anniston Lowe’s. “We’re hoping to partner with more businesses to help the club and do something bigger next year.”