Members of the Charles A. Hamilton Boys & Girls Club in Anniston now have new spaces in which to study and grow vegetables, thanks to a group of volunteers.
Around 25 employees from the Oxford and Anniston Lowe’s locations spent four days to build new amenities at the club, including a pergola and two raised gardens, thanks to an initiative called Lowe’s Heroes.
“It really shows that they are community heroes, who are committed to the future of our kids,” said Johnny Byrd, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of East Central Alabama. “They don’t just provide building supplies and materials, their employees help build healthy young people.”
The volunteer crew spruced up the building with overdue maintenance, such as mowing the lawn and cleaning the building’s siding.
“We also built a new pergola, raised flower beds and a fence to split the building more from the old school,” project leader Walt Brothers said. “Each Lowe’s location gets $2,500 from the company to work on community projects that we get to pick.”
Byrd identified the club’s needs for the project, before the Oxford and Anniston locations pooled together their money and effort, according to Brothers. Byrd plans to use the new amenities to encourage good behavior and teach lessons on healthy eating.
“We want to introduce them to things they can influence,” he said. “This garden will give them something they can take care of and nurture. I think it will teach them the value of nurturing because they’ll get to see the outcomes of their actions.”
Byrd says that children will be able to grow vegetables throughout the year in the new gardens, which will also be used to pass along healthy eating tips. The pergola and new space around it created by the fence will be used in a similarly multi-faceted manner.
“This space provides an opportunity for kids to earn a privilege,” he said. “We wanted a rewarding place, but also one where kids could come and concentrate in a quiet space. Parents will also be able to help with homework or studying here.”
The new area will act as a reward zone, study hall and outdoor library, according to Byrd. He said the investment by Lowe’s will be remembered by these children, and he hopes it will instill the same drive to give back to their community.
“People come here not only because of all the programs offered,” he said, “they also come here because it’s a safe haven and place where the community cares about you. Here they learn how to interact socially and resolve things with peers.”
There are more than 4,300 Boys & Girls Clubs in the country, serving nearly 4 million young people through community outreach programs. The organization has been around for more than a century. Calhoun County has nine locations, in which students of all ages have access to scholastic programs in subjects including career preparedness, financial literacy and college preparation.
According to research conducted by the organization, high school senior club members are more likely to volunteer than their peers who aren’t involved with the club. Club members report drinking less alcohol than their non-club peers and are twice as likely to express an interest in a STEM career.