Anthony Brock waited nearly two years for city leaders to respond to his email.
On Oct. 30, 2014, Brock, unit director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County, emailed Jarrett Jones, director of the Boykin Community Center, and Mayor Bill Ham requesting a meeting to discuss safety concerns at the Auburn Boys & Girls Clubs.
There was no action taken or response until January 2016, according to Brock. Bill and City Manager Charles Duggan met with Brock to discuss the insufficient space provided for rent to the Auburn Boys & Girls Clubs at 400 Boykin St.
"I told them I need their help badly, and I haven't heard anything back from them," Brock said.
The facility that is currently hosting the Boys & Girls Clubs, the largest after-school program in Auburn, is the venue for three other organizations. A day care program, a senior center and Auburn Parks and Recreation have access to the facility.
"The facility is our biggest challenge right now," Brock said. "We are trying our best to find supporters that can help us get our own facility because we have taken a huge hit by this facility and having to share it with the other organizations."
When asked about the Boys & Girls Clubs' situation, Duggan said he remembered attending the facility and meeting with Brock. According to Duggan, the provision of a new facility would be under the council's jurisdiction, and the funds would have to be allocated directly in the city's budget that will be decided in August.
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"(The Boys & Girls Clubs) has discussed the issue and asked, but we have lots of people coming to us with lots of requests all the time," Duggan said. "While we believe in the Boys & Girls Club and have supported them for many years, it's not something we can just do."
Duggan said the city has not received a formal request for a new facility from the staff at the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Over the last five years, the club has grown from 60–70 children per day to 125–130 children. This rapid growth has put stress on workers and the building itself, Brock said.
According to Brock, there is very little space for children in the current facility. Once parks and recreation arrives in the afternoon for sports, there is even less. The gym, a vital area for the club, is occupied by parks and recreation in the afternoons.
"My kids are suffering from the lack of space," Brock said. "They do everything they are told to do. My ultimate goal is to get these kids what they deserve, which is a facility that is their own."
Without the gym, the club has even less space for their members, and they are unable to provide athletics to those who are interested, Brock said. For example, the students haven't been able to have their basketball season yet, and the school year is almost over.
"The gym is a place where we can send our kids to alleviate some of the crowdedness, but when they take the gym every evening, we only have two medium-sized rooms for over 100 children," Brock said.
Although the club does tutor and help to drastically improve students' grades, the athletic programs help to relieve stress and make time at the club more enjoyable, Brock said.
Carol Ham, Linking Learning tutor and Bill Ham's wife, helps connect Auburn City Schools with the Boys & Girls Clubs. Carol has been working with the club for six years. Carol said working with the schools and the club has been a great opportunity, and she has enjoyed being a part of the community through her position.
"We would love to have a bigger and better facility," Carol said. "I know the Boys & Girls Club would love to own their own facility. Where I am in tutoring is great. I have my own room. I know of a couple initiatives to try to get a new facility, but I think they are long-term."
According to Brock, without a change, the staff at the Boys & Girls Clubs will be required to change the way they operate.
"We need to be able to accommodate our large numbers or we are going to have to start putting a cap on enrollment," Brock said. "I don't want to have to tell parents and kids no. That's not why I took this job. I came back to the club so I could help every kid and every parent that needs our services."
Capping enrollment will not only hurt the club, but Auburn schools, Brock said. The Boys & Girls Clubs has a valued, close relationship with the Auburn schools and their teachers, according to Brock.
Bill said he was aware of the issue of space provided at the Boykin Center and the technical deficiencies the club has been facing.
"We talked about what the facility needs and the demand," Bill said. "They need more space, and Anthony asked us to consider that. Is there a resolution at this point? No, but I can tell you that I am highly in favor of the city collectively looking at a way to improve their situation."
Doris Hutchinson has a grandson named Chase, and she attributes his newfound love of reading to The Boys & Girls Clubs and "Mrs. Ham's" reading lessons.
"These kids have had so much character instilled in them," Hutchinson said. "(The Boys & Girls Clubs) doesn't believe in sagging pants, and you won't see these kids cursing. They are taught life skills and helped in school."
Hutchinson said the club does not have enough space or transportation. If the club was provided more room, they would be able to expand without the stress that they are being put under at this moment, Hutchinson said.
"We believe that the city has our back," Brock said. "I'm just not sure they know about the problems we are having internally."
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