Boys & Girls Club of Elgin gets $1 million donation to expand into South Elgin

The Boys & Girls Club of Elgin plans to expand into South Elgin by renovating the village's old public works building, which has been empty for about two years.

The 20,000-square-foot facility at 735 Martin Drive in South Elgin will be repurposed to include a gym, kitchen, cafeteria, learning center, conference space, garden and more. The facility is in a great location, because it is adjacent to Sperry Park, where the club will have outdoor programs, and next to residential neighborhoods, so many children will be able to walk there, Club CEO Cathy Russell said.

The Boys & Girls Club of Elgin officially kicked off its $4.25 million fundraising campaign Saturday with a $1 million gift from the Wisdom Family Foundation based in Wayne. Building work is expected to cost $3.25 million to $3.75 million, and the rest will to go to operations, estimated at $500,000 yearly, Russell said.

Renovations will begin when the fundraising campaign ends next year, with an anticipated opening date in early 2021, she said. "The community has been super supportive of the idea. We're pretty confident that we should be able to make it happen, especially with a lead gift like this," Russell said.

The South Elgin clubhouse will serve 250 children in kindergarten through 8th grade, providing a variety of educational and leadership programs and serving meals - dinner during the school year, and breakfast, lunch and dinner during summer. It will employ 16 to 18 staff members, Russell said.

The Boys & Girls Club of Elgin examined several options and picked the South Elgin location also because it allows serving students from Elgin Area School District U-46, Russell said. "We have a really good relationship with them," she said.

Transportation will be offered during the school year from Clinton, Willard, Fox Meadow and Harriet Gifford elementary schools, as well as Kenyon Woods Middle School.

The village will charge a nominal rental fee to the club, and will keep a 3,000-square-foot space in the rear of the building for storage, Village Administrator Steve Super said. The village built a new public works facility and the old one sat empty, with demolition a possibility, he said.

Super, who serves on the club's board of directors, said he suggested the idea of using the South Elgin facility when he served on a club subcommittee, then a team of experts evaluated the idea.

The village is excited to partner with the club, he said. "The club does such a great job of helping youth find the right path in life - what could more important than that?"

The Wisdom Family Foundation was founded by Jeff and Kristi Wisdom. Jeff Wisdom founded, and later sold, Wisdom Adhesives in Elgin; Kristi Wisdom is the foundation's CEO and serves on the board of directors of the Elgin Boys & Girls Club.

The foundation will get naming rights to the South Elgin clubhouse. "We have seen the impact Boys & Girls Club of Elgin has already had on the youth in our community and our goal is to provide this same opportunity for even more children," the Wisdoms said in a statement.

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