'This is going to change kids' lives': New South Elgin clubhouse for Boys & Girls Club breaks ground

  • Boys & Girls Club of Elgin CEO Cathy Russell thanks supporters during a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday for their new South Elgin clubhouse. They hope to be ready for kids some time next year.

    Boys & Girls Club of Elgin CEO Cathy Russell thanks supporters during a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday for their new South Elgin clubhouse. They hope to be ready for kids some time next year. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • The Boys & Girls Club will open a South Elgin clubhouse in the former home of a South Elgin public works building.

    The Boys & Girls Club will open a South Elgin clubhouse in the former home of a South Elgin public works building. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • The Boys & Girls Club held a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday for their new South Elgin clubhouse. The shell of the former public works building will remain as they design the new spaces within.

    The Boys & Girls Club held a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday for their new South Elgin clubhouse. The shell of the former public works building will remain as they design the new spaces within. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Bree Jaquez, 15, of South Elgin talks about what the Boys & Girls Club has meant to her during a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday for their new South Elgin clubhouse.

    Bree Jaquez, 15, of South Elgin talks about what the Boys & Girls Club has meant to her during a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday for their new South Elgin clubhouse. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • The Boys & Girls Club new South Elgin clubhouse will feature a sports court in the middle with rooms wrapping around the outside.

    The Boys & Girls Club new South Elgin clubhouse will feature a sports court in the middle with rooms wrapping around the outside. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted10/18/2021 5:30 AM

It's been a big couple of weeks for the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin.

On Thursday, the organization held a ceremonial groundbreaking for its new clubhouse in South Elgin. The former public works building at 735 Martin Drive will be home to a 20,000-square-foot facility that will provide daily education, meals and activities for more than 250 children from kindergarten through eighth grade.

 

Club CEO Cathy Russell announced during the ceremony that, with a gift from an anonymous donor, the club reached the $4 million mark in fundraising, which is the expected cost of renovating and outfitting the clubhouse. The club hopes to raise another $500,000 for operating costs.

This comes on the heels of a $100,000 donation by DeVry University earlier this month to fund a new state-of-the-art STEM lab in the club.

"Today is a dream come true," Russell said. "I know that the impact that it's going to make on our kids will be transformative."

More than 50 people gathered inside the gutted building Thursday to celebrate the latest step in a journey that began in 2019, when South Elgin Village Manager Steve Super, a club board member and a former Boys & Girls Club kid, showed Russell and a committee the building.

"It was kind of a dump," Super said of the building that the village was targeting for demolition.

He was surprised by Russell's reaction when they went to visit the dilapidated, junk-filled building. "This is perfect, this is amazing, this will be great," he recalled her saying.

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About half the project was funded by the South Elgin-based Hoffer Foundation and Wayne-based Wisdom Family Foundation, with each donating $1 million.

"One in three children walk home from school, right past my office (at Hoffer Plastics) not even a half-mile from here, and they have an empty house to go to and half of them can't afford lunch," Gretchen Hoffer Farb said. "This is a huge opportunity for our community, and we need to support these families that are all around us."

One of the site's main draws is its location right next to Sperry Park in a diverse residential neighborhood with a mix of houses, duplexes and apartments.

"I think we could all go out right now and within 15 minutes walk down the street, knock on a door and find a kid sitting home alone, in the second grade or third grade, because school ended an hour ago and mom is not back from work," Super said. "This is going to change kids' lives."

Russell has said that while designing the new clubhouse she was able to take ideas from the hundreds of clubs she's visited over the years. The new space will be able to add many elements that don't exist at the Elgin facility, including a more secure way for visitors to enter, a laundry and shower and a sick room where kids can wait to be picked up if they're ill.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

She said the DeVry donation "kind of came out of the blue" and will be a boon for what was planned to be a "maker's space."

"The plan has always been to have a space that is like your dad's garage on steroids," she said. The STEM lab "now can have a lot more gadgets and stuff for kids to explore and tool around with. All that stuff is really expensive."

The timeline for construction of the building has been pushed back a couple of times since the pandemic, with supply and manpower shortages. But Greg Lieser, a South Elgin village trustee and the capital campaign chairman for Boys & Girls Club, said they're getting close.

"Our goal is to open next year," he said. "We can't go another year without having this available to our South Elgin disadvantaged youth."

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