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Wanted: Boys and Girls Club for Clayton

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A coalition has been formed to bring a Boys and Girls Club to Clayton County, former state representative Gail Buckner has announced.

"With the highest rate of juvenile delinquency per capita in metro Atlanta, the need for a Boys and Girls Club is a given," Buckner said. "We're organizing a citizens movement for that to happen."

Buckner is working with Morrow Mayor Jim Millirons on the project. The newly formed Boys and Girls Coalition will meet Thursday, 7 p.m., at Morrow City Hall.

The meeting will gauge interest and commitment, Buckner said.

In order to bring the club to the county, the coalition needs to raise at least $300,000 and demonstrate strong support from the citizens of Clayton County.

"Hopefully, we'll be a strong force that can get busy and make this much needed Boys and Girls Club happen," Buckner said. "The only way to make this happen is if the community rises up and takes ownership."

There are 26 Boys and Girls Clubs of America located in the metro Atlanta area, but there is none in Clayton County. The clubs are intended to provide a safe place for children who would otherwise have no supervision and no safe place to go. Their activities and programs are intended to "promote and enhance development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence," according to the organization's web site.

Efforts have been underway for at least two years to bring a Boys and Girls Club to the county.

Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro) has been involved in bringing the organization's summer program to Clayton County for the last two years. Glanton said the summer program was intended as a preliminary step toward bringing a club -- and maybe as many as three clubs -- to the area permanently. Glanton is not involved in Buckner's and Millirons' latest push, but said he supports any group with that goal. He described the forming of the coalition as "encouraging."

In addition to raising a large sum of money and demonstrating significant and sustained support for a club, organizers will also have to conduct a community readiness assessment, develop a management operating agreement, organize a unit advisory council, secure a facility, determine costs and select a director.

Glanton was influenced, positively, by his own experiences with the Boys and Girls Club when he was growing up.

"While the Boys and Girls Clubs do offer recreational programs, that is not all they offer. They enhance young men and women, to help them develop life skills, such as self-esteem and volunteerism," Glanton said.

Staff writer Curt Yeomans contributed to this report.