In The News

Club for West Chester, Liberty youth set to launch this summer

Journal News


Starting this summer, elementary school students in the Lakota district will be able to join a club designed to provide a fun, safe place.

The Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty is set to open this June in the former Child Time day care center, 4845 Smith Road, West Chester Twp., a 5,000-square-foot facility with room for both indoor and outdoor activities.

The club includes character development as the building block of every activity, and its programs focus on five areas: character/leadership; education/career; health/life skills; the arts; and sports /fitness/recreation.

A group of parents, teachers and business professionals joined Patti Alderson, board chair and CEO of the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty, on a mission to start the organization when they saw a need within the Lakota community.

Alderson said all children should have a fun, safe place to go after school.

“Boys and Girls Clubs offer positive things to do when parents are working,” she said. “Children are supervised by adults and mentors who can help them with homework, lead games and arts activities and offer positive character development opportunities in a caring setting.”

The club is expecting to serve 125 children a day in the 5,000-square-foot building, Alderson said.

In a district where 20 percent of 16,000 students, or about 3,200 students, qualify for free or reduced lunch, having a Boys & Girls Club around can make all the difference in the world, she said.

However, it’s a misnomer that the club is only for the less fortunate, Alderson said.

“The Boys & Girls Club is there for everyone. It’s there for all students,” she said.

Among the multitude of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s well-known alumni are former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, actors Martin Sheen and Denzel Washington, athletes Shaquille O’Neal and CC Sabathia and singers Usher and Jennifer Lopez.

Ohio Attorney General’s Office provided a $750,000 grant to the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Chester/Liberty.

The grant, which designates the community foundation as fiscal agent, provides enough funding for the club to initially open to students who will be in grades two through six in the coming school year, with plans to expand by a grade every year afterward.

The club on Friday named as executive director Stephen Holt of Liberty Twp., a student ministry pastor for nearly 25 years and founder of Edge Teen Center in Liberty Twp.

Holt said he is passionate about providing teens and kids a place where they feel accepted and an environment in which they can be mentored.

“I was a youth pastor for nine years in the area and I … love the people and understand where they’re coming from in this community,” he said.

Holt and his wife, Wendy, have children in sixth and ninth grade in Lakota schools and another who graduated from the district.

He said the organization is there for youth who need it the most.

“We’re here for those kids who, financially, it’s tough for them at home,” Holt said. “We want to help them out as much as possible to succeed in life. I believe we’re also here for the youth that both parents work, and it’s tough for them, and they need a place to come after school to keep them from getting into trouble.”

The club also has good leadership-type programs.

“We’re here for those kids who make the straight A’s and who are leaders in the schools, and we plan on making them even better leaders,” Holt said.