Colom makes pitch for Boys and Girls Club

Boys and Girls Club in West Point and Clay County Executive Director Nadia Colom addresses the Clay County Board of Supervisors at its meeting on Thursday.
Staff Writer

The reborn Boys and Girls Club in West Point and Clay County will have the keys to its new home at the start of the year. But that's when the hard work really gets under way, the executive director of the Golden Triangle Boys and Girls Club said Thursday.

Nadia Colom started that "hard work" by formally asking the Clay County Board of Supervisors for a long-term funding commitment of up to $20,000 for operations and $7,500 a year for utilities.
A Boys and Girls Club operated in the city until more than 15 years ago. With chapters in Columbus and Starkville, the Golden Triangle agency is bringing the club back to West Point under a new non-profit status.

The 20,000-square-foot former Ultralife battery building on Church Hill Road will house the club, but the the agency needs to raise $700,000 for renovations and another $500,000 for three years of upfront operating expenses that includes a director and as many as a dozen other full- and part-time staffers to provide programming and support for as many as 200 kids.

That would be larger than the Columbus club which serves about 140 kids in a 12,000-square-foot building.

"We can't do this without a strong partnership on the front end. You can help us get off on the strongest possible start," Colom told supervisors.

Based on bills from when the building was occupied, Colom and her staff have estimated annual utility costs at $30,000. West Point and the county are being asked to split half that costs -- $7,500 each -- with the BGC covering the rest. The county also is being asked to contribute as much as $20,000 a year. Lowndes County gives $12,000 and Oktibbeha County $15,000 to their smaller clubs. Colom previously asked for $10,000 for the current budget and supervisors allocated $2,500.

The consolidated school district is partnering with the group to provide transportation services while churches also are planning to help transport children who live in rural areas.

"The idea is to serve as many children as we can. And especially those who may not have support in their home...academic exposure, a solid work ethic, all the things they need to be good citizens," she said.

As an example of many opportunities in the county, Colom said the BGC's innovative work-force readiness program that pairs high-school students with local employers is a natural partner for East Mississippi Community College dual enrollment programs already in place in the county.

"Those are the kinds of partnerships that will be a big part of what we do," Colom said, noting churches in the city and county are getting involved with helping get the program off the ground.

While Colom is making the rounds to government and community groups explaining the start up and seeking support, three different committees of volunteers are reaching out to churches and faith-based organizations, businesses and others for financial support and long-term commitments.

"That's the hard work going on right now. When we open the doors, we want to be ready. We don't want to stumble," she said.