FELLSMERE – Indian River County’s Fellsmere Boys & Girls club is set to open Aug. 30. The club will serve approximately 300 kids, and will be capable of facilitating up to 160 kids at one time.
“It started with a blank sheet of paper,” said Indian River County Boys & Girls Club Chairman Jay McNamara said that the idea for the area clubs came 10 years ago. “The dream was that the government would provide some land to help, and we would go after the funding through the community to get the money to build and run one of these clubs.”
Built in 1916 the Old Fellsmere School cost $40,000 to construct. It has since undergone $3 million in renovations over the past two years to help accommodate the new club, and will need $250,000 in funding to operate. The City of Fellsmere is offering the Boys and Girls Club space for $1 per year.
Club President and CEO Ronnie Hewett said that the club will have two full-time staff members and up to six part-time staff.
“All of our staff, full-time and part-time, will be finger printed and undergo a thorough background check conducted by the FBI,” said Hewett. “We want to provide these kids with a fun, safe, clean environment. Alcohol and drug abuse prevention will be a top priority here as well.”
The two full-time staff members in Fellsmere are Estaban Rosano, Fellsmere Club Branch Director, and Education Director Ana Lee Sanchez. Rosano is being promoted from the Vero Beach location and Sanchez from the Port St. Lucie branch.
Hewett said every Fellsmere resident has received a mailed brochure from the Boys & Girls Club, and the residents have expressed a high amount of interest.
“We have gotten a ton of phone calls from parents and other people asking what kind of programs we are going to have and when they can apply for membership,” said Hewett. “People are ready to get their kids involved. We’re going to start our official registration August 1.”
Programs will focus on:
Academic success – 87 percent of kids who go to the Indian River County Boys & Girls Clubs complete their homework there after school prior to their parents pick them up. More than half of past members achieved a higher level of education than they thought possible because of the Club.
Drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention – Amongst Indian River County Boys and Girls Club members, only 5 percent drink alcohol, 3 percent abuse drugs, and 1 percent use tobacco. The County norms are 36 percent, 17 percent, and 12 percent respectively for these categories.
And Healthy lifestyles – Over 90 percent of Boys & Girls Club alumni are satisfied with their adult life.
Parents aren’t the only ones interested in the new Club; a former student of the Old Fellsmere School is excited too. RCMA Indian River Area Coordinator Elida Gomez shared some childhood memories with those who were at the presentation.
“It’s so great that we have the building back in our community,” said Gomez. “I remember playing jax there when I was five years old; there were so many happy kids there. I have good memories because of that school that I went to years ago. I can’t wait to see it filled with kids again.”
Not only will the Old Fellsmere School house the 8,000-square-foot Boys & Girls Club, but it will also house the city’s administrative offices and 208-seat auditorium.