Since its inception, the Hilton Head Island Boys & Girls Club has been expanding to serve the community. And it’s happening again.
What began in 1990 as a small space in Sandalwood Terrace was quickly outgrown. That space was expanded to a full apartment in the complex a few years later and then, after a four-year campaign kicked off in 1995 by the tireless staff, the current 28,000-square-foot Batten Family Boys & Girls Club was born.
As much space as this new facility gave the club, the demand for Boys & Girls Club services has grown with the island over the last 10 years. About a year ago, the club’s board began eyeing expansion once again.
Enter the Merle J. Graham Charitable Trust. Graham, who was one a key organizer of the Sea Pines Property Owners Association, had a longtime history of charitable giving, along with his wife Marian. Although Merle Graham passed away in 2006, his foundation has continued to serve the community, this time giving $250,000 to help create a new reading center at the Boys & Girls Club.
“This is a fabulous opportunity for the club to greatly enhance our curriculum,” said Jim Hooper, past president of the board.
“This will be an exciting and innovative time for our organization.”
There is no room for expansion of the Gumtree Road facility, so the reading center will be created by reallocating current Boys & Girls Club office space.
The reading center will consist of a large area for holding a variety of literacy-related activities, including puppet shows, poetry readings, translation services and volunteer reading sessions. The second space will have activities for smaller groups; and the third space will be devoted to the most simple of pleasures, sitting down with a good book. There will also be a space for several computers loaded with literacy software.
In addition to the reading center, the Boys & Girls Club will also light the soccer field for night games, add a nature trail and upgrade security.
According to Douglas Barry, the club's development director, there is no specific date yet to open the reading center, but they are planning to open sometime this month.
While the generous donation from the Merle J. Graham Foundation helped build the actual center, the Boys & Girls Club is planning a fundraiser to buy books, furniture and more. This “Around the World” Gala will be held March 19 at the Westin.
“This is an opportunity for the Boys & Girls Club to consistently and effectively address a serious issue facing our youth,” said Pam Lapp, the new director of the reading center. “The center’s mission will be to provide our youth with a fun and creative environment designed to foster a love of reading.”
Around the World Gala
The Westin Hotel and Resort will host a special fundraiser gala to help purchase books, technology and furniture for the new reading center at the Hilton Head Boys & Girls Club.
When/where: Cocktail hour at 5 p.m., followed by dinner, auction and entertainment from 6-10 p.m., March 19
The scoop: Internationally acclaimed jazz singer Carol Welsman will perform selections from her new album “I Like Men: Reflections of Miss Peggy Lee.” The Boys & Gils Club Youth Choir will also take the stage during the gala to give the crowd a firsthand look at the lives being changed by the club. Tickets are $175, patron tickets (which include a listing in the program) are $200 and tables of 10 are $2,000.
For more information: Call the Boys & Girls Club at 689-3646.