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Dr. Condoleezza Rice among dignitaries at groundbreaking for AG Gaston clubhouse

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Dr. Condoleeza Rice, Birmingham native and former U.S. Secretary of State was among the dignitaries on hand as A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club hosted a groundbreaking ceremony. (Ameera Steward, The Birmingham Times)
Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times

Officials, including Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Birmingham native and former U.S. Secretary of State help break ground at A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club groundbreaking ceremony. (Ameera Steward, The Birmingham Times)

The A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club on Wednesday hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $7.2 million headquarters in Five Points West. The 24,300 square foot will be built next to Birmingham CrossPlex on Bessemer Road.

Dignitaries in attendance included Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Birmingham native and former U.S. Secretary of State; Frank Adams, CEO of the A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club; Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin; Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt and Lee Styslinger III, chairman and chief executive officer of Altec Inc, and campaign co-chair.

“This is a day of possibility because it’s a new clubhouse in which educational opportunities for our kids to be safe and learn, opportunities for personal growth, opportunities to live healthier lives,” said Rice.  “It’s also a place of possibilities because Frank Adams and his terrific team will have a brand new space, and more of it to deliver on what they do, and it’s not just programs that they deliver, they deliver on caring and compassion for our young people.”

Adams said the organization outgrew its current location which lacks visibility and accessibility. The building will replace the club’s Kirkwood R. Balton Clubhouse on South Park Drive West where the organization has been located since the 1990s.

The new clubhouse will include a STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) lab that takes advantage of the partnership between the Boys and Girls Club and Birmingham City Schools. It will also feature a game room, theater room and a whole floor dedicated to teens.

The clubhouse is expected to open sometime in 2020.

“We want to integrate more fully in the community, especially in the Five Points West community and the entire western area . . . our goal is to increase the visibility of the organization to make sure that we’re as accessible . . . as we can be for the young people and the families we serve,” said Adams.

From left: Mayor Randall Woodfin, City Councilor Steven Hoyt and City Council President Valerie Abbott were among the dignitaries on hand as A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club hosted a groundbreaking ceremony. (Ameera Steward, The Birmingham Times)

Woodfin, a former Boys and Girls club member, called it “a great day not just for the city . . . but for our younger generation. Anytime adults are making this type of commitment to make sure our youth have an opportunity, the city of Birmingham is in great hands,” he said.

The new building allows for a facility that doubles the capacity and creates more space to double the number of children served, said Styslinger.

“The opportunity for after school activities is really something that is critical for youth development K-12 . . . this is a place where they can be engaged, learning, exercising, having mentors, leadership development and developing further skills,” he said.

Styslinger, Rice and Grayson Hall, from Regions Financial, worked with leadership of the Boys and Girls club to raise awareness and money for the project. Nearly 100 companies helped with the project.

Gabby Dunlap, another alum and strong advocate for the organization, said the location near CrossPlex is convenient for children in the neighborhood. “A lot of us wanted it to be in our community or close by,” she said. “With it being so close this is very ideal with the children in the community, I honestly love and I’m very excited that it’s actually here, it’s going to be very convenient,” she said.

Birmingham resident, Amber Lange, who has two children in the AGGBGC programs said she looks forward to the new facility and activities.

The club is helpful when she’s at work because her children are in a safe place, she said.

“It’s going to enhance what they already are getting now and make it an even better experience . . . so that’s going to make it even more of a blessing,” she said. “The new gym, the tables, they’re going to have a little café area where the kids will have their snacks.”

Adams said he’s pleased to help continue the legacy of Gaston, the black businessman who founded the club.

“Dr. Gaston had a vision in 1967 that we needed to open our doors to boys who at the time weren’t doing anything wrong, they just weren’t doing anything positive,” Adams said, “and so here we are in 2018 saying that we want to serve boys and girls in a much higher capacity as an organization.

“With the challenges we face in Birmingham, specifically southwest Birmingham . . . it’s wonderful to serve as a village center for our kids,” said Adams.

City Councilor Steven Hoyt, who represents the district where the new facility is located, said Gaston was smiling from heaven.

“Today is evident that dreams do come true. Not only do dreams come true but today is very much about an orchestrated optimism in the future of our young people,” he said.