“We want to be the bridge to success for children with limited opportunities,” Shawn Newton told a room full of people at the Lincoln County Department of Social Services on Thursday night, during an informational fundraiser about bringing a local Boys & Girls Club to the county.
Newton, a Lincoln County resident and current DSS employee, is looking to the community to raise at least $50,000 to establish a Lincoln County branch of the national nonprofit organization, where he once played as a child in Georgia.
“That’s the magic number,” he said.
It would cost between $120,000 and $160,000 to keep the club functioning for just one year, according to Tripp Hord, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Gaston.
Close to 4,000 clubs exist across the United States for the sole purpose of helping children ages 5-18 feel “a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence” through after school programs and other services, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America website stated.
Newton remembered how attending his local club in Brunswick, Ga., literally saved his life.
“It allowed me to dream and see more than my situation,” he told the crowd. “It’s the reason why I’m standing here today.”
Up until this month, Newton was working mostly by himself toward the establishment of a Lincoln County club. He recently developed a committee group to help him with the large-scale initiative.
The committee is waiting to hear back about the county’s application for the Community Development Block Grant, a $500,000 endowment that Newton said could be put towards renovating and renting the old Oaklawn School building in Lincolnton.
The county has already permitted him to use the site as a potential club location but funding to restore the building would cost more than $600,000. The county has also agreed to pay $85,000 to restore the building’s roof, Newton added.
He was more than excited about the building’s location, telling the Times-News on Friday that more than 65 children under the age of 17 live in and around the Oaklawn area and would have easy accessibility to the club, if held there.
“There are a lot of at-risk children in Lincoln County,” he said.
Newton added that another potential site is the Lincolnton YMCA’s new Camp Creekside Recreation Center, set to open Saturday.
Local teen racecar driver, Ryan Heavner, also spoke at last week’s fundraiser, noting how his close family upbringing and Christian values have shaped him into a hardworking, positive person. He said each childhood should be filled with similar love and support.
“I want these kids’ dreams to come true like mine did,” Heavner said. “It can’t happen without a Boys & Girls Club. I think the Lord will stand behind us and make something happen.”
Heavner also had several items on-sale Thursday from his foundation “Pray Until Something Happens” (PUSH), which he started in 2010. A portion of the proceeds went to benefit the start-up of a Lincoln County Boys & Girls Club.
“Ryan is an example of when a community supports a child,” said Cathy Davis, President of the Lincoln Cultural Center.
Davis pointed out that children are the focus of many community initiatives in the county and that, often times, they just don’t have the accessibility and affordability needed to help them succeed in life.
“There’s just not enough for our children who are raising themselves,” she said. “It’s up to us to give of ourselves.”
Once a Lincoln County club chapter is up and running, it will function for a couple of years under the umbrella group of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Gaston, and portions of all money raised for Greater Gaston will be distributed to Lincoln County.
“Our children will be better for it, and our community will be better for it,” Hord said.
For more information on Boys and Girls Club of Lincoln County, call (704) 240-7525 or visit their Facebook page at Boys and Girls Club of Greater Gaston-Lincoln Unit. To make a donation, visit https://secure.piryx.com/donate/Yl24C8DQ/BGCALincolnCo/.