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Lack of funding, building repairs put local Boys and Girls Club in jeopardy

The Oaklawn school, pictured above, needs costly renovations before it can be used by the Boys and Girls Club of Lincoln County.

The Oaklawn school, pictured above, needs costly renovations before it can be used by the Boys and Girls Club of Lincoln County.

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

A local nonprofit for children looking to get underway in Lincoln County early next year is in need of significant funding before it can open its doors.
Since 2012, Boys and Girls Clubs of Lincoln County has been making plans to build a community program in Lincolnton under the umbrella group of Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Gaston and headed by local resident Shaun Newton, who once participated in the program as a child.
His desire is to provide a place of learning, growth and creativity for area students in need of fellowship, adult leaders and recreational opportunities they might otherwise fail to experience without the club.
“Our children have nowhere in Lincoln County to go,” Newton said.
He wants to give children hope and opportunities to dream, knowing that his own background with the Boys and Girls Clubs set the basis for his successful future.
With plans to commence the Lincoln County chapter in January, using the old Oaklawn School facility, located on Linden Street in Lincolnton, dollar signs are on everyone’s minds, including club board member Becky Reavis, who also heads fundraising and event planning for the organization.
She noted the nonprofit needs $110,000 before opening, a required fee that covers the cost of the club’s first-year operating expenses.
The club currently has $50,000 saved for the hefty expense but still needs $60,000, Reavis said.
While nonprofit grants and funding for organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs chapters are available, many of them are only for organizations already up and running, severely limiting the Lincoln County club financially.
“There’s a lot of money we can’t get,” Reavis said, “because the doors aren’t open yet.”
But once open, the nonprofit will receive funding from Boys and Girls Clubs of America and United Way of Lincoln County.
The organization is currently included on the United Way’s listing of non-funded agencies.
Reavis firmly believes that without community support, the goal will never be met.
“In order to bring something like this to our community,” she said, “we really need buy in and involvement from everybody because the impact is felt in the community.”
Both she and Newton agreed that many of the children who go through the program wind up giving back to either the club or community in some way.
In addition, Reavis noted how teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency and drug use are also lower among children who participate in a Boys and Girls Club.
Not only is nonprofit funding an issue on board members’ minds but also funding for Oaklawn renovations, which Reavis said county officials want to commence next month but must first see the club making progress toward its fundraising goal.
“They would like to see us moving in a positive direction,” Reavis said.
The county is currently in the second-round bid for obtaining money for the extensive project, according to Lincoln County Principal Planner Randy Williams, head of the effort.
“The pre-bid estimate was approximately $600,000,” he said. “The lowest bid came in at $898,600, and we are in the process of revising and removing items from the plans to get the cost back down.”
While Williams was uncertain as to why Oaklawn closed its doors, he said the facility hasn’t been in use for at least 12 years.
With funding provided by the Rosenwald Fund, the building opened in the 1920s as a school for African-American children.
During that time, the fund helped with the construction and upstart of more than 5,000 schools, primarily in the South.
After the African-American school shutdown, it became Newbold High School before closing for good.
“There’s so much history (inside the building),” Williams said.
According to Reavis, the estimate for total repairs is $685,000.
While the county has provided $85,000 of the total, and club officials are responsible for $100,000, a large chunk of the cost will likely by a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant.
However, unless the CDBG grant money is used by April, it’s in danger of being forfeited.
Current Oaklawn renovations include a new roof, plumbing and electrical work, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, repairs on six classrooms, restoration of the building’s former entrance — sealed off with brick in the 1950s — and testing for lead-based paint and asbestos.
“The building is structurally sound,” Williams said, “but is in drastic need of updating and general repairs.”
Part of the building is currently being utilized by the Head Start program with Gaston Community Action, Inc., but the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lincoln County plans to use 7,000 square feet of the 11,000-square-foot facility.
In order to cut down on renovation costs, county officials have been working to trim back the list of repairs and looking for ways to recycle materials, including using flooring in more decrepit rooms to repair flooring elsewhere inside the facility, Williams said.
Last summer, he and other volunteers spent a significant amount of time removing debris, trash and other unnecessary materials inside the building.
If funds are met, and the site opens in January as planned, county and club officials alike anticipate adding recreational fields, a basketball court, community garden and other outdoor amenities, Williams said.
Oaklawn currently resides on the North Carolina “Study List” for the state’s National Register of Historic Places.
According to Jason Harpe, local historian and executive director of the Lincoln County Historical Association, facilities believed to hold historical value are placed on the “Study List” once someone submits an application.
The State Historic Preservation Office uses the list as a screening mechanism to determine which places have the potential to be added to the National Register.
A local citizen submitted Oaklawn’s “Study List” application a few years ago, Harpe said, but the facility has yet to be nominated for the National Register, primarily because it takes significant time and effort to apply for the nomination.
For more information on Boys and Girls Clubs of Lincoln County, to submit a donation or find out ways to help the project, call Shaun Newton at (704) 240-6111 or visit the group on Facebook.

Image courtesy of Jaclyn Anthony / Lincoln Times-News

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