Editorial: City, nonprofit partnership a good consideration

  • Posted: Monday, May 20, 2013 8:15 a.m.

Nonprofits help people in need and sometimes, those organizations need a little help themselves so they can continue offering their services to the public.

The City of Aiken is considering a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club and the Aiken Area Council on Aging. The City has $2 million in Round II Capital Projects Sales Tax funds to put into a Northside recreation facility, and its considering sharing the space with those two nonprofits.

The most recent proposal is to purchase a vacant 30,000-square-foot spec building in Willow Run from Aiken Corp. The building, which only consists of a roof, walls, a door and dirt floor, is situated near the landfill on Beaufort Street that the City wants to convert into a park.

That building has been eyed by several entrepreneurs, including one who wanted to open a gun range at that location. Residents in surrounding neighborhoods responded with a resounding “no” because they didn’t feel that would be a good fit for that portion of the community.

Now, the City feels turning it into a recreation facility would be a good fit. Suggestions include a game room, classrooms, a gymnasium, fitness room and administrative offices.

The Boys & Girls Club’s current building is small, and was once an old bait and tackle store that has been refurbished over the years. The Club’s Executive Director Shawn Risher said that it’s hard to find brick and mortar grants these days, and this is a great opportunity for the nonprofit to grow.

At least 80 children go to the Club after school every day. They do their homework, learn life skills, get a snack and have a little fun, too. That’s 80 children not in the streets and getting in trouble. That’s 80 children who are in a safe, constructive environment.

Risher said that between the extra space and using Aiken Area Council on Aging’s Best Friend Express for transportation to and from the Club, he feels they can reach a lot more children.

Residents and Council members still are feeling out the idea and gathering more details about this prospective endeavor.

With Hayden Baptist Church located in Willow Run near the spec building, a Northside recreation center rather than a business locating there seems more appropriate.

The City needs to continue gathering feedback from those residents living near the spec building, because they are the ones who will be using it most. Residents need to keep asking questions and offering their ideas, too.

As City Manager Richard Pearce said at the meeting, the conversation is just beginning.

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