Leadership Magnolia raising funds to increase classrooms at Boys and Girls Club

Leadership Magnolia is raising money to convert a storage room at the Boys and Girls Club into a classroom.

Executive Director of the Magnolia Boys and Girls Club Chris Ludwig said, "The Boys and Girls Club kids per staff and the size of our facility, we're only able to accommodate 120 kids after school with the classrooms we have available. If we remodel some classrooms we may be able to take in more. The remodel of this classroom will probably allow us to take 20 more kids and we currently have a waiting list of about 40 to 45."

Zach Wilbur, Magnolia Boys and Girls Club board member and a member of the 2023 to 2024 Leadership Magnolia Class said, "People in the community will remember the days when you may be at Walmart or Atwoods and hear John Doe your ride is here because they were out and about somewhere on this property. There was a lot less structure when I was growing up out here. One thing that (Ludwig) is doing phenomenally is putting structure back into that after-school program. Chris does a really good job at focusing on details and adhering to the rules. The security of the kids is first and foremost, you want to make sure they have a very secure and safe environment. If you're put on a after school learning program, it needs to be structured and efficient."

"I was a law enforcement officer for 20 years. Safety was my number one concern whenever I took over here. I saw some vulnerabilities pretty quick and we've remedied those. We still have a ways to go on some issues. We've just installed 29 security cameras in here. Each staff member is responsible for 20 kids. We don't try to overload them with too many kids that way they're able to watch them all," said Ludwig.

Wilbur said that they are currently estimating the remodel to cost $20,000 which Leadership Magnolia hopes to raise at the Leadership Magnolia Poker Tournament.

During the first week of Leadership Magnolia the class decided they wanted to help youth in the area have activities after school and believed that partnering with the Boys and Girls Club would allow them to do so said Wilbur.

"If you took the Boys and Girls Club away from this community, kids would have nothing to do," he said.

Wilbur said he believes that Magnolia needs more activities for youths but that investments should be made in the facilities and programs already here while new businesses and infrastructure are built.

Ludwig said that once the classrooms have been remodeled, facilities will have to be expanded before increasing capacity further.

"We want to grow but then you know growing creates other problems," said Ludwig.

He said that if they could acquire some of the land surrounding the club at a reasonable price they could likely expand their facilities but that the current facilities need to be maintained and improved as well.

"We don't want to say no to kids being able to come here. It's tough when all their friends come here and they enjoy it and they talk about it, but they don't get to come because we just don't have room," said Ludwig.

Ludwig and Wilbur both expressed gratitude for the donations and remodeling that local businesses have made possible but said that there is always a need for improvement of the facilities.

The ball fields, fencing and lighting all need to be fixed or improved said Ludwig.

He said, "We can only put band-aids on them for so long. We're going to reach a point where our hands are tied and we're going to have to do something. This facility is old, it has served a great purpose and it's going to continue to serve a great purpose. Pretty soon we're going to have to do some upgrading to it not only to keep up the programs but also for safety reasons."

The Boys and Girls Club serves more than just Columbia County and has children from Haynesville, Lafayette County and Camden come to play sports said Ludwig.

Residents interested in supporting the cause can purchase a ticket for the poker tournament at https://bit.ly/Mag_2024Tournament or donate directly at https://www.bgcmagnolia.org/blank-page.

The tournament will begin on March 2 at 6 p.m. at the Magnolia Arts Center.

Tickets are $40 for spectators and $90 for players if purchased ahead of time and $10 more at the door.

The event will also feature a silent auction which will start bidding online the week before the event and end at the tournament.

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