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Youth to get clubhouse

April 04, 2001

Youth to get clubhouse



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

Two community service organizations are turning the dated Fairgrounds Clubhouse building into a modern athletic and social club for Washington County's youth.

The Police Athletic League (PAL) is sponsoring the three-year renovation project that began in October 2000, under the direction of Hagerstown City Police Officer Brett McKoy.

PAL received a $45,000 grant for the renovations through the Maryland State's Attorney's Office of Alternative Sanctions, who are also providing labor for the project, McKoy said.

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Gym equipment was supplied by Mind, Body, and Soul Inc., a faith-based community service organization headed by Gil Thurston, the Rev. Dennis E. Whitmore and Linn Hendershot.

The plan is for the PAL facility to be a youth drop-in center available to members after school and on weekends once the gym is completed and a volunteer force has been established.

Members of Mind, Body and Soul will participate in athletic instruction and mentoring, said Whitmore, who is a certified fitness instructor.

Whitmore will take the lead in setting up the gym area, which will include cycling machines, weight machines, free weights and a treadmill, he said.

Members can also expand their minds and spirituality through a mentoring program, Whitmore said.

"We can talk about their problems, talk about life," said Whitmore.

McKoy said he plans to encourage Hagerstown police officers to work out at the youth center and provide good role models.

"We want to reach the child before he becomes a statistic," said Whitmore.

Built in the 1950s, the cinder-block structure is sound but showing its age, McKoy said. The renovation project has been in planning since the city gave PAL a free long-term lease in 1998, he said. Since then, PAL has hosted wrestling, karate, cheerleading and other programs at the building for students ages 6 to 16.

"The city has been very helpful, ever since the project started," said McKoy.

Sixteen people convicted of minor offenses have whittled away their court-ordered community service hours working weekends on the building, said Masters.

He estimated that work crews, led by supervisor Mike Everhart, have put in 1,300 hours in the project since January 1.

"A good many have offered to come back and help out after their time has been used up," said Masters.

They have spent time painting, installing drywall and doing electrical work. When completed, the building's upstairs will house the gym equipment and the first floor will have a social room, offices and a computer room with 10 computers donated by the Lazarus Foundation of Columbia, Md.

"They've gotten a tremendous amount of work done," said McKoy.

A second phase of the renovation project includes replacing the heating and air-conditioning system, putting in an elevator and enclosing the second-story grandstand with glass so that people can look out onto Fairground fields as they work out, he said.

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