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Officials optimistic about club

January 13, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

The new Boys & Girls Club Chambersburg Clubhouse is off to a slower start than organizers had expected.

By the end of its first full week of operation, the club had only 30 youths enrolled, well below the 100 director Phil Bennett hoped to see on a daily basis.

"We've had numerous registration days, but it's just been slow," he said.

But Bennett is not discouraged.

"This is the third time I've done this, and every time it's worked," he said, referring to the other Boys & Girls Club sites he's helped open.

Bennett guessed that one reason for low turnout was area residents might have missed announcements and articles in newspapers during the last few weeks while they were wrapped up with holiday activities.

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"We're ready, we just need kids," he said.

The ones who are coming are having a blast.

"We had to kick them out of here last night," Bennett said last week.

Tasha Houser and Zelda Hill, both 11-year-old sixth-graders at Chambersburg Area Middle School, started going to the club after school last week after they saw how much fun their younger sisters were having.

The two girls were working on their homework Thursday afternoon before they planned to play some games on the Internet and watch television.

"If we weren't here, we'd be playing outside," Zelda said.

"Or we'd be bored at my house," added Tasha.

Bedia Williams, Zelda's 8-year-old sister, was playing a computer game while her sister worked on her homework.

The third-grader at Andrew Buchanan Elementary School said she'd been to the clubhouse every afternoon last week.

"I use the computer and do homework, sometimes I hang out with friends," Bedia said.

The computer stations are so popular, Bennett and his two-person staff had to set up a schedule so everyone gets a chance.

This week, Bennett plans to begin a Smart Girls Program with representatives from Keystone Health in Chambersburg addressing the issues of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

The Chambersburg Clubhouse is the result of a push by Chambersburg resident Kawanna Hinton, who said the Boys & Girls Club shaped her future while growing up in Lancaster, Pa.

The club, at the Eugene Clarke Recreation Center on South Third Street, is open to youths ages 6 to 18 from 3 to 8:30 p.m. after school. Annual membership dues are $10.

The club's permanent quarters will be in the Franklin County Housing Authority, which put up a $20,000 donation and is currently renovating space. But to take advantage of a $25,000 grant from the national headquarters, Bennett said the club had to open up somewhere in January.

He hopes community response will be strong enough to warrant keeping both sites open once the housing authority space on Washington Street is ready in April.

Club activities range from homework tutoring, to sports and community service.

For more information or to register, call Bennett at 717-263-3393.

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