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Teen center taking shape

March 24, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

While watching the video of "Sister Act" last summer, Eric Rollins got an idea that has blossomed into a teen center at the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County.

"In that movie, a music room was created by people dedicated to making it happen," Rollins said. The 16-year-old part-time staff member at the club said he thought the same thing could happen at the club at 805 Pennsylvania Ave.

Rollins teamed up with Nate Naylor, 19, a volunteer and club alumnus. Together they approached the club leaders and proposed turning the old second-floor wood shop into a place that teens could call their own.

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Sharing in that dream and making it happen is the Staples Foundation for Learning, which not only has pumped $22,500 into the center but also the sweat of a group of employees at the Staples Distribution Center on Hopewell Road.

Buck Browning, director of operations at the club, said he thought it was a terrific idea but worried that money would be a problem.

"We wrote a grant to the Fletcher Foundation and got $4,000," Browning said.

Then the idea for the teen center was presented to Bill Ross, director of distribution at Staples.

"I was in a boys club so I was interested from the start," Ross said.

Adding enthusiasm to the project was a group of Staples employees, including Mary Schildtknecht, one of 600 employed at the local plant.

"My son used to come to the boys club and I remembered the wood shop and the gym," she said. Now she is among the 50 or so employees who are giving their time to make the Staples Teen Center - as it will be known - a reality.

Antietam Construction Co. donated two dump trucks to haul away all the debris from the wood shop. Framing and painting is nearly completed.

Shifler Electric Co. is doing some of the work, paid and volunteer, Browning said. Staples has provided a project manager for the work so all goes according to proper procedure.

There will be a tech center with computers and Internet access, a carpeted lounge area with a television/entertainment center, a conference table and a pool table. Donations of furniture, computers and other needs will be welcomed from the community.

"This room has been earned by our teens," Browning said.

Rollins concurred, saying he thinks the number of teens coming to the club will double when the center opens.

The teen center will be open daily after school until 9 p.m. and will host teen forums, college fairs, community and group functions. The Hagerstown LEO Club also will meet weekly at the center.

Jim Deaner, executive director of the club, said the teen center will greatly improve learning opportunities for young people.

"Staples is looking out for the best interest of our community, both now and for our future," he said.

Work started in February and is expected to be completed in time for an April 7 open house.

The Boys & Girls Club of Washington County, a United Way Agency, has been serving local children since 1941.

For more information, call the Boys & Girls Club at 301-733-5422.

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