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Boys and Girls Club expanding to West Point

 

Golden Triangle Boys and Girls Club Director Nadia Colom hopes to generate $1 million to $1.5 million from its

Golden Triangle Boys and Girls Club Director Nadia Colom hopes to generate $1 million to $1.5 million from its "36 Reasons" fundraising campaign, which kicks off on Thanksgiving Day and will run for 36 days. The funds will be used for a three-year project that will including opening a new club in Columbus and moving into a new, larger facility in Starkville. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Megan Mullen

Megan Mullen

 

 

Slim Smith

 

 

Thirty-six is a fairly random number, so when Nadia Colom sat down with Megan Mullen to discuss plans for opening a Boys and Girls Club in West Point, both women took their own association with the number as a sign their collaboration was somehow pre-ordained. 

 

Colom is the director of the Golden Triangle Boys and Girls Club. Mullen, the wife of Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen, helps direct her family's foundation. Both are devoted to promoting the health, welfare and future of children -- Colom through her work with the Boys and Girls Club, which now provides after-school programs for a combined 278 kids at its Columbus and Starkville club (with almost 100 kids on the clubs' waiting list) -- and Mullen through the Mullen Family 36 Foundation, which provides grants for 36 Mississippi charities that provide help to children in need. 

 

"It's funny," Colom said. "When I sat down with Megan to talk about what our needs were, I had a rough sketch of a plan and I mentioned that I had a target list for West Point of 36 donors. She said, 'Oh my goodness. How did you come up that number?'" 

 

For the Mullens, 36 had its own significance. It was Dan Mullen's jersey number from his college football playing days at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. It was also the number worn by Nick Bell, a Mississippi State player who died from cancer in 2010 during Mullen's second season at MSU. 

 

By the time the women had finished their conversation, the partnership had been settled. 

 

In September, Megan presented Colom with a $25,000 check to kick-start the Boys and Girls Club "36 Reasons" fundraising campaign. 

 

That campaign, which hopes to raise between $1 million and $1.5 million to start a Boys and Girls Club in West Point and relocate the Starkville club to a new, larger facility to be built at West Side Park, begins on Thanksgiving Day and run for 36 days. 

 

"At the Egg Bowl, we'll have a video running on the jumbo-tron," Colom said. "Then for 36 days, we'll have a different video that will run on our website as well as our social media pages, on WCBI and radio." 

 

Colom said the videos will tell the story of the Boys and Girls Club from a variety of perspectives -- local celebrities, university presidents, law enforcement officials, but also from the club parents, kids and board members. 

 

"For that 36 days, I'll be going in front of every civic group that will hear me, explaining why what we are doing is important, not only for this project but for the programs we are already providing," Colom said. 

 

 

 

Club plans 

 

Plans for the West Point club are well underway. The club has secured a site, the 20,000 square-foot former Flavorich building on Churchill Road that will be renovated to provide six classrooms, a gym, a recreation center, a fully-equipped kitchen, which will allow the club to provide hot meals as it does in Columbus, and administrative offices. 

 

"West Point doesn't have any after-school programs, so the response from the city and the community has really been strong," said Colom, who hopes the club will be open by next summer or fall. "As it turns out, West Point was also an area the Mullens had said they really wanted to provide some support for. They haven't had a Boys and Girls Club there in 15 years. It's long overdue." 

 

The size of the facility -- 8,000 square feet larger than the Columbus club -- should mean West Point will likely become the biggest club in the Golden Triangle. 

 

"With no after-school activities in West Point, I would think we would serve no less than 200 children a day," Colom said. 

 

In addition to the cost of retrofitting the building, the project will also fund the eight to 10 staff members needed to run the new club. 

 

In Starkville, the plans call for moving to a larger facility. 

 

"We love our club at Lynn Lane, but it's just not big enough," she said. "We're serving the same number of kids in Starkville (140) that we do in Columbus with less than half the space, about 5,000 square feet. We have a great club and great support, but when you see kids sitting in hallways doing their homework and spread out in just about every inch of space we have, you realize the need for more space, not only classroom space, but a kitchen, which would allow us to serve hot meals for the kids." 

 

Colom said the Boys and Girls Club gets its funding from a variety of sources, including the United Way, private donations and fundraisers. Approximately 36 percent of the club's funding -- there's that number again -- comes from grants. 

 

Anyone who wishes to donate to the club's campaign can visit the club's campaign website -- www.36reasonsbgc.org -- and hit the donate button. Donations can also be mailed to the Starkville office at 911 Lynn Lane, Starkville, MS 39759.

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

 

 

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