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The long-awaited Boys Girls Club of Clark County will open its doors September 7th, thanks to funding from local and state sources totaling $700,000 over five years.

Establishment of a Boys Girls Club for Clark County has been a long-standing goal of the Clark County community and specifically the Clark County Strategic Plans Leadership Development Subcommittee. The 9,000 square foot club building is located on the Goza Middle School campus next to the school’s gym and computer labs. Arkadelphia Public Schools also has committed funds to hire a teacher to work with students after school.

The clubs goal is to have at least 200 members by the end of the 2010-11 academic year, serving students at Goza Middle School, Central Primary School, and Peake Elementary School. Funding for the project was provided by a School of the 21st Century grant from the Arkansas Department of Education, local community donors, and Southern Bancorp.

I am very encouraged by the amount of support that has been shown by many community leaders, the school district, and local businesses to build a foundation for a great future for the youth of Arkadelphia, said Penny Koller, the Clubs Executive Director, who previously served as Director of Operations for the Paul Bewie Boys Girls Club in Hot Springs. I truly am excited at all of the possibilities and potential, and I look forward to being a part of the growth and development of the Boys Girls Club of Clark County.

The Arkansas Department of Education awarded a $540,000 five-year grant to Arkadelphia Public Schools to be used specifically for the Boys Girls Club. Southern Bancorp awarded a $125,000 three-year grant to help sustain the Club. Additionally, the local community raised $35,000 for the project, including donations from the Ross Foundation, the United Way of Clark County, the Cone Foundation, and the Arkadelphia Noon Rotary Club.

Estelle Forte, Co-Chair of the Clark County Strategic Plans Leadership Development Subcommittee, said community support was a key factor.

The Board of Directors for the Boys Girls Club are so grateful to the community for the support given to get the Club implemented in Arkadelphia, Forte said. We have worked so hard for two years and always believed that this would become a reality.

The mission of the Boys Girls Club of Clark County is to provide a fun, safe, supervised environment for recreational and educational activities where all boys and girls can develop self-esteem and the qualities needed to become caring, responsible citizens.

Donnie Whitten, Superintendent of Arkadelphia Public Schools, said the district is proud to initiate this key partnership to make a difference in the lives of local children.

The Arkadelphia School District is pleased to partner with the Boys Girls Club of Clark County, Southern Bancorp, and Leadership Clark County in this exciting endeavor, Whitten said. It will benefit our students and families by providing a safe environment for recreational activities as well as academic support. We are grateful to all of our partners for helping to make this vision a reality.

Phillip Baldwin, President and CEO of Southern Bancorp, said helping the Boys Girls Club of Clark County sustain itself financially in the critical early years of operation exemplifies Southerns commitment to help improve the communities it serves.

One of Southern Bancorps long-term transformational goals is to help children in the communities we serve graduate high school and attend college, Baldwin said. Boys Girls Clubs play a critical role in helping children stay in school and become productive members of society. Read more at