By Jim Merkel
Monday, February 26, 2007 10:37 AM CST
A group serving nearly 3,000 children from a center on the North Side plans to serve 800 more from a 28,000-square-foot building in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood.
The Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club officially took over operation of the Adams Park Community Center at 4317 Vista Ave. at a program Thursday.
The $6-million center was opened in December 2001, largely funded by the BJC Health and the Washington University Medical Center.
It includes a gym, dance studio, fitness center, game room and computer lab. It also will have access to the cafeteria in the adjacent Adams Park Elementary School, as well as to a playground and the Jim Edmonds Field built by Cardinals Care. Also, it will have a vision clinic operated by Clarkson Eyecare.
But the Adams Park Community Center Board of Directors, which owned the building, was concerned it wasn’t being used enough. So the Herbert Hoover Boys Club was approached about a year ago about taking it over and running it.
The club now has a facility at 2901 N. Grand Blvd. at the site of the old Sportsmen’s Park. It has programs in tutoring, the arts, athletics, the promotion of self esteem and responsibility in a safe environment.
The construction of a 28,000-square-foot wing in 2004 increased that facility to 72,000 square feet. It has a teen center, an expanded Community Music School of Webster University, a performing arts/dance studio, multipurpose community room, lunchroom and fitness center.
The Adams Park building will feature organized sports, fitness and recreation activities and teen and education programs.
“The establishment of the Adams Park unit is a significant event in the history of the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club,” Karen Luebbert, board president of the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girl’s Club, said at Thursday’s program.
The Adams Park Community Center has been an anchor for the neighborhood for a number of years, Mayor Francis Slay said in the same program.
“The legacy of Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club has been not only in strengthening character but in strengthening neighborhoods,” Slay said. “During the last 40 years, Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Clubs has made a difference in the lives of thousands of boys and girls.”
Alderman Joseph Roddy, D-17th Ward, who represents the area of the center, said he recalls as a child playing on the field next to the center and that it was full of rocks.
“They (Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club) bring in a long of expertise and skills that is unmatched in the St. Louis area,” Roddy said.
“None of this would have been possible without BJC and their teaching partners,” Roddy said. He noted that it is ironic that the program was held on the same day that news came that the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment was preparing to approve a lease of 9.4 acres of Forest Park east of Kingshighway Boulevard to Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Michael DeHaven, senior vice president and general counsel of BJC Health Care, said the Adams Park facility needed professional help, a group that knew how to run a community center.
The staff will include a full-time director, Nathan Ivy, an office manager plus part-time education, teen and fitness coordinators. It will also recruit volunteers to assist with programs. Its annual operating budget of about $500,000 will be funded in part by support from BJC Healthcare and the Washington University Medical Center.
Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club is part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which is found in 4,000 communities and serves 4.6 million youngsters annually.