Safety and accessibility are the reasons behind the improvements.
By LINDA M. LINONIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Safety provided the catalyst to make a new 25-spot parking lot a reality at the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown, 2105 Oak Hill Ave.
The cost, a little over $100,000, was paid with money from local foundations, private donations and grants.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new lot was held late Thursday afternoon followed by a pizza-and-dessert event for those attending, including youth, board members and other guests.
"Kids were dropped off by parents and by bus on Oak Hill," said Robert Marchese, who has been executive director since October 2004. "This just makes it safer as they won't be on a thoroughfare. "
Vehicles will be able to pull into the new parking lot and drop off passengers. "We do have a few handicapped children, and this just makes it safer and easier access for everyone," Marchese said.
Marchese said that since the club opened in September 1969, there have been three mishaps in which children were hurt in accidents as they arrived at the facility.
Marchese described the parking lot as a "connector" between the side street of Chicago and Oak Hill. The lot is a half-circle design.
"We effectively take up the block from Chicago to Glenaven," Marchese said.
Marchese said a gravel parking lot off of Oak Hill will be returned to grass.
Closing front entrance
Another safety factor will be the closing of the front entrance of the building, which will be glassed over, Marchese said. "Everyone will enter from the side," he said. That renovation will be completed between now and the spring and is the final phase in the improvement project.
The Boys and Girls Club attracts about 1,100 members ranging in age from 6 to 18 years. The club asks for a fee of $7 a year per child; the majority of the club's operating expenses are funded by the United Way, private donations and grants. The club has traditional gym and pool table activities but also offers education, including tutoring, enrichment studies, computer classes and a fine arts program in painting and dance.
The club was first housed in an old church on Oak Hill; a gymnasium was built in 1983 and a new building in 1992 when the old church was torn down. A fenced-in playground was added in 2004.
"The parking lot is quite an appearance improvement," Marchese said.