By Dylan Deprey
The basement of the Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club was a scorcher during the summer. It was just one of the many rooms that had a mind of its own.
“This is the teen room so, imagine 60 kids down here,” said Donte Daughtry, an employee and former Club member. “It got pretty sweaty.”
The Club has been in the Sherman Park neighborhood since 1988, and the HVAC system was due for some major upgrades.
“It makes a big difference in the building’s air quality, but a new HVAC system doesn’t really mean much to an 8-year-old. So, we decided we were going to do something as well,” said Vincent Lyles, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee.
The Club was closed to the public in late August 2016 for renovations.
After 6 months, a new HVAC system, 200 pieces of furniture, 418 gallons of paint, 3,590 square feet of carpet and 13,460 square feet of rubber flooring, the Boys & Girls club has opened once again following a press conference announcement on March 8, 2017.
“After being here for so many years, this has a totally different look and totally different vibe,” Daughtry said. “I think it’s great for these kids, and that the new generation gets a different look.”
Along with a refreshing splash of color, kids will find new pool tables, fuse ball tables, air hockey tables, “pop a shot” games, and ping pong tables in the newly renovated “games room.”
The renovations were made possible through generous financial and in-kind contributions from Milwaukee County, Lowe’s Companies, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Northwestern Mutual, The Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Grainger and VJS Construction.
The renovations also included a new computer lab, which has more space, new furniture and brand new computers.
“When I walk in and see all the new things, I’m happy to see that it looks better than ever now,” said Charles Baker IV (13), a 5-year club member.
During the press conference, Lyles said that many of the teen club members were very frustrated following the Sherman Park riots.
“We asked ourselves, what are we going to do about that?”
HGA Architects are now designing a new teen center within the Club that will better serve the neighborhood’s teen population.
Ald. Khalif Rainey attested to the values the Boys & Girls Club has brought to the Sherman Park area Sherman Park Boys & Girls Club Reopening is More than a Fresh Coat of Paint and surrounding neighborhoods.
“Before I represented the City of Milwaukee, or was even elected to any government office I actually was just a kid at Sherman Park playing pool at one of these tables,” Rainey said.
He added that the community felt the impact during the 6-month hiatus.
“The opportunities for kids in here is something the community desperately needs,” Rainey said.
Though most call it the Club, some even call it home.
“Some people come here if they don’t feel welcome or safe at home. They come here to feel welcome, be safe and have friends,” said E’Zohn Grithings (17), club member.
Lyles added that investing in the building was basically investing in the future generation, but it was more than the just the renovations.
“I don’t care how much paint you put on or what the HVAC system costs. These kids are coming unless they feel loved and that’s what we need more of in this community,” Lyles said.
There will be an Open House event to welcome back Club members who have been transitioned to other clubs during the renovations and welcome new potential members on Saturday, April 15 from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.