CONYERS—After being closed for six days, the A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Boys & Girls Club is open again and parents are as happy as children on Christmas day. Parents have had to find other ways to provide after-school care for their children since the recent cold front caused water pipes to burst, flooding the facility.
Brandi Bonner was among the working parents who had nowhere to turn during the facility’s shutdown, Jan. 9-14. Bonner had her 11-year-old daughter, Amaya Samuel, take the school bus home and then Bonner called every hour to check on her.
Brandi Bonner and her daughter, Amaya Samuel, are all smiles now that the Boys & Girls Club is back open.
“I was just really nervous having her at the house like that, but I honestly had no choice,” said Bonner. “This opening day is like Christmas for us. We are so glad to be back.”
Sherrie Lawhorne is another parent who was happy, happy, happy when the facility reopened on Jan. 15.
“The Boys & Girls Club is like the vessel keeping the heartbeat going for a lot of families in this area,” said Lawhorne, who has two children, Ashley, 12, and Dante, 15, who attend the club. “The schools offer after-school programs, but they are so expensive. What we pay a year, $50, is what some schools charge per week for after school care. That’s not really an option for a lot of us parents.”
Aldren Sadler said he found himself serving as the “bus driver” for his two grandchildren, Chase Sadler, 10, and Caylen Lacky, 11, when the club was closed and he became babysitter for his daughter.
“I was in the C.J. Hicks school line everyday at 1:30. I never knew until now that I would be a bus driver for the kids,” said Sadler. “I was very, very happy the club opened back up.”
Currently, only half of the facility is open. Executive Director Terrence Artis said the remainder of the work is expected to take about two months to complete. The flood damaged the club’s game rooms, kitchen, showers, offices, and main front room.
Just last February, the facility got a facelift from volunteers from the CSX Corporation who came in and painted, landscaped and made other improvements. Much of that work was destroyed, Artis said.
“The flooding was very serious. You are talking about months of work in the future. We hate that this happened,” said Artis. “We will try to salvage what we can from the work CSX has done to help us out. We really appreciate when corporations reach out and help us. I personally would be glad to accept any help from them or other groups in the future because I grew up in a Boys & Girls Club myself.”
Artis said it was a real team effort from his staff to get the club re-opened.
“We could have easily been closed for a month, but we know our parents wouldn’t be able to handle that,” said Artis. “Everyday we sent out emails to parents to keep them in the loop on the process. Although we have had to make some adjustments, we are really happy to get the club back open for our kids and their parents.”
Artis said the club has been forced to make some adjustments with its basketball team, which had to travel to a Lawrenceville club to compete. The Conyers club was set to host other clubs for basketball games on Jan. 16, but that is no longer possible.
“It may be a challenging process, but we will get through it. This was an unseen disaster that we had no control of. Adjustments and team work from this staff will be the keys to us continuing to provide a great service to the children and parents here,” said Artis.
Top picture: Club Director Terrence Artis surveys the flooding damags that closed the club.