The Boys & Girls Club of Faulkner County are the recent recipients of a $187,000 matching grant by the The J. E. and L. E. Mabee Foundation, Inc., a private charitable foundation based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

According to the foundation’s charter, the organization awards grants to "aid Christian religious organizations, charitable organizations, institutions of higher learning, hospitals and other organizations of a general charitable nature" in Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and New Mexico.

Representatives of the Boys & Girls Club submitted their proposal to the Mabee Foundation in February. Robert Wright, executive director, said the club was notified by letter recently of their selection following an April 10 Mabee Foundation board meeting.

"We are just so happy, so excited to get the grant," Wright said. "It’s going to help provide a bigger, better, safer facility for the kids."

The grant money will be used to fund the construction of the new Bob Nabholz Boys & Girls Club facility that will be located in the new Conway Station Park at the corner of Robins and South German streets.

The organization launched a campaign to raise $2 million for the construction, long-term care and upkeep of the new 15,000 square-foot building in January.

The new building will be double the size of the club’s existing structure. Wright said the organization hopes to break ground the first week of June.

The club currently serves more than 300 children at its three Faulkner County locations. Wright said the Bob Naboholz facility averages about 120 children a day at its Deer Street location, and he expects that the number will likely double once the construction of the new facility is complete.

Other club facilities include the Grace United Methodist Church on Hogan Lane and the Anna Hudson unit in Mayflower.

"The current building has been great for us, but we have outgrown it, and most importantly, the location does not serve the majority of our children," Wright said. "It just isn’t an ideal place for children to walk."

Wright said the new location will be nestled in the heart of a group of neighborhoods from which most of the program’s participants reside. "Kids will be able to walk there. It will be close to a lot of their homes, and it will provide access for a lot more children," he said.

The new facility will include a team room, a game room, a full-sized gym, a library, a media room, an art room and plenty of parking.

The organization serves children in Faulkner County between the ages of 5-18. Children are picked up each afternoon from area schools and taken to the facility, where they can participate in sports, art activities, and mentoring and tutoring programs until 7 p.m. each day. The club’s summer program runs from 8 a.m to 5:30 p.m. for ten weeks, beginning on May 29.

Wright said contributions to the building campaign are "going great."

"We are going to keep on chugging along. We have had a lot of commitments, and we are always looking for more," he said.

To learn more about the organization and services provided, visit www.bgca.org, or call 329-8849.

(Megan Reynolds is a staff writer and can be reached by phone at 501-505-1277 or by e-mail at megan.reynolds@thecabin.net. To comment on this story and others visit www.thecabin.net.)