Carroll County Times

Westminster Community Center celebrates 10 years, looks toward future

Westminster Community of Shalom board president Deborah Sims speaks during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Westminster Community Center on Union Street Friday, Oct. 7, 2016.

Ten years ago this month, a small church in Westminster set out to create a space for local kids to hang out, and be safe.

And in those 10 years, the small idea grew into what some now consider a life-changing facility.


On Friday evening, the Westminster Community Center, which houses the city's Boys and Girls Club, among other groups, had a small gathering to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.

"It was 10 years ago that we had our ribbon-cutting," board President Deborah Sims said. "And now inside these walls, we're filled to capacity."


The center came at a time when it was much needed in the area, she added. Today, some 120 kids come regularly to the center.

Thirteen-year-old Isaac Jones, of Westminster, is one of those kids whose life has been changed by the center, and the Boys and Girls Clubs' presence.

Michele Barattucci and Bernie Jones hold hands in prayer as the Rev. Richard Lindsay says the closing blessing during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Westminster Community Center on Union Street Friday, Oct. 7, 2016.

Before coming to the club, he got in trouble a lot at school, he said. He was a kid who got a lot of referrals. But the club helped change that.

"It helped me be a more mature person," Isaac said.

And, it helped him make friends.

These types of programs are especially important when so many families have two working parents, Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Bonnae Meshulam said. The center allows kids a safe place to be — it lets them build stronger relationship skills.

The kids have to learn to talk to each other, face-to-face and not through a phone, Meshulam added.

"We really try to socialize our young people," she added.

Marketing director Erin Bishop, center, applauds with Capree Brown, left, who has been a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Westminster since 2004, and Isaac Jones, 13, of Westminster, right, during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Westminster Community Center on Union Street Friday, Oct. 7, 2016.

Capree Brown, 19, of Westminster, is another local person whose life was greatly shaped by his time in the center. Brown was there when it opened, and stayed through his youth years.

He echoed Isaac's comments about the club's influence on helping him to mature. The center and club created unity, he said, and a place where people with different backgrounds could be together.

"Boys and Girls Club has helped me over the years a lot," Brown said. "These are my people."

And although a large part of the center is holding the Boys and Girls Club, the Westminster Community Center also acts as a home to organizations like a Girl Scouts troop.

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In addition to Friday's anniversary, the center spent some time talking about new plans for the Boys and Girls Club. As the club has continued to grow, it will soon say goodbye to its home in the center. In the next year or 15 months, plans are for the club to move to a new, larger facility on Main Street in Westminster.

This facility is expected to be able to accommodate up to 600 kids, Meshulam said.


It's something Isaac is excited about. The new facility will have a gym, and room for him to play sports like basketball and football.

"I love that it's a fun place that you can come to," he said.