Carroll County Times

Carter: New Boys & Girls Club could be gem of downtown Westminster

Vision for revitalizing Westminster's Main Street was one of the key phrases heard during the lead-up to the Westminster Common Council election back in May, and a major part of the campaigns of newcomers Joe Dominick and Ben Yingling, who ultimately won the mayor's race and a seat on the council, respectively.

Vision for revitalizing East Main Street is also on the minds of numerous individuals with grand plans for the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, which is in the midst of a $5 million capital campaign to help fund its move from the 2,500-square-foot building it has long occupied at 25 Union St., near McDaniel College, to the much larger former PNC Bank building at 71 E. Main St.


Doing so will improve the amount of space available six-fold, to about 15,000 square feet, and immediately allow the club to welcome about 75 more children who have been on its ever-growing waiting list. Eventually, once a brand-new, 6,000-square-foot gymnasium is built, the expectation is for the club to expand its offerings to accommodate as many as 600 kids each day.

Leaders say hopes of relocating this summer and being open by the start of the 2017-18 school year have been delayed a bit, but are confident of being ready when kids return to school from winter break in January.


The club is doing yeoman's work with children in its current confines, utlizing staff and volunteers from McDaniel, and getting results — establishing a culture of good grades, community service and smart decisions.

Recently, I was invited to take a tour of both the current and new buildings. On Union Street, mostly elementary and middle school-aged kids were buzzing about in the various activity rooms, ranging from an arts and crafts station, a computer lab and an open space upstairs where they played games and interacted with one another and teenage mentors. So much is packed into this relatively small space when you consider the club currently has more than 100 children enrolled in after-school and summer programs.

It's very clear from their energy and big smiles that the children are happy to be there, just as it is painstakingly obvious why the organization's leadership is so excited about the upcoming move. It's easy to stand in the lobby of the sprawling former bank building on East Main, looking at the blueprints for the new club and see what an awesome space it will be for these kids.

But it won't just be children who stand to benefit from this move, although they are the primary benefactors.

Following the tour, I was chatting with Jack Tevis, the owner of numerous businesses in the community and known philanthropist, and whose wife, Beth, is on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club. He talked about how the club's leadership envisioned it could one day be a beacon on that end of town, not unlike the Carroll Arts Center has become on West Main, and a major driver of economic growth there.

Think about it: Once the club's renovations are fully realized, it will allow enrollment there to drastically increase. And with each child comes parents who are now potential customers to downtown Westminster businesses.

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"Our hope is that we can create a campus environment on that end of town," said Debbie Leazer, the club's campaign director. "Imagine 600 children and families coming to and from and the life that is going to come from that side of town once we are able to occupy that building."

Thus far, community support for the project has been strong.


Neighboring businesses have been supportive, some even giving up parking easements to allow the space for Boys & Girls Club to eventually build the new gymnasium, which may be the crown jewel of the entire project. Combined with plans for extended hours in the evenings and weekends for high school-aged students only, the gym will be a big part of the club's push to attract more teens by giving them a space of their own in downtown Westminster.

The City of Westminster also helped with parking and several large businesses have contributed in some way to the project or the club's mission in general. The county commissioners in March approved a block grant application with the state for the organization, which club leaders and board members noted they hope to hear about next month, and could bring as much as $800,000 to the Boys & Girls Club. (Although the grants are competitive, so the club will likely only receive a portion of that money with the rest going to other worthwhile projects around the state.)

Right now, the capital campaign is about halfway to its $5 million goal.

If you've been thinking about donating to the campaign, or maybe already have but might want to see exactly what your money is going toward, contact Leazer ( or 410-984-3124) to take a tour of the two buildings. Once you do, it'll be hard not to see the vision so many others have of how the Boys & Girls Club will help revitalize downtown Westminster.

Wayne Carter is the editor of the Carroll County Times. Reach him at