I've been thinking about ... changes.
There has been a great deal of positive energy and optimism surrounding the move of the Westminster Boys and Girls Club from its current location on Union Street here in Westminster to a much larger space on Main Street. The success of the program cannot be denied or overstated. Hundreds of children have been provided with a safe place to go after school and during the summer. Homework gets done, grades go up and the kids have fun. It's all good. However I would like to remind people of how this whole thing started.
Starting in 1999, the Union Street United Methodist Church conducted a sports ministry using the gymnasium at West Middle School to run a small summer camp for the children in the neighborhood. They brought in professional athletes to do clinics in basketball and offered other activities as well. In 2000, the church community formed The Westminster Community of Shalom in response to a national movement whose mission is to develop partnerships among churches, schools, colleges, businesses, community organizations, government and private citizens to improve conditions that affect people's lives.
The Westminster Boys and Girls Club started in the basement of the church and operated there until the center across the road opened. Clearly, it has been a great success. Early donations were received from many private citizens, Carroll County Bank, BB&T, M&T Bank Foundation, New Windsor State Bank, Sterling Financial Trust Company, Random House, Disney Worldwide Services, Wells Fargo Foundation, The Davis Library Foundation and most, if not all of the Methodist churches in Carroll County. The club also received a block grant through the City of Westminster as well as a pivotal donation from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
The Union Street United Methodist Church is a small church; at that time in 2000, only 50 families. They were inspired by their faith to buy the deteriorating house across the street from them and the rest, as they say, is history. A survey conducted by the City of Westminster and Shalom discovered that there were several hundred school-age children within walking distance of the church and that 85 percent of the families were low- to moderate-income families. The Westminster Community of Shalom and then The Westminster Boys and Girls Club have done a wonderful job in addressing this issue and deserve our praise and appreciation.
In the words of the pastor of the Union Street United Methodist Church, The Rev. Richard Lindsay, "We feel like our child has just left home for greater and bigger things. And we're happy about it."
Here is the message I want you to hear from me today: This beautiful community center on Union Street will soon enter into its second life of serving the community, still innovating, still available and still within walking distance of a lot of people. However, it still needs to be cared for and maintained. It still has utility bills to pay and other expenses. So I'm encouraging all of you to think about ways you can help keep this important community asset in place and functioning.
Donations for the maintenance of the building are always welcome but here is another idea: It would be a perfect place for a family reunion, a bridal or baby shower, a scout or club meeting, a small office for a nonprofit organization, a homeschool classroom, even a startup church.
So, Carroll County, do what you do best, think of ways to help the Union Street community center help us help ourselves. For more information please contact Deborah Sims at firstname.lastname@example.org and encourage others to do the same.
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Audrey Cimino is the executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.