A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club is building a $7.2 million Walter Howlett Jr. Clubhouse at Birmingham CrossPlex, but if history is any indication, it’s also building future leaders. Leaders like Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who is a self-proclaimed “club kid” having grown up in Boys & Girls Clubs.
“I can personally speak to the power of the Boys & Girls Club,” Woodfin said. “I spent some formative years here as a club kid.”
Woodfin said it was on the sports practice fields in downtown Birmingham where he learned the value of teamwork.
“The greatest lesson I learned from the club … is the importance of teamwork in this city,” he said. “I learned that no matter how great the individual players were as part of the club or on the team, it’s the unity that ensures victory.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State and Birmingham native Condoleezza Rice has made mentoring and youth programs like Boys & Girls Club a pet project nationally. She praised the possibilities the new clubhouse in Birmingham holds.
“This great, new clubhouse for the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club is just going to be full of possibilities,” she said. “It’s not just programs that they deliver on. They deliver on caring and compassion for our young people.”
Rice co-chaired the campaign to build a new clubhouse for the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club along with Altec CEO Lee Styslinger III and Regions Financial Corp.Chairman Grayson Hall.
She said those who contributed to the new clubhouse initiative have demonstrated they make children a priority.
“This is about the possibilities when a community comes together,” Rice said. “It’s absolutely the case that when the corporate community and private citizens like the McWanes and people from across the city come together and say, ‘We’re going to do something special for our kids,’ something magnificent happens.”
Frank Adams, CEO of A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club, said the new facility will include a new gym, a music room, a game room, a new café able to serve hot meals and STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math) labs. The two-story facility will have a floor dedicated to teens and will be able to serve twice as many children as the Kirkwood R. Balton facility it is replacing.
Adams said the clubhouse will be a great addition to the CrossPlex campus.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to help revitalize this area while serving our kids at a higher level,” he said.
Walter Howlett Jr. was a prominent member of the business community in Birmingham and served as the chairman of the board at A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club for more than 20 years. Adams said it’s a worthy tribute to name the new facility after him.
The CrossPlex campus and the new facility are in Birmingham City Councilman Steven Hoyt’s district. He said the new clubhouse will be a welcomed addition.
“Today is very much about an orchestrated optimism and the future of our young people,” he said. “This new club is a symbol of hope.”
Rice said that hope has been realized again and again through Boys & Girls Clubs.
“The Boys & Girls Clubs talk about building great futures,” she said. “Well, you can only get a great future if you have a great start and that is what this is really all about.
“The best in us believes that every life is worthy, and every life is worthy of greatness,” she added.
Who knows, maybe the next mayor or the next secretary of state will come from there.
“I believe in the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club because I know it’s power,” Woodfin said. “It’s a training ground to guide our young people in the right direction. It’s where they will make lasting friendships, make community connections and acquire life lessons that will serve them well when they become the next leaders of our city.”
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)