Just how great is the demand for quality, affordable child care in our area? The Boys & Girls Club of West Alabama cut the ribbon on their new hub inside Northport's Hasson Center Wednesday and there's already a waiting list for children to enroll there.

Now, almost 30 years since the nonprofit last had a brick-and-mortar space in Northport, the Boys & Girls Club is supervising and serving 50 children inside the recently renovated space.

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The celebration Wednesday would not have been possible without Northport City Councilman and restaurateur Woodrow Washington, who "bought" the property from the city of Northport for $1,000 four years ago. Washington invested tens of thousands of dollars to bring it back up to code for use by his nonprofit Academics in Motion, and earlier this year returned the deed back to the city so it could become home to this hub for the Boys & Girls Club.

Kim Turner, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of West Alabama said they provide a positive, safe environment for young children in and around Northport.

"Basically anytime the school is closed, the club is here," Turner said. "We provide a safe place so parents can go to work and their kids can come and make sure their homework gets done, or in the summer they learn in reading and math areas to beat the summer slump."

Turner said children learn, play and exercise at the club, taking field trips, creating art, playing video games and more.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

"We filled our capacity here in a week and we're on a waiting list now, so that just tells me there is a need for high-quality programming in our community for young people in Northport when school is out," she said.

Mayor John Hinton and most of the Northport City Council -- including Washington himself, who was elected in 2020 -- were on-site Monday to celebrate the ribbon-cutting.

"This is a wonderful, wonderful thing that's happened to Northport," Hinton said. "We're all about children growing in the right and providing them the help that they need, and this is certainly an example of a place where children can become completely different than they might have been had it not been for this community center."

The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama's Ambassadors and newly hired President and CEO Kyle South were also on hand to conduct their traditional ribbon cutting.

"Our number one asset and resource in life is our children and we've got to do everything we can as a community to lift them up, build them, and give them opportunities," South said. "As the Chamber, we're here to celebrate that with you."

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

It was warm in the renovated center, where a part needed to get the air conditioning back on is likely weeks away from delivery, but the building is in much better shape than its unsafe condition when the city gave it to Washington in 2019.

"We are so excited about this opportunity to expand into Northport," Turner said. "I'm just going to tell you this is the fulfillment of a six-year dream for me. In my very first week here in 2017, I came to this building as an option for a Boys & Girls Club and it didn't work out and I'll tell you, it didn't look like this."

The Boys & Girls Club's Northport hub is open now - learn more about the club and its efforts here.

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