We congratulated the Marguerite Neel Williams Boys and Girls Club last month on its 20th anniversary and following Tuesday night’s gala at the Boys and Girls Club, it merits repeating.

A rough estimate of nearly 300 people enjoyed Tuesday night’s event in the Boys and Girls Club’s gym — which is among the projects in the club’s upcoming capital campaign — to hear where the club has come from and what kind of impact it has on the community.

Thousands of young boys and girls have come through the Marguerite Neel Williams Boys and Girls Club’s doors, and those of its unit in Grady County, the Jackie Robinson Boys and Girls Club. 

It’s more than just a safe place to play games and hang out after school. In fact, now, from right around 7 a.m. until the evening, the place is packed with kids. Families only pay $60 for an entire school year of club membership. 

Some facts and figures from the club show just how much it means to the community at large:

• 193 kids attend the club daily during the school year

• 202 attend daily during the summer

• 90 percent come from economically disadvantaged homes

• 23 percent live in single-parent households

And of those kids who come to the club, 100 percent of them take part in the following:

• academic programs

• good character and citizenship programs

• character and leadership programs

• healthy lifestyles programs

The Boys and Girls Club is about building great futures for its clientele, and the Great Futures campaign has several goals in mind, including expanding services and improving facilities. The campaign, currently in what is called a silent phase, aims to purchase two mini-buses and extend after-school transportation to Boston, Meigs, Pavo and Ochlocknee. Also on the drawing board are renovations and upgrades to the Youth Center and Teen Center — as Alston Watt said Tuesday night, “this gym is showing a little wear and tear of 20 years of  lots of loving by literally tens of thousands of youth who come here every day after school and all day during the summer,” and purchasing new computers. The capital campaign also hopes to add to the staff, including a performing arts instructor and an academic outcomes director. 

It is an ambitious  effort. But from going from a warehouse with no air conditioning with 78 kids to the complex it now has serving hundreds of kids each day, we believe the Marguerite Need Williams Boys and Girls Club can reach its goal — and we encourage the community to help them in their mission of building great futures.