Boys And Girls Club Plans For Post Katrina Future

The Boys and Girls Club of the Gulf Coast lost all seven of its facilities to Hurricane Katrina's punishing winds and storm surge.

"We took obviously a tremendous blow back in August," director of development Sam Burke said.

Yet, Burke is fired about his agency's current status.

"The Boys and Girls Club in the summer of '06 is thriving," he said.

It's thriving during a summer session when some feared the Boys and Girls Clubs would look like the homemade kites trying to soar at the agency's north Gulfport location. On a hot and humid Monday, the kites struggled getting airborne.

To keep the Boys and Girls Club operating, board members reached out to area schools. The resulting partnership has allowed a 1,000 children a day to spend the summer at six Boys and Girls Clubs chapters around the area.

Purvis McBride is the unit manager at the Forest Heights facility.

"It's been real successful and we're hoping to just build on that," he said.

Both McBride and Burke are excited about what the future holds for the Boys and Girls Club. In about a month, the hurricane damaged Forest Heights complex on Holley Circle in north Gulfport should be torn down. It will be replaced by a building three times as large as the pre-Katrina complex. And it's being designed a New York architect, at no cost to the Boys and Girls Club board.

"Excitement is the big word," Burke said. "When we first met with the architects, I told them I don't mind if going down Highway 49 someone looks to the west and sees fireworks coming out of the sky. And that's kind of what they brought us."

Those fireworks should be sometime in 2008 when children are singing, dancing, and flying kites in a newly build Forest Heights Boys and Girls Club complex.

"We get a chance to have a brand new building," McBride said. "At the same time, we're able to get kids more involved, build character, and make them responsible."

The Boys and Girls Club board expects to break ground on the new Forest Heights complex sometime before the end of the summer. Several national organizations have agreed to help the Boys and Girls Club repair what Katrina destroyed.

A Los Angeles group called Rockworks has agreed to help the gulf coast Boys and Girls Club chapters rebuild their facilities.  Studio Daniel Libeskind is the New York architect that drew up the Forest Heights designs.  The Brett Favre Forward Foundation and Operation Hope have also said they would help raise money to assist the Boys and Girls Club with its post Katrina recovery.