Opening doors for youth

Construction finished on Boys and Girls Club; programs start in January

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Tyler Arnone, 9, plays on a foosball table at the grand opening Tuesday of the Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County in Post Falls.

POST FALLS - Madyson Lahr and Kyli Plank eagerly showed visitors of the new Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County-Jordan Johnson Center the "Power Hour" room on Tuesday.

"This will be a great place for kids," Lahr, a seventh-grader and club member, said of the art and homework room. "It's a lot bigger (than the former location) and it will have more technology."

More than 200 people got a glimpse of the 10,000-square-foot, $1.3 million facility at 200 W. Mullan Ave. next to the Post Falls Library during a celebration of the club's opening.

After-school programs will start in early January.

The facility is the culmination of seven years of fundraising and several years of planning before that. Construction began in May.

A banner in the gym states "Great Futures Start Here."

"What started as a dream more than a decade ago is reality today," said Eric Keck, past board president. "We'll build kids up here and do what is wholesome. What goes on here will have a long-lasting impact. Even though this is just a building, it's somewhere for kids to go to be loved and see people who care."

Cyndie Lempesis, mother of Jordan Johnson who died in 2006 at 15 due to a heart condition, tearfully told how her family is grateful to have the facility named after Jordan and see it built.

"I'm a firm believer that when God closes a door, he'll open another one," Lempesis said. "I know kids will come here and go home with a lot of high fives. That's what Jordan did all the time."

The club has been operating after-school and summer programs for kids ages 6-18 out of the Nazarene Church in Post Falls since 2007. It later expanded programs into Coeur d'Alene at Lakes Magnet School and, most recently, Sorensen Magnet School.

The club has about 500 members, including 400 in Post Falls.

The new facility includes a gym, kitchen, technology area, teen area and open space for games and programs.

"It will be nice to hang out with friends here," Plank said. "It's better than staying at home by yourself."

Plank said it will also be nice to have summer lunches on site rather than having to walk to Seltice Elementary.

The building was downsized from its original plan of 18,000 square feet and estimated cost of $2.5 million, but is built for future expansion. Part of the reason for the scaled-down version is that the nonprofit also plans to build a facility in Coeur d'Alene.

Ryan Davis, the club's executive director, held up a ruffled, dirty sign of the nonprofit that's been hanging outside for several years.

"We've come a long ways," he said while speaking to the crowd inside the new gym. "We've all trudged through this to make it possible. This has been a team venture."

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