Group pulls support for new club

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 5, 2001

As one group in the community raises money for a Boys & Girls Club another is backing out of the picture.

Officials with the Salvation Army of the Miss-Lou Area said they stepped away from the initiative because they did not want to impede anyone from forming such a club.

&uot;I think it’s best that we step out of the way rather than hinder any of the efforts that are going on,&uot; said Capt. Bobby Westmoreland.

Email newsletter signup

As part of a statewide campaign to charter new Boys & Girls Clubs, Attorney General Mike Moore said the local community needed to raise at least $25,000 and preferably $50,000 and come up with a board of directors in the next two weeks. If it could do so, the state Legislature would match $25,000 and the national Boys & Girls Club would match another $25,000.

The Salvation Army of the Miss-Lou Area had offered $140,000 plus $100,000 to $150,000 in grants and two buildings on North Canal Street and Madison Street for the club.

But other local leaders, such as Rep. Phillip West, D-Natchez, say they want the club at Thompson School on North Union Street because of its proximity to black neighborhoods.

&uot;We thought the community was ready for us to take the lead but maybe it will be better in this other way,&uot; said Westmoreland, who thinks the Salvation Army would need the support of the &uot;whole community&uot; to be successful.

Without that support &uot;we could not do the quality club that we want to do,&uot; he said.

Westmoreland said it would be wonderful if the community could overcome those obstacles for the good of young people.

&uot;Whoever is taking the lead (in forming the club), the community needs to get behind those people,&uot; he said. &uot;Both the black and the white communities should get behind that effort.&uot;

Despite its situation, the Salvation Army of the Miss-Lou plans to continue its local projects, which are almost entirely funded by the community.

&uot;We only went into this with the best interest at heart and with a love for the youth and a love for this community,&uot; Westmoreland said.

Meanwhile, West said he has been seeking pledges to place the club at Thompson School with the help of supervisors Thomas &uot;Boo&uot; Campbell and Darryl Grennell, Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux and Alderman Ricky Gray.

Their goal is to raise $50,000.

&uot;We are close to $40,000 now,&uot; taking into account plans to receive $10,000 from both the Natchez Board of Alderman and the Adams County Board of Supervisors, West said.

&uot;This is something that’s desperately needed for our community,&uot; West said. &uot;It has been needed for many years.&uot;

Recently, he has spoken with many people who seemed to understand the importance of the club – not just for recreation but in creating productive citizens.

&uot;I was surprised that people had the vision to see that,&uot; West said.

Factors such as the location of Thompson School, its history and its availability have led him to support using the North Union Street school for the club.

&uot;We just want to make sure that the intent of the program is to touch those kids who need touching the most,&uot; West said.

Westmoreland said the Salvation Army estimates it would cost $140,000 annually to operate a Boys & Girls Club.

Salvation Army officials do not mind the Thompson School location and will offer assistance and even management – but only if asked, Westmoreland said.

It can only provide money for the project if it falls under its management and guidelines for business, Westmoreland said.

And &uot;whether we’re doing the club or not it is a needed program in this community,&uot; Westmoreland said.