Day 1 for Boys & Girls Club members in their new home

LACONIA — The Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region moved into its new home at the St. James Episcopal Church building Monday morning and the building was filled with excitement as 62 summer campers showed up.
''The kids are having a blast,'' said Norm Gilbert, director of operations, who said that the hot and humid day was highlighted by an afternoon walk Noth Main Street to Opechee Park and to Opechee Point, where the youngsters cooled off in Lake Opechee.
Gilbert says 105 children have enrolled in summer camp, which typically will have 70 to 80 children a day taking part in the club's programs.
''Every afternoon when we can we'll be taking the kids to the beach,'' said Gilbert, who says that the new program possibilities that the club now has in its expansive new 14,000-square-square foot home have everyone excited and energized,
Gilbert, who has been with the club for 15 months, works with a staff of five other people and said that the club's programs ''didn't skip a beat'' with the move.
''We're very happy with this space, especially the older kids who will now have a separate area from the younger kids,'' he said,
Donna Meade of Laconia, who holds degree in psychology from Boston College and plays the violin, is in charge of the club's arts program and says that the children are very involved in creating fairy houses, which will be displayed as part of the Opechee Garden Club's July 13 Home and Garden tour.
She said the impact of arts on young children can't be overestimated. ''Give them a crayon or a paint brush and they come to life,'' says Meade.
She said the fact that the club's programs run from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. is a big plus for busy families, giving them extra time for work and errands while ensuring that their children are in a caring and nurturing environment.
Cheryl Avery, executive director the club, said that it is working with Belknap County to obtain a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to help it pay for the building, which was purchased from the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire for $700,000. The club in renting space while awaiting the closing of the real estate transaction.
She said the club will be rolling out a Capital Fund Drive later this year to raise money for renovations to the building.
''This is our forever home,'' Avery told the audience at a Community Leaders Breakfast held earlier this month at the church . She described the property as an ideal location for the club, just a stone's throw from Laconia Middle School and less than a mile from Laconia High School but also across the street from Opechee Park, with its beach, track and playing fields. The building houses a fully equipped kitchen and provides sufficient space for expanded programming for elementary and middle school students and dedicated space for teens.
Some existing programs at the church, St. James Nursery School and Hands Across Table, a program that feeds those in need once a week, will not be affected by the change in ownership.
Avery said that the club will have eight program rooms downstairs and has a creative arts partnership with the Winnipesaukee Playhouse.
St. James Episcopal Church will continue to hold Sunday worship services at the church through late August.