Boys & Girls Club fund drive hits $1 million mark

LACONIA — The Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region marked a milestone Thursday morning with a ceremony at the club's new home — the former St. James Episcopal Church on North Main Street — which celebrated reaching the million dollar milestone in the club's $2.4 million fund drive.
Children who take part in the programs offered by the club gathered outside briefly on a frosty winter morning to symbolically push ''the rock'' higher up the hill on a sign in front of the building which charts the progress of the fund drive.
''We're really pleased with our progress,'' said Chris Adams, president of the Boys and Girls Club and Laconia Police chief, who said that among the donations which have helped the club make progress was a $400,000 gift from Gladys and Tony Sakowich of Andover, Mass., long-time summer residents of the Lakes Region.
Mr. Sakowich, who died on Feb. 14 at the age of 95, made the gift over four years ago after being advised by Paul Gaudet Sr., founder of AutoServ, that it was a project that would fulfill the Sakowich's desire to leave a lasting legacy in the Lakes Region.
The gift was announced last year at a leadership meeting held after it had been announced that the club had reached an agreement to purchase the Saint James Episcopal Church but the amount was not known until recently.
Al Posnack, who chairs the Capital Campaign Committee, said that among the major donors so far has been the Bank of New Hampshire, which contributed $100,000 at the capital campaign kickoff last fall and has contributed over $250,000 to support the club's programs over the last 10 years.
He said that there are three parts of the fund drive, $700,000 for the purchase of the church property, $700,000 for renovations to the property and $1 million for an endowment fund.
Last March the Vestry of the church accepted the club's offer to purchase the land and buildings for a reported price of $700,000. The property provides 17,000-square-feet of space between the ground floor and half-basement and sits on a 1.3-acre lot.
The new facility includes eight program rooms, which will provide space for academic support, art, small group activity, and computers, a 5,000-square-foot great room for indoor recreation, drama, dance, music, and social opportunities, a modern institutional kitchen for nutrition programs, cooking lessons, independent living skill building, and many meals as well as a spacious community room which house a Kids Cafe and Game Room, as well as being a community resource according to Cheryl Avery, executive director,.
Last November the club was awarded a $250,000 grant by the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, which will be applied toward the acquisition of the building. It also has applied for a second $250,000 grant for the project, both of which have been applied for through the Belknap County Commission.

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Hailey and Leah, who celebrated her 9th birthday Thursday, move ''the rock'' up the hill to mark the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region reaching the one million dollar mark in its capital campaign, which has a goal of $2.4 million. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)