Goal reached - Boys & Girls Club completes $500,000 tax credit drive

LACONIA — The Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region has successfully completed an effort to raise $500,000 in pledges for New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority tax credits, which will help it continue to make renovations to the former Saint James Episcopal Church, which it acquired as its permanent home three years ago.
Chris Emond, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire, said that the club faced a deadline of March 31 to obtain the pledges and was about $118,000 short less than a month ago when it started running an ad in The Laconia Daily Sun asking for assistance in meeting its goal. Companies which buy the credits receive a 75 percent state tax credit.
Thanks to a $100,000 pledge from CruCon Cruise Outlet of Moultonborough and additional pledges from AutoServ, Eastern Bank and The Laconia Daily Sun, he said the goal has been met.
"We've achieved that goal and are moving ahead with renovations and will continue to expand our programs," said Emond, who said that recently the club has extended its hours until 8 p.m.
"We serve about 100 kids a week, and on an average day there are 80 to 90 here. But we see having something for teens is one of the big needs we have in the city," said Emond.
This Friday night, the club will be joined by the Appalachian Mountain Teen Project in hosting the first Teen Night for students in grades 7 to 12. The event will feature a karaoke and open mic night theme, games and a dinner served by the New Hampshire Food Bank.
The club is currently working on the second phase of renovations to the former church, which will see the entryway to the building redone and a large reception area created at the front of the building as well as commercial upgrades to the the kitchen which will allow it to host an evening meals program. There will also be a new teen center, as well as updated homework and art rooms. The number of children being served is expected to increase from 86 currently to more than 150 next year.
Emond said that starting this fall, when the commercial kitchen is competed, the club will offer meals five days a week in cooperation with the Food Bank, which will be similar to a program offered in Concord which serves between 80 and 100 children a day.
The Lakes Region club as been affiliated with the Boys & Girls Club of Central New Hampshire for nearly two years but continues to have a separate board of directors. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire, formerly the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Concord, was named the 2015 nonprofit of the year by Business NH Magazine.
The Lakes Region Boys & Girls Club is the successor to the Laconia Teen Center, which opened in the basement of the Laconia Community Center in 1999 and was founded following the murder the previous summer of 14-year-old middle school student Robbie Mills.
Laconia Assistant School Superintendent Bob Champlin organized a Saturday morning meeting to deal with the issues of violence shortly after the murder. Some 200 people showed up and a consensus was developed that a teen center was needed to provide a healthy place for teen activities.
Over the years, the center relocated to Sacred Heart Church parish hall, where it became affiliated with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and later to Our Lady of the Lakes Church in Lakeport, and then at the former federal building on North Main Street, which is now owned and largely occupied by Lakes Region Community Services.
Three years ago, the club launched a $2.4 million fund drive to buy and renovate the church building; $700,000 for purchasing the building, $700,000 for renovations and $1 million for an endowment fund.
Those fund drives were aided by the efforts of Anthony and Gladys Sakowich, who were successful business pioneers, philanthropists and longtime residents of Governor's Island in Gilford.
Bob Smith, co-founder of the Sakowich Capital Trust, and Emond unveiled a plaque last fall with images of the Sakowiches which will grace the new entryway of what will be known as the Sakowich Building. The multipurpose room at the club is named for Robbie Mills, whose mother, Wendy, has been active in fundraising efforts for the club.

Shaker officials address drug use


BELMONT — For the past three years, Shaker Regional School District Superintendent Maria Dreyer has written letters to orthopedic doctors in Gilford and Concord requesting they reduce the number of pain killers they issue to students who are injured during athletics.
She said nobody in particular has asked her to do this but she took it upon herself because of her fears of opioid dependence in young people. She didn't say if she got any replies but said, as an educator, she felt it was her responsibility to let them know her position.
At Tuesday's School Board meeting, Dreyer was joined by at least two parents and members of the Belmont/Canterbury community who have joined in her anti-drug and alcohol message by creating independent but somewhat overlapping organizations of their own.
Donna Iacopucci is the president of the PTO at Belmont High School and her group has formed "It Takes A Village." She said they have joined sessions at Stand Up Laconia and on April 21 they have a special mini-dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Belmont High School to attract as many community members as they can to join them.
Iacopucci said Dreyer has made a few donations for some gift cards for a raffle and said the 50-minute movie "The Anonymous People," which is a feature film documenting the 23 million Americans who are recovering from substance abuse, will be shown after dinner. After the showing, there will be a panel discussion with other members of the community.
Darcy Ess, also a parent, is the only "lay" representative to a recently formed a drug and alcohol task force in Belmont that includes Police Chief Mark Lewandoski, Welfare Director Donna Cilley, Dreyer and other members of the anti-drug community.
Ess told the School Board that while she knows their coalition needs a catchy name, she said they are meeting in the morning of April 21 at the SAU offices in Belmont at 10 a.m.
Working together, they are all trying to combat the effects of drugs in the Belmont/Canterbury communities.
Dreyer, who recently received this year's results from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey taken earlier in the year by 82 percent of the Belmont High School student body, said the results were alarming.
She said she if particularly concerned with heroin and opioid and said administrators are starting to see some evidence in Belmont High of increased usage.
The results show that 16.5 percent or 67 of those who took the survey currently use marijuana and 2.7 or 11 of the students admit to trying heroin. She said 2.1 percent or nine students said they have used methamphetamine and 15 or 3.6 percent had said they used ecstasy.
Fifty students, or 12.2 percent, said they had been offered or sold drugs on school property and 13.4 percent said they had taken drugs that were not prescribed by a doctor.
Especially disturbing to Dreyer was that 14.3 percent said they didn't see anything wrong with taking drugs prescribed to someone else and 31.2 percent said they easy or very easy access to prescription drugs.
About half said they don't see anything wrong with using marijuana but Dreyer attributed the decline in the number of student who use it to to widening availability of other drugs and the expense of marijuana relative to opioids.
The School Board encouraged parents and others in the community to become more involved with "It Takes a Village" at the High School PTO or the task forced being formed by key members of the town of Belmont.

ZBA OKs Belknap House


LACONIA — Belknap House, the first shelter to serve homeless families in Belknap County, is anticipated to open its door at 200 Court St. in October.
Leonard Campbell of Catholic Charities said yesterday that with the special exception granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment earlier this week the Board of Directors is prepared to close on the purchase of the property.
Modeled after the Homeless Center for Strafford County, the facility will operate as shelter for homeless families from Oct. 15 until May 15 and as a hostel from May 15 until Oct. 1. The revenue collected from those staying in the hostel during the warmer months will be applied to budget to operate and maintain the shelter. The shelter will have capacity five or six families while the hostel can accommodate as many as 19 people.
The special exception was required since neither a shelter nor a hostel is a permitted use in the commercial district where the building is located.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment attached three conditions to its decision. The property must be screened from abutting properties, Temple B'nai Israel to the west and a residence on Pearl Street to the south, by either fencing or shrubbery. Families referred to the shelter by the welfare directors of towns in the county would remain domiciled in those towns, which would be responsible for providing any public assistance and services to them as well as schooling their children. Finally, the shelter would be open only to families referred to it by welfare directors in Belknap County.
Campbell described the conditions as "not the least onerous," explaining that all were incorporated in the design and operation of the facility.
Altogether $250,000 has been raised to purchase and renovate the property. Renovations will include installation of a sprinkler system, kitchen and laundry, improvements to the bathrooms and measures to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Currently the Carey House, operated by the Salvation Army, is the only shelter for homeless families in the Lakes Region, but it has capacity for only three families, leaving scant options for the rest, who are often directed to Concord.