For Alnya Boaz, 13, De'Juan Young, 14, and Kori Atkien, 12, it's unanimous: The best part of the renovation work at the East Lake Boys & Girls Club on East 25th Street is the Teen Lab.
"I like it," the three girls agreed after a renovation reveal photo with country music star Kane Brown. The renovation, part of Lowe's nationwide 100 Hometowns program to celebrate its centennial, is one of 100 projects that will be completed around the country.
The one here is the first, and Brown — who worked at Lowe's in Hixson before shooting to stardom in Nashville five years ago — is the celebrity spokesperson for the project here. He even did a little work at the club on Thursday, installing a couple of knobs on the cabinets in the new art room.
"I loved working at Lowe's," he said during an interview in the club's gymnasium. "It was a great place to work. The people were great, and it made you want to go to work every day."
The renovation involved 6,000 square feet of new vinyl flooring and a new paint scheme throughout, but the real game-changers were the work done to the four rooms along the club's east wall. A doorway was cut between two to create a library and computer lab, with about 30 computers now available to the nearly 800 young people who use the club throughout the year. The art lab has new countertops and stools.
In the Teen Lab, young adults and teens now have their own space in what was once the library, and apparently the young adults like it.
"We've been back open since Monday," said Jim Morgan, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chattanooga. "It was like Christmas morning. We've already had quite a few teens join up, and they stay longer than they used to.
"We've heard things like, 'This is for us?' Which is heartbreaking because the reality is, our physical plant is better than some of the places where these kids live. But they love it, and they are proud of it."
Hixson Lowe's store manager Todd Drew was responsible for procuring the items, and he said despite a few hiccups everything went as hoped for.
"We have a few stools or chairs on backorder, but everything went well," he said. "This is such a great community project, and we are so happy to be a part of it, and seeing the kids' faces is the best part. That, and the fact that there are 99 other projects like this one around the country being done."
Brown, whose hits include "Lose It" and "What Ifs," had nothing but praise for the renovation work. In fact, not only does he wish he'd had such a place when he was coming up, he said, "I'd send my kids here.
"Without sports, I wouldn't have had anywhere to go, so I wish I'd had a place like this. It's like recess every day. Who doesn't like recess? And, with parents working, it's a safe, friendly place, and now with the computers they can do their schoolwork or do their applications for college or whatever they need to do. I think it's awesome."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
Hamilton County Commission discusses school facilities progress, hears from Tyner students and district officials