NAPPANEE — Another phase of the WaNee Vision 2020 is coming to a close, to the benefit of area children.

The Shea & Leavitt Families Boys & Girls Club of Nappanee hosted a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoon, pending the official opening of the facility on Thursday.

“We loved our old space and we made a lot of memories there but in this new building we have more space to develop a broader scope of programming,” director Mandy Gerber said.

The new facility, at 30,000 square feet, boasts two game rooms, an art room, learning center, two teen rooms and a commercial-grade kitchen.

“We’ll be able to add programs in the culinary arts, we’ll be able to have more outdoor activities and in general improve children’s experience,” Gerber said. 

The new location also includes an outdoor play area for the first time in the near 20-year history of the Boys & Girls Club in Nappanee.

It’s taken about a year to finish the new building, which is located where the NorthWood High School soccer fields had previously been, behind Nappanee Elementary School.  

The new Boys & Girls Club building is part of WaNee Vision 2020, a comprehensive plan designed in collaboration with the city of Nappanee, WaNee Community Schools, Boys & Girls Club, Family Christian Development Center and Elderhaus.

The first phase of the plan, following fundraising efforts, was to move the school’s soccer field to Wellfield Park. The park sits next to West Side Park features walking trails, open space and athletic and practice fields for a cost of roughly $791,000.

Moving Boys & Girls Club to the field’s former location was the second phase in the plan. 

“We are extremely excited for this phase of the project,” Nappanee Mayor Phil Jenkins said.

The club building cost about $4.484 million, a substantial portion of the $5.75 million raised for the whole of WaNee Vision 2020 project.

Once the Boys & Girls Club finishes its move, Family Christian Development Center will move to its old location, on Marion Street. The building, attached to Elderhaus, will then undergo renovations to better accommodate both entities.

Elder Haus Senior Center will extend its portion within the building at an estimated cost of $53,000, while the Family Christian Development Center’s portion of the project is expected to cost about $422,000.

Family Christian Development Center will be upgrading from a multistory to single-story building, and the new location will feature a segregated immunization clinic, food assistance and clothing closet to allow for better access, privacy for patrons and collaboration with the already on-campus nursing home Elder Haus Senior Center. Together they’ll be able to provide intergenerational programs and additional service opportunities.

Family Christian Development Center’s current location on Locke Street will then be razed in order to create additional parking for the downtown and its pavilion.

“We are affecting the youngest in the community to the oldest in the community providing social services and programming for those individuals that will positively impact our well-being and our community vibrancy,” Jenkins said. 

The new Boys & Girls Club location will open to youth on Thursday. Gerber said despite nearly a year’s time since the groundbreaking of the new location, kids have yet to be given any information about the building’s interior.

 “We purposely left all the interior design things a secret so it will be a big surprise for them when they come in and see the new equipment and new furniture,” she said. “We’re excited for them to come that first day.”

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