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The namesake of the new Boys & Girls Clubs in Forsyth will match up to $1 million in donations
The Boys & Girls Clubs needs community help to finish building and open its doors
Boys & Girls Club donations needed
A display at the reception shows what the Tommy & Chantal Bagwell Club will look like when it’s finished in 2024. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier is raising money for its Tommy & Chantal Bagwell Club, a new facility slated to open in 2024 that will serve about 300 kids in grades K-12 after school and over the summer.

The club, or BGCL, held a gift reception with community leaders at Tam’s Backstage on Thursday, March 16, to share more about the facility and announce that Tommy and Chantal Bagwell would match any donations to the club up to $1 million.

Right now, the club has collected $7.1 million of its $9 million goal.

Deana Jordan, president of the Forsyth County Advisory Committee, welcomed everyone to the reception and shared that BGCL has now started construction on the 21,000-square-foot facility located on Antioch Road.

Once it's finished, she said they will be able to offer students affordable tutoring and homework help along with enrichment programs and other activities. The facility will feature a gym and playground, and there are future plans to add a walking trail and multipurpose gym.

“This is an exciting time for the Boys & Girls Club in Forsyth,” Jordan said.

BGCL CEO Steven Mickens said the club is the second largest in the state, serving 1,500 kids daily and 7,500 annually, providing not only academic support but also helping them get involved in activities and in the community.

Its programs have kept struggling kids stay in school and find success. Since 2006, the Boys & Girls Club has boasted a 100% graduation rate for its students.

“We’re excited about this opportunity because we’re actually answering the call,” Mickens said. “And the call is to inspire young people to want to be great and do great things during the times that they’re living in.”

Cumming Police Chief David Marsh said he has always been a supporter of the BGCL because of the opportunities they offer kids in the community who don’t have the same resources as many of their peers.

“This is a very wealthy community and a great place to live,” Marsh said. “It’s easy to forget that there are people in our community that just don’t have that kind of wealth. They don’t have the kind of blessings a lot of us have.”

He said there are more than 700 kids in Forsyth County who are homeless, and 12% of kids in the school district qualify for free or reduced lunch.

And when families can’t afford sports, theater or art programs, there becomes a lack of opportunities and places for kids to spend their time productively after school.

Boys & Girls Club donations needed
Community leaders gather at Tam’s Backstage for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier reception on Thursday, March 16. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

“I’ve been in law enforcement for a couple of decades now, and I can tell you the kids who don’t have anything to do will find something to do,” Marsh said. “Almost always, that finding something to do leads to petty crime. It leads to really nuisance-level stuff. But the problem is that graduates into much more serious offenses.”

To him, the BGCL fills that gap and helps kids find their way out of bad situations.

Jasmin Gaudlock, a club alumna, told the crowd at the reception that she doesn’t know where she would be without the BGCL.

She said she turned to the club while being bullied at school and stuck around while her family of eight experienced homelessness and she became the sole provider at the age of 16.

At the time, Gaudlock said she felt so discouraged. But eventually, she was able to find success.

“I’m proud to say I was able to overcome those obstacles in life with help from the Boys & Girls Club,” Gaudlock said. “Through their programs, they taught me my values and characteristics like determination, perseverance, optimism, hard work and the ability overall to overcome things in life.”

Now, she is working on her master’s degree and serves as a teacher in the Gainesville City School District.

Tommy Bagwell, who attended the reception, asked that everyone in the community give whatever donation they can to help support the facility and the children it will serve.

“Give me the gas,” Bagwell said. “Give me the shot. And then you guys have a lot better shot at living with your head on your shoulders.”