BUCKHANNON – Amidst a challenging fundraising environment, the Stockert Youth and Community Center board of directors discussed partnering with other local entities and including additional services as a way to reach new donors.
The City of Buckhannon is engaged in a multi-year effort to construct a new multi-purpose building beside the existing center on East Main Street, but with progress slowing, the SYCC board discussed ways to get the project to the finish line at their meeting Monday.
SYCC board member Don Nestor suggested the new building offer not only a gym and athletic programs, but also jobs and vocational training. Nestor noted the needs of small businesses and the challenging jobs market, saying training would benefit the community as well open new opportunities for grants and fundraising.
Jerry Arnold, director of public works for the City of Buckhannon, outlined the difficulties in raising money for a gymnasium right now and said career training could offer access to state and federal grants.
“It’s going to be hard to continue fundraising for a gymnasium, given the climate of things today,” Arnold said. “It’s always been billed as a multi-use facility. If you could expand that to something that was job-creation related, you have a better chance of securing additional funding.”
If the SYCC expands into career training, Arnold said the new building could offer programs not available at the trade school.
“I mentioned to Don how difficult is it for us to find water plant operators right now, so that could be could a program expanded at Stockert to include high school age kids, because they’re not teaching that at the trade school,” Arnold said. “Plant operators could come to Stockert to do their testing and offer that as an apprenticeship to the city, as well as the water plant on weekends, for them to get their training hours. Something like that could have the potential to bring in more money from the state and federal level.”
However, Arnold also said the delays are starting to add up.
“If we would have built this building when we initially had this conversation, we would have already saved enough money to build a floor, bleachers and everything else,” he told the board.
Mayor Robbie Skinner discussed partnering with the county commission or the Upshur County Recreation Complex, so no one competes for funding.
“This is a little bit in left field, but what if we thought outside the box and started some conversations with the county commission, as well as the Upshur County Recreation Complex board, to try to think about what it would look like if we tried to streamline our efforts so that we’re not all competing for the same kind of dollars in our community?” Skinner said. “We’re a small town with limited resources. The rec complex board is trying to raise money for youth physical activities, and we are essentially trying to raise money for youth physical activities. I see us, in some ways, going after the same donors.”
SYCC board member Buddy Brady expressed frustration at the delays.
“I’ve been on this board for quite some time, and when I first started on this board, everybody realized Stockert needed a gym for the kids,” Brady said. “As soon as we raised $250,000, we were going to start building the gym. I’m the one that got a lot of donations, and once we passed $250,000, we started changing it from a gym to a multipurpose building. Don’s got some great ideas, but it seems like every year we’re in the same place come January and we still haven’t built a thing for Stockert.”
SYCC director Debora Brockelman said she is happy to work with other groups but wants to make sure the core programs remain intact.
“I’m all about whatever’s best for the kids, that’s the number one concern,” Brockelman said. “I don’t want to give our programs away — that’s our core — and the only big thing that we have that is sports is our basketball program. A lot of us have worked very long time to get our program as successful as it is, and I can work with anybody, but I just don’t want to give it away.”