Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Oprah bankrolling new Boys & Girls Club in Kosciusko

Oprah Winfrey, through the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, will fund construction of a new, 30,000-square foot Boys and Girls Club facility in Kosciusko, according to a press release from her organization.

"Ms. Winfrey has been a proud supporter of the Boys and Girls Club here ever since it was chartered in 2001," said Paul Powers, the organization's founding president and district manager for Entergy, as he announced the gift. "Her foundation has given us a number of grants that helped get us started."

Over the years, Winfrey has contributed to a number of initiatives in Kosciusko.

Powers said plans for a new Boys and Girls Club facility have been in the making since 1998, when Winfrey visited Kosciusko to attend the dedication of a Habitat for Humanity home built in her honor.

He and other organizers have spent the last two years consulting with architects from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to finalize the design of the new facility.

The multi-purpose facility will be built on eight acres of land provided by the city and adjacent to Jason Niles Park on Knox Road. Architect Robin Henry of the Johnson-McAdams firm of Greenwood is leading the design team, Powers said.

Groundgreaking is planned for Oct. 1.

When completed in 2005, the building "will provide an environment for education, arts, sports, technology, dance, karate and a multitude of other activities for youth ages 6-18," Powers said. He said it is expected to draw 300-400 children daily from city and county school systems.

"A project of this magnitude will help us serve the needs of a larger and more diverse student population," said Tony McGee, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Kosciusko and principal of Kosciusko Junior High School. "It will give the young people of this community a positive focus in their lives and more outlets for creativity and learning."

The facility also will be used for community functions, meetings, chamber of commerce events and other civic activities, Kosciusko Mayor Jimmy Cockroft said.

"This is a much needed facility in our area and it will be something that everyone can be proud of," Cockroft added.

The Oprah Winfrey Foundation awards grants to organizations that "support the inspiration, empowerment, education and well-being of women, children and families around the world."

The Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program funds scholarships through specific educational institutions. In Mississippi and in the Delta, Ms. Winfrey has supported academically talented prep school scholars and teaching scholars to help boost the state's pool of qualified teaching candidates. The Oprah Winfrey Foundation provides opportunities for students to study with the stipulation that students use their education to give back to their communities.

"We are very fortunate that Ms. Winfrey wants to stay connected to Kosciusko and help our community progress," Powers said. "This is something that will be treasured through the generations."

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