TULLAHOMA, Tenn. (WKRN) — A coalition of community and faith leaders in Tullahoma are hoping to establish a new place for the youth to go where they can stay out of trouble and learn at the same time.
For several years, the Rev. Elmore Torbert of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Tullahoma has been working to establish a Boys & Girls Club (BGC) in the town. He told News 2 he’s been wanting to find some place productive where the Tullahoma youth could have structure and accountability. Additionally, he said he wanted to include more low-cost or free fun for the youth, as much of the town’s after-school entertainment is cost prohibitive for many families.
“We just needed something that would be able to give kids structure and help them be accountable here in this area,” he told News 2.
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Torbert worked with Dr. Kendric Dartis, a Coffee County native and former BGC member in Rutherford County, and brought his concerns for the youth of Tullahoma falling to alleged gang activity to then-Alderman Robin Dunn, who liked the idea of establishing a Tullahoma Boys & Girls Club.
Torbert, Dartis, Dunn and others formed an advisory committee in order to fully explore the options and possibilities, getting in contact with the Rutherford County Clubs. Boys & Girls Clubs of Rutherford County operates the closest club to Tullahoma in Shelbyville, Torbert said.
“The chief officer, as well as some of the branch leaders of Rutherford County Boys & Girls Club came down, looked at the feasibility of it and said…a future home for the Boys & Girls Club definitely could be established in Tullahoma,” he said.
Once established, the Tullahoma club will be operated under a partnership with the Rutherford County Clubs, according to Torbert.
“This works best for Tullahoma,” Torbert said. “We’re excited that they’re excited to serve more kids.”
How many children the new club would be able to help is something the advisory committee will have to determine later, along with any long-term plans for a permanent location. First, the group needs to do its part to prove a new club could be feasible in town.
As part of that feasibility, Torbert said the advisory committee is currently holding fundraisers to try to raise seed money for a Tullahoma club. Specifically, the group is hoping to raise $200,000 that would go toward initial administrative costs like staffing and programming.
The group’s first fundraiser is set for Saturday, June 4. The group is hosting a Bowl-A-Roo bowling event from 1-4 p.m. at Tullahoma Bowling Lanes. Tickets for the event are $30 each and cover the cost of admission, shoe rental and two hours of bowling for all attendees. To purchase tickets for Bowl-A-Roo, click HERE.
More fundraisers for the Future home of the Boys & Girls Club of Tullahoma will be held throughout the next year, Torbert said. The ultimate goal, he added, would be to spend the next year raising the seed money in the hopes the club could open by Memorial Day of 2024.
Once established, the club would continue to raise money to eventually find its own home. Initially, the club will be housed in a local facility already established, like a church. Negotiations are in process for one potential home, but final approval has not yet come through, Torbert said.
When clubs are established, Torbert said there are different options for where the club would be housed, including having its own standalone building or partnering with the city of Tullahoma for use of a city-owned building. Long-term, he added, it would be ideal to build or house their own club on its own.
“That’s why it’s important for people to come out on June 4 at 1 o’clock at the bowling alley on Anderson Street,” he told News 2. “They’ll get the chance to see what we’re trying to do.”