Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett speaks at the groundbreaking for a new Boys and Girls Club branch in northeast Salem on Thursday, June 10. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

About 70 people attended a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for what will become the eighth branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk counties.

Construction on the 25,000-square-foot clubhouse at 3805 Lancaster Dr. N.E. is to begin this summer on property donated by the Larry and Jeanette Epping Family Foundation.

Alphacon Inc. of Salem is the general contractor for the project that is expected to be completed next spring, said Kari Roberts, senior marketing and communications director for the club.

The agency is raising $11 million to build and sustain the new branch expected to serve about 3,700 neighborhood children.

Of that total, $9 million will be for construction and $2 million will provide daily programs for up to 200 children per day for five years.

At the new clubhouse, children will be get help to improve their health, including mental, dental and nutritional and educational services to help them succeed in school.

The new clubhouse will “create opportunities for vulnerable kids and teens, including youth of color and low-income families, to build employable skills and improve life outcomes,” said Sue Bloom, CEO of the organization.

She indicated that the neighborhood has an exceptional need for the clubhouse because:

*Of the 3,695 children and teens living within a 1-mile radius of the new branch, 95% are below the poverty line.

*There has been a 33% increase in crime in that area in the last two years.

*Less than 30% of the students meet the state standards in language and math

*The area lacks daily after-school programs and a safe outdoor play space.

The Eppings’ son, Gary, told the crowd that “my mom and dad worked for all they had and they bought this piece of property and built our house and raised five kids. Now this same place can continue these lessons and serve thousands of kids in the community.”

He said his parents taught their children about hard work, the choice to do the right thing and the importance of giving back, lessons other children will learn at the clubhouse.

Also speaking at the groundbreaking Thursday were Epping’s sister, Shawn Engelberg; Eric Templeton, boys and girls club president; Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett; Marion County Commissioner Colm Willis; and Dave Hilgemann, who has served on the board for 41 years.

The other branches of the boys and girls club are located at: 1395 Summer St. N.E., which includes a teen center; 925 Gerth Ave. N.W.; 4840 Noren Ave. N.E.; 1711 Aguilas Court N.E.; 1120 Savage Road N.E.; 466 Richmond St. S.E. and at 400 Settlemeir Avenue in Woodburn.

The first boys and girls club in Salem opened in April 1970. About 1,000 boys took advantage of the programs with an average daily attendance of 80 members.

In a typical year, the club serves about 13,000 youth, with about 4,000 of those being members, and the others are served through community outreach programs.

Dirt flies at the groundbreaking for a new Boys and Girls Club branch in northeast Salem on Thursday, June 10. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

This is an artist's rendering of the new Lancaster Drive clubhouse for the local Boys and Girls Club. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday, June 10.

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