The Concerned Citizens of Columbia County have collected 350 signatures on a petition calling for a youth center in the western part of the county.
The group presented the petition to county commission Mark Devoti during their recent monthly meeting.
Oscar Taylor, the organization chairman, said the center could be built on the 20-acres of county-owned land that houses the existing Eubank-Blanchard Community Center. The petition signatures were collected by county bus drivers in the Leah and Winfield areas.
"Nobody ever asked for one out here," Taylor said. "We have to talk about what we want and what we need."
The existing center, which residents rallied for, is a children's playground and a community center that is always locked and costs $125 an hour to use, Taylor said. Anyone using the outdoor facilities have no access to restroom facilities.
According to Taylor, other parents and bus drivers at the meeting, there are a large number of youth in the area that have to travel 20 miles to the Evans-Martinez area for recreation facilities or programs.
"There are a lot of kids in this area, a whole lot of kids, with nothing to do and nowhere to go," Taylor said. "We talk day in and day out about our youth and how they are the future. How are they going to do anything if we do not get them anything to feel good about themselves?
"It is 2003 and time to move up to do something for our youth. It is time to stop talking about ho much they mean and show them how much they mean to us."
The proposed project the organization would like to see is the addition of a ball field, which was promised by former district commissioner Diane Ford, restroom facilities and after-school programs for area children.
The group is not expecting results this year or even next year, Taylor said. They simply wanted Devoti to know what his constituents want and need and some advice on how to apply for grants and other types of funding to get the ball rolling.
"Community involvement is the best way to start to get something done," Devoti told the group. "Be persistent."
Becky Jones, a county school bus driver, would like to see the Boys and Girls Club, currently at North Columbia Elementary, take part in the programs by providing help with schoolwork and counselors. Taylor said other youth organizations like 4-H have expressed interest in using and providing programs at the youth center if built.
Margaret Tutt Adams, the manager of Columbia County Juvenile Court, attended the meeting and volunteered her time at the center if it is realized.
"We need to have structured activities to keep these kids out of juvenile court," Adams said. "If there are no structured things to do, they will get into trouble."
Devoti agreed to find out what the group can do to help itself by looking for funding while he brings the group's ideas to the board of commissioners.
"Y'all being pro-active and this level of community involvement goes a long way," Devoti said.
The Concerned Citizens of Columbia County meets at 7:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at Walnut Grove Baptist Church or Second Mount Carmel Baptist Church. For more information, call Taylor at 309-9451.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.