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The Boys & Girls Club of Lanier: A History

While the Boys & Girls Club of Lanier had a humble start, it has become a tremendous resource for area youth.

Originally founded in 1954 as the Gainesville-Hall County Boys Club, early leaders saw the need for a fun and safe place for children, and quickly refurbished a house at 211 Sycamore Street to provide space for woodworking, arts and crafts, a library, and other activities. The club had barely moved into the building when fundraisers began to fund the construction of a new gymnasium – which was opened in 1957. In 1962, Jim Smith became the Club’s executive director, a role he held for 32 years. During that time, Smith served as the driving force behind the organization’s success.

The 1970s marked a change at the Boys Club, when it merged with the Forrest Hills Boys Club which had been formed for boys from the south side black community. Shortly after the merge, two new half-million dollar facilities were open to accommodate the growing community – one at Blackshear Place in south Hall County and the other at the current location off Downey Boulevard in southeast Gainesville.

The new facilities offered an abundance of new activities such as drama, folk dance, games, Little League, swimming, and other physical activities. But by 1980, budget cutbacks prompted the closing of the Blackshear Place facility, consolidating all operations into Downey Street (renamed Positive Place Club in later years).

The Girls Club

During the creation and evolution of the Boys Club, the Girls Club followed a similar path. Originally established in 1963, Girls Club programs focused on topics such as teen pregnancy, sewing, arts and crafts, games, and cooking. In 1971, the Club’s original building on Myrtle Street was replaced with a new facility that offered a gymnasium, kitchen, study areas, and more. After a period of funding crisis in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, the club was moved to the New Holland Recreation Center, which was donated by Roger Milliken of Milliken and Co.

Two Clubs Combine

In 1997, the Boys Club and Girls Club merged to form the Boys & Girls Club of Hall County. The Positive Place Club became headquarters for the Club, and under went extensive renovation in 2001.

New Clubs Built

In 2006, a new Club designed especially for teens was completed and currently serves over 150 teens daily. August, 2010 the Joseph F. Walters Club and Athletic Complex was completed and serves an additional 150 youth daily.

New Name, Same Mission

In 2017, the Club changed its name to Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier to better meet the need for after school and summer programs for youth in Hall County and surrounding counties.