MARCH 1ST 2020:
WAGONER — Work continues in earnest at the Lincoln Enrichment Center as Brighter Futures Foundation gets ready to celebrate its third anniversary next month.
The center is going to be home to the Boys and Girls Club at the former Lincoln School, which was for African-American students until it closed in 1965, at 902 Martin Luther King Blvd.
While work continues inside the center, the biggest step to date will be the installation of a playground. John W. Jones, the foundation’s co-director, along with Dr. Suzanne Salichs, said $70,000 was raised through donations to fund the playground.
“We were stuck at $35,000 for three-four months, and Suzanne made a nice presentation to the Rotary Club and they gave us $15,000,” Jones said. “We got $10,000 from another grant, $4,500 from Arvest Bank and the rest came from individuals such as kids giving a dollar or 50 cents or adults donating $25 or $50. It was a wonderful mixture of donations.
“Once people see the playground going in, we’ll be getting more people engaged in the community.”
Jones expects the playground to be installed and ready for children to play on by the end of March or early April.
“Like everyone else, we need a little more dry weather,” he said.
Another step in the process of building the Boys and Girls Club is the addition of a website, www.lecwagoner.org. The site went up about three weeks ago, Jones said.
“If you think it’s easy to design a website, it’s not,” Jones said. “Marvin Brown designed the page for us and we’re really excited about it. A lot of people who have grown up here don’t have any idea what’s going on here. Instead of telling them, we refer them to our website.”
Jones and Salichs are also excited about the potential growth of the club. Thirty-five to 50 kids come to the club, and they project more to show up.
“As we grow into that everyday after-school program, we’re looking at 150 to 175 kids in the near future,” he said.
And, Jones and Salichs want to eventually add to their staff beyond the volunteers.
“We’re growing,” she said. “We still need all of the volunteers, but to make this sustainable, we need to add paid positions like the other programs have as we continue to grow.”
The center also will have programs for adults. It will have office space for organizations, such as legal aid and employment services.
“They may come in two afternoons or two full days a week,” Jones said. “It’s difficult for people in rural communities like this to make it to Muskogee or Tulsa for those services.”
To show the progress being made at the center and inform the residents, an open house is being scheduled for March 23.
“We want people to come in and walk around, look at the classrooms and all of the services we’ll provide for free,” Salichs said.
Still, the focus is on helping children and having a place for them in Wagoner.
“We were literally driving through the neighborhood and saw all of these kids in dirt lots with nothing to do,” Jones said. “It just laid on our hearts there had to be something we could do to provide some positive place and structure for those kids.
“Muskogee has the Martin Luther King Center, but smaller rural communities don’t have that. Our goal is it serve our children better.”