Grant helps John Avery club replace property lost in fire

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 01:22 AM

From the ashes of a fire, the John Avery Boys & Girls Club of Durham plans to rise to new heights thanks to a grant to replace destroyed equipment and a capital campaign to rebuild and expand the nonprofit.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Carolina recently gave the Durham organization $15,000 to replace sports equipment lost in the September fire that gutted the club’s administrative building.

 The building at 511 Grant St. near downtown was being used to store soccer and football equipment, accounting files, archive photos and special-event items. The contents were destroyed, but the club’s main building across the street at 808 E. Pettigrew St. was not damaged.

Durham fire officials said Tuesday that the fire started at the rear of the building, but the cause remains undetermined. Insurance has paid only part of the loss.

“We are thankful to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Carolina for reaching out to us and helping us recover from our fire in September,” Sheila Ryba, the club’s executive director, said. “Community is a powerful thing when you have organizations such as RMHC to give others hope when they need it most.”

The $15,000 won’t be enough to replace everything lost in the fire, but it will help greatly, according to Elizabeth Biggerstaff, annual fund/public relations manager for the Durham club. “We’re trying to prioritize how to spend the money and hope to get more in-kind donations.”

Biggerstaff said some people in the community held fundraisers since the fire and gave the club needed equipment such as soccer balls and training bags, practice shirts and first-aid kits.

She said most of the grant will go to the soccer program, an important component of the club, which serves about 700 underprivileged Durham children a year.

The fire has delayed the program, but the club hopes to have everything in place by spring when soccer season begins. Meanwhile, the club hopes soon to start a “futsal” program – indoor soccer – on Saturdays.

The club is also in the first stages of planning a capital campaign to replace the destroyed building, which will include a new teen center.

“The teen center is important, because statistics prove that teens don’t want to attend the same club they did as a child,” Biggerstaff said. “They want a place where they can go after school and hang out, as opposed to being watched all the time by adults – a place of their own.”

“We want to be able to keep our teens around here, because they’re very vulnerable to doing things that we don’t want them participating in at that age.”

She said the teen center “would be more of a fun place” with gaming systems and computers, for example, to draw them in.

Biggerstaff said the first stage of the capital campaign will be to hire a consultant to help the club pin down details of the project, with an eye to making club the best it’s been in its 74-year history.

“This will be a new opportunity, and a chance for us to grow,” she said. “It’s very exciting.”

Want to help?

To make a tax-deductible gift to the club, contact Elizabeth Biggerstaff at 919-688-7315.