by Alejandro de los Rios
This right here is the site where Peja's Courts for Kids project will be building a basketball court, in the heart of New Orleans' Iberville projects. Doesn't look like much right now in fact, it isn't anything right now but thanks to the $45K raised at Peja's Stojakovic's CharitaBowl, plus Peja's matching contribution, this should end up being a pretty spiffy $90K basketball court.
I've been talking to Alex Dimitrijevic (try saying that five times fast or once, for that matter) the Managing Director of Peja's charitable foundation and he said that the next step in the process is taking bids from contractors and picking the one that's the most economically feasible. Unfortunately, that means we won't be able to tell when even construction will take place on the court or when it will open.
What we do know is that the Boys and Girls Club center in Iberville will have its grand opening on April 12th. Darrell Guy, Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Louisiana was kind enough to take me through the center, which is in its final stages of construction. Guy said that the center hopes to service 100 kids a day, ages 6 to 18 and should be open during the school year from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during summer vacation.
I got a chance to talk to three of the kids that are looking forward to the Boys and Girls Club opening. Quienllene Jackson, LaShyra Harris, Isaac Harris and Alfred Johnson (not pictured) talked about how, when they had to move to Texas because of Katrina, they loved using the facilities of the Boys and Girls club over there. The kids talked about how they enjoyed the after-school tutoring services, dances and how they got to flash their membership cards. I asked the kids what it is they do to bide their time right now, seeing as how the Boys & Club Center isn't open yet.
"You're looking at it," LaShyra said. "Just sitting down. Their ain't nothing to do all day cept sit down and watching cars."
Just then, a girl the other kids identified as Ashley poked her head out a second-story window and asked what was going on. LaShyra and Quinelle shouted up that they're building a Boys & Girls Club across the street.
"Yaaaaay," Ashley exclaimed.
For kids with high aspirations Quinelle wants to be a nurse, LaShyra said she's deciding between being a lawyer and a doctor and Alfred said he wants to be the next Chris Paul ("AJ3") the new center is a welcome site. Moreover, as Guy pointed out, it's a way to help build up the community that is just a stone's throw from the French Quarter, but sees little of its decadence and prosperity.
"Contrary to what people might say, there are good people that live here," Guy said, pointing at Kim Piper, the president of the Iberville residents council.
Piper is going to have an office in the building and will keep records of all the kids from the 600 occupied residences that participate in the Boys & Girls Club with activities that are set to include karate classes, computer courses, tutoring and movie screenings.
The hope, of course, is to provide the children of the Iberville projects a safe place to play and grow and instill positive reinforcement so that they can grow up and achieve their dreams.
Anyone who wants to make a contribution or would like to inquire about volunteer should contact Guy at either (504) 419-2485 or (504) 566-0707.