WEIRTON - It will be the end of an era, but the beginning of a new chapter for public after-school programs in Weirton.
The Boys and Girls Club of Weirton has provided after-school programs and activities for children in the community since 1995. Prior to that, services had been available for almost 20 years through Big Brothers-Big Sisters. Both had been operated through an agreement with the Weirton Housing Authority and under the direction of George Vargo.
Vargo announced this month he would be stepping down from that role.
Weirton Christian Center Director Kim Weaver stands with George Vargo, who has served for many years as the director of the Boys and Girls Club of Weirton. Vargo has announced the Boys and Girls Club is being dissolved in Weirton, with the Weirton Christian Center taking over the after-school programs offered in the community. -- Craig Howell
This building, located in the Weyls Terrace area of Weirton, has been the home of the Boys and Girls Club of Weirton for close to 20 years. While the Boys and Girls Club will be dissolved, the after-school services and other programs offered here are being continued by the Weirton Christian Center. -- Craig Howell
"It's time for me to let someone else handle the after-school programs," Vargo explained.
As a result of Vargo's retirement and increasing program costs, the Boys and Girls Club of Weirton is in the process of being dissolved. However, a plan is in place which would allow the Weirton Christian Center to continue offering after-school services at both its current Elm Street location and the Boys and Girls Club facility on Weyls Terrace.
Kim Weaver, director of the Weirton Christian Center, said the agreement couldn't have come at a better time as use of her program continues to grow.
"We've been trying to figure out where we're going to fit all the kids for about six or seven years," Weaver said.
As part of the agreement, which currently will be on a trial basis with plans to make it permanent later on, kindergarten through elementary school students would go to the the current Christian Center on Elm Street, and middle school and high school students would go to the Weyls Terrace location.
"It's a win-win for both of us," Vargo explained. "I didn't want that door to close, and Kim is going to keep it open for us."
The Elm Street site will be open for students from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and the Weyls Terrace location will be available from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Vargo noted it was appropriate for the Christian Center to take over the programs, noting the agency not only had once been located on Weyls Terrace, but his first job was working for the Weirton Christian Center, at the time under the direction of Betty Killian.
For her part, Weaver said she plans to continue providing all of the same programs offered by the Boys and Girls Club, while adding those of the Christian Center.
Those include a focus on education, nutritional programs, fitness activities and computer learning.
"A lot of the kids who come to us don't have computers or Internet," she said.
They also offer the Journey Project, to provide life skills and educational resources, as well as work with anti-tobacco program RAZE and encourage community service.
Weaver explained some of the board members from the Boys and Girls Club are getting involved with the Weirton Christian Center, and they also have students from the Franciscan University of Steubenville lending a hand, but are always looking for volunteers.
"The power behind any after-school program is the mentors," Weaver said. "The kids need someone to help with their homework, someone to listen."
Vargo and Weaver said they want to thank all those who have been supportive of the two organizations over the years, including the Hancock County Transportation Department which has been helping to provide bus service from the schools to the facilities.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)