LA CROSSE, Wis. - The Boys & Girls Club of La Crosse is celebrated its 50th anniversary Thursday.
It also celebrated the grand opening of the newly renovated Terry Erickson Club.
The 7,500 square-foot addition to the original building includes a variety of new features for teens.
From a dance and music studio, to a lounging and game area, the facility's expansion made room for more kids and teens in the area.
"The number of kids in our community that have needs is greater than we ever saw in this community 30 years ago, has increased," said Mike Desmond, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club in La Crosse.
Which means it was time to create a bigger space for kids and teens.
"To provide a place for them where they can come, get their homework done, they can play basketball, they can play pool, they can watch movies, we have gaming but the most important thing we have here, are just the people," he said.
"We've got an unbelievable staff that makes just impactful connections with these kids."
Today, over 25 percent of La Crosse Residents live in poverty, an 8 percent increase from 16 years ago. Which means the needs of youth in La Crosse are also growing. And with a new facility, staff members are hoping to meet those needs.
"Our greatest hope is that we can serve all the kids that need us most in this community. So being so close to the high school and the middle school we're just hoping that with a teen center that is very attractive to the teen population, that they will come here and receive the positive environment the positive role models, everything that we have to offer and in the end it betters our community because it's helping their future and it's helping our future here in La Crosse," said Nicole Brei, the club's development director.
Completed and ready to be used, project leaders are now aiming for an even bigger change.
"There are homeless kids that come here, wouldnt it be nice if we could just wipe all of that out?," said Desmond.
About $7 million was invested in the project and all donations came from the community.
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