ATLANTA — A southeast Atlanta Boys & Girls Club closed Friday due to a lack of funding. Officials said there is a serious need in the community -- but they just don't have the money.
The Thomasville Heights Boys & Girls Club opened eight years ago and has been serving neighborhood kids since then.
Kids who have been coming to the club for most or all of their lives have gotten very close to the staff. For many, it was hard to say goodbye.
Kevin Belcher, 16, wants to be a classical musician when he grows up. He's been a member of the Thomasville Heights Boys & Girls Club for six years.
"It has been the world to me because I've been able to travel and experience things that you normally wouldn't experience in my neighborhood," Belcher told Fernandes.
Blecher said he is extremely close to the club staff and the things they have taught him are priceless.
"It accepts you for who you are and lets you grow in a positive way and be around positivity and do great things," Belcher said of the club.
Belcher said he was extremely upset to hear that the club was closing.
He was still emotional Friday during the goodbye celebration.
"You could feel the love, the sorrow, the grace," Blecher said. "People were OK with the change so it was a good farewell."
Fernandes talked to Claire Guitton, with the Boys & Girls Club, about the decision to close.
"We hate leaving a community," Guitton said. "It's with a heavy heart that we're closing that club. It wasn't a quick decision, and it was not an easy decision. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears."
The Thomasville Heights club was fully funded for the first few years, but then money became an issue.
The organization is now trying to find alternatives for the families who have relied on the club.
"Over the years, we realized it's important not to just leave the area," Guitton said. "We have to have options."
Staff members met with each family and came up with a plan to either go to another Boys & Girls Club nearby or join a similar after-school program.
For kids who have been at the club for years, even going to a different club can feel like leaving home.
Belcher is going to join another club that is not too far away. He told Fernandes he'll have to get to know a new staff and meet new friends, but he's looking forward to seeing what a different club can offer.
"I'm going to be sad to see it go, but change is part of life," Belcher said.
Unfortunately, some parents just don't have the means to get their kids into another program.
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