AFES plans for future

The Fort Dodge community had the opportunity Sunday afternoon to get an inside look at what the Athletics For Education and Success programs are all about.

The AFES organization, which provides safe and affordable educational and recreational opportunities for Fort Dodge youths, opened its doors at its facility in the former Hillcrest Elementary School to offer tours and refreshments.

They also offered a look at its latest undertaking, Project Slam, a fundraising effort to build a new multipurpose/gymnasium area to the north of the existing facilities at 712 Third St. N.W.

Malcolm Clayton, 13, led a group of supporters around the building showcasing what the program has to offer. As he showed them around they saw the T-shirt room where uniform shirts are made for AFES teams and events.

“All of our shirts are made right here in house,” he said.

Clayton also showed the classrooms for various age groups, a game room, weight/exercise training room, drumline room and audio-video room, along with the outdoor facilities and location of the planned multipurpose site.

Ann Halbur, capital campaign chairman for Project Slam, said the project will cost the organization around $400,000. She said local supporters have stepped up to offer nearly $200,000 in matching funds.

“Every dollar up to $200,000 will be matched,” said Halbur.

“We have some very generous supporters in the community who are willing to match up to that amount,” said Charles Clayton, executive director for AFES.

The facility’s present gymnasium is not large enough to accommodate all of the organization’s needs, and the new facility would not only meet the group’s needs, it would allow them to host events within their own site.

“Right now, we rent a lot of gym space around town,” said Clayton.

AFES presently serves around 100 children in the afterschool program, and averages 180 participants during the summer months.

“For all of these kids, space can be hard to find,” he said.

Clayton said AFES has held fundraisers and applied for several grants to help make the project possible. He hopes they will be able to raise more funds, and announce a total by early next year.

“I’m hoping by January 1 we will be able to announce how close we are,” he said. “With community support I hope we can get another $30,000 to 50,000 by year’s end; that would definitely make this a big go.”

The new facility would be a multisport gymnasium used for basketball, volleyball and dodgeball, and if costs allow, possibly indoor baseball and softball. It would also serve as a place for elementary school students to come and exercise at a minimal cost.

Halbur said the AFES board of directors has also been instrumental in supporting Project Slam.

“We have a wonderful board,” she said. “They are very involved and dedicated to our youth and want to make this happen.”