Making the dream real

The set of plans in Charles Clayton’s desk are closer to becoming bricks and mortar as the Athletics For Education and Success approaches its fundraising goal.

Clayton, AFES executive director, said the organization is about $80,000 away from the $350,000 needed for the construction of an additional gym behind the former Hillcrest Elementary School.

Work is expected to begin in January. The goal is to have it completed by September.

“We can use it for gym, choir, drumline and youth fairs,” Clayton said.

Much of that money has been raised by Project SLAM and the community.

“All donations are matched by grants, local donors and businesses,” he said.

To add to the total, a soup and chili supper will be Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the AFES building, 712 Northwest Third St.

AFES serves about 100 youths on a daily basis. That includes after-school programming, the basketball program, drumline and mentoring programs.

The attendance can swell to 200 in the summer, he said.

AFES is designed to help youths who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

“We have kids from a tough situation that now have someone available for them.” he said.

That can range from an AFES volunteer picking up a sick child at school if the parents are not immediately available to help with studying or having a mentor attend the student’s school events.

“We’re part of the village that’s going to raise that child,” he said.

One thing Clayton hopes to see with the new facility is the creation of a program to help combat childhood obesity.

“It will be a structured environment to do some physical activity and burn off some energy,” he said.

Clayton said they are in the planning stages for a more involved skill-to-work program in which students would be able to learn basic welding, plumbing, small engine repair and other useful skills.

“We’re working with Iowa Central Community College and the Fort Dodge high school,” he said. ” We want to make sure we’re working along the same curriculum.”

Project SLAM, which is the AFES fundraiding effort, will continue to seek financial support. He said they are planning one event a month through April.