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Boys & Girls Club brings hope and improvements to North Bellport

The Boys & Girls Club of the Bellport

The Boys & Girls Club of the Bellport Area in North Bellport held an outdoor movie night on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. The facility offers a learning center, a computer lab equipped with about 25 desktops, and a high school-sized basketball court. Credit: Johnny Milano

The Boys & Girls Club in North Bellport, envisioned as a way to help local youth while boosting the community's revitalization, has in two years accomplished those goals, civic leaders say.

Supporters of the club cite its initiatives such as partnering with Brookhaven National Laboratory as helping raise the profile of the $4 million facility.

The goals are straightforward, said Jason Neal, the club's program coordinator. They include engaging local youth while making academics, high character and personal values priorities.

"The community is changing for the better and there is growth," Neal said. "When we have kids here, they aren't in the street. They can see that they can have a future."

The Greater Bellport Coalition holds its meetings in the club at 471 Atlantic Ave. Brookhaven Town uses the building for some of its functions.

The facility, formally known as the Boys & Girls Club of the Bellport Area, offers a learning center, computer lab equipped with about 25 desktops, and a regulation basketball court.

On most days, about 90 young people use the facilities. About 120 volunteers routinely show up for various events held there.

Creative ideas come to life inside the art room. The library is stocked with donated books. A variety of shows are held in the facility's theater. Recreational amenities includes a pool, and air hockey and Ping-Pong tables.

"It's doing well. It's being utilized. It's a great little area for recreational use," said Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who represents North Bellport.

The club will host its second annual 5k walk for young people on Sept 20.

Among the programs the facility hosts is Page Turners, in which former teachers read to students 12 years and younger twice each week, and Goals to Graduation, which takes students on college tours.

This summer, students took four trips to Brookhaven National Laboratory to watch science experiments.

"It's a diamond; it's such a boon for the community. We're developing the youth," John Rogers, Greater Bellport Coalition chairman, said of the club. They're "helping to groom the next batch of leaders for the community," he added.

The 25,000-square-foot community center opened in 2012, just as $1 million in renovations to the adjacent Robert Rowley Park were completed.

Hamlet residents billed both projects as a positive step toward giving young people areas for recreation.

Officials have said they hoped the facilities would help decrease crime in the area.

In 2011, there were three arrests at the park for criminal possession of marijuana, according to Suffolk police. There have been no arrests there this year, said Aristides Mojica, commanding officer of the Fifth Precinct, which patrols North Bellport.

"The area had a bad reputation before revitalization efforts started," he said.

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