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Supporters and representatives of the Boys & Girls Club of the Corridor gathered Thursday afternoon to formally break ground for the club’s new Busse Unit, culminating a $9 million capital fundraising campaign. And while John Tursi, the club’s executive director, was effusive in his thanks to staff, contractors and others in attendance, he was quick to point out that the new 19,000-square-foot facility will serve more than the club’s needs alone. “We're going to have so many things here that are going to resonate with people from 5 to 18 years old,” Mr. Tursi said. “And the one thing that Lori (Ampey, the club’s director of programming and outreach) and I really talked a lot about, is (while) it’s going to be a Boys and Girls Club, we also want the community to know that this is a building they can use. We're going to be able to serve this community and allow a lot of our partners to use this space, when we're out or when we're in.” The campaign for the new facility, dubbed “Unlocking Our Future,” was launched in September 2021, and formal plans for the new facility were announced in July 2022. The facility will be located next to the First Congregational United Church of Christ, at the intersection of Washington Avenue and 16th Street SE. The church itself has housed the Boys & Girls Club’s South Unit since 2004. The campaign to create the new facility is a key step in the local history of the Boys & Girls Club, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The club established operations in a building commonly known as the former Ellis YMCA at 1501 Ellis Blvd. NW in November 1993. Founder Mike O’Deen “and a group of community advocates were inspired to provide a safe and fun place for underprivileged youth,” reads an article on the group’s history. The Ellis facility was destroyed in the 2008 flood, and since then, the club has operated from a number of satellite locations. Now spanning Linn and Johnson counties, the group changed its name in 2020 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Corridor, and provides services to an estimated 300 young people daily via a central administrative office at Mercy Medical Center’s Sister Mary Lawrence Community Center, 420 Sixth Street SE. The new facility, which will also serve as the club’s new headquarters, will be known as the Boys & Girls Club of the Corridor Busse Unit. It’s being named for the LaVern and Audrey Busse family, well known for their work in the local investment and real estate field. Jeff Busse, executive director of the Busse Foundation launched by his parents, said his family’s commitment to the club’s campaign is “about three times larger” than any other financial commitment in the foundation’s history. “This project integrates well with (our) vision because it focuses on giving a hand up to the less fortunate here in our local community,” Mr. Busse said. “The charitable giving strategy that they’ve imparted on our family is fairly simple, and it comes down to this one core question: where can we do the most good with the resources that we allocate to charity? We believe this project does the most good and will provide an excellent return on our charitable investment.” Other speakers at the event included Cedar Rapids mayor Tiffany O’Donnell, past Boys & GIrls Club board chair Patrick Cosgrove, Linn County supervisor Ben Rogers and capital campaign chair Charlie Rohde. The new facility will be constructed on two levels. The first level will feature a gymnasium, a cafeteria with a serving kitchen, a large game room, educational space and a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program room. The second level will feature amenities to appeal to pre-teens and teenagers, including a large teen center, a teaching kitchen, an art room and a music room with a DJ booth. Mr. Tursi said he hopes those latter features will broaden the appeal of the Boys & Girls Club to an older youth audience, a segment that’s traditionally been difficult for the club to attract. The new facility isn’t expected to replace any current Boys & Girls Club unit sites, Mr. Tursi said. In fact, the club hopes the building will offer the ability to double the number of students served overall each day, from 300 to nearly 600. Following the groundbreaking, formal construction activities are expected to begin this summer and be complete within a year.