Girls Inc. Unveils Building Plans to Meet Community Needs

New Health and Recreation Center Will Meet Community Needs

Rendering-View-from-SoutheastOmaha, Neb. – August 13, 2013 – Girls Incorporated of Omaha (Girls Inc.) announced a major facilities expansion plan today. The $15 million project will feature a 55,000 square foot addition of a gymnasium and locker rooms; teen, media and fitness centers; and health and wellness space to their North Omaha facility and a partial renovation of the existing facility, including installation of an instructional kitchen.

Girls Inc. intends to make the programs and services located in these new facilities available to the members of both their north and south Omaha centers, as well as to young people and families in the surrounding community.

“The new gym will provide a home base for the sports activities our girls participate in through the YMCA. It will provide the space necessary for girls to be physically active all months of the year – something that can be challenging in Nebraska without a gym,” said Girls Inc. Executive Director Roberta Wilhelm.

Girl-Hub-SmallThe addition of a gymnasium is a major, strategic element of the project. Vigorous physical activity is a key component of every afterschool program, as an outlet for youthful high spirits as well as for the related fitness benefits. The North Center currently has a single, multipurpose space shared by sports, physical activity, performing arts and food service. The constraint that these activities must compete with food service for the multiuse space has been a serious, long-term issue. The new facility will also accommodate an enlarged fitness center and a studio for dance, yoga and other floor exercises.

Girls Inc. plans to make their new recreational space available to young people in the surrounding community by organizing sports, recreational and social events, as well as by making the space available to other local sports leagues.

Location of a teen room and a new media center in the addition should appeal to teenagers and the parents of younger girls alike.

“The new teen space will help us separate our teen girls from our youngest members. Mothers of five-year-old girls don’t necessarily want their girls hanging with seventeen and eighteen-year-old girls. Conversely, the teens don’t want to hang out with the ‘babies,’“ Wilhelm said.

“Our vision for the health and wellness space includes options for teens to access health services during non-traditional hours, such as at 10:00 on a Saturday night, when they are attending a dance in our gym. For our current members as well as local teens and young women in college, we envision that the clinic will become a medical home,” Wilhelm said.

Close-Up-HealthClinicGirls Inc. plans to collaborate with an existing health care provider to deliver preventative care such as immunizations and school and sports physicals as well as outpatient services for sick children and adolescents. Research into a best practices model for operating the clinic is ongoing.

Ira Combs of the UNMC College of Public Health’s Center for Reducing Health Disparities has documented the attrition of health care facilities in the area over the last 20 years. This reduction in accessible healthcare facilities has been followed by an upsurge in STD rates that has particularly affected minority young people ages 15 to 24.

The project design incorporates features that will support Girls Inc.’s gardening and healthy eating programs, developed to counter the growing incidence of obesity and related health problems among young people, particularly low-income and minority. Girls Inc. plans to make the instructional kitchen available for use by community groups as well as their own programs. Installing raised garden beds on a section of flat roof will protect them from pilferage.

The project was designed by The Architectural Offices, located in Omaha. $13.5 million of the $15 million estimated cost has already been raised. “The support of local philanthropists and foundations for the Girls Inc. vision and their commitment to the long-term wellbeing of the community’s young people is extraordinary,” said Wilhelm.

Girls Inc. is launching a community campaign to help raise the remainder of the necessary funds. “We are reaching out to the community for support and invite local individuals, groups and organizations to take ownership of this project with us,” Wilhelm said.