Teens at the Don & Sallie Davis Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee were greeted with a surprise when they arrived at the club after school on Wednesday.
The teen center — a space in the club’s basement where teens gather after school — had undergone a makeover, complete with new laptops, electronics, furniture, video and board games and a fresh coat of paint.
The transformation was made possible by a $29,000 donation and volunteer labor from Aaron’s, Inc., an Atlanta-based lease-to-own retailer that focuses on leases and retail sales of furniture, electronics, appliances and computers.
“Aaron’s has come in and completely made over the space, much more than we were expecting,” said Alyssa Dawson, assistant club manager.
In 2015, Aaron’s announced a three-year, $5 million partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Keystone Program, which provides leadership development for youth, ages 14-18. The makeover at Don & Sallie Davis Boys & Girls Club, located on West Rogers Street in Milwaukee, marked the company’s 21st renovation.
“It was such a thrill to see the surprise and happiness on all of our teens’ faces at this surprise unveiling,” said Vincent Lyles, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. “The Don & Sallie Davis Club is an invaluable resource for the Milwaukee community, and we’re so grateful to Aaron’s for inspiring our teen members so they can become leaders in their communities and beyond.”
While the unveiling on Wednesday was a surprise to teens, they had a lot of say into its transformation. Representatives with Aaron’s recently met with with the teens to brainstorm what features they wanted the space to have.
Taking those recommendations, volunteers worked throughout Monday and Tuesday to install the furniture and electronics.
“Nationwide, we’re pushing member voice,” Dawson said. “So we wanted to give teens the ability to design the space they hang out in. They planned everything out and what they wanted and Aaron’s made it come to life … It was a teen center before but it was pretty outdated. We had minimal furniture, hand-me-down kind of stuff. Aaron’s has come in and completely made over the space, much more than we were expecting.”
The center now includes a lab of touchscreen laptops, a projection movie theater, virtual reality center, study tables and multiple couches. The center is open from 2:30-9 p.m. on weekdays for teens. The Don & Sallie Davis club serves more than 60 teens on any given day, Dawson said.
“Teens are definitely the most challenging age group to get into the clubs,” she said. “There’s so much we’re competing with, between sports and jobs and friends and whatnot. So this is really going to show the kids that we think about them and we value them and we want them here.”
The Boys & Girls Club also contributed about $10,000 to the teen center project.