DECATUR — Teens will have a new state-of-the-art place to hang out at the Boys & Girls Club of Decatur after a $710,000 donation from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Executive Director Bruce Jeffery said Thursday.
Plans for the new teen center and the check from the foundation will be revealed Tuesday at the organization's fall festival at its headquarters, 859 N. Jasper St.
“I’ve been here for quite some time, and this is the best thing that’s happened in the organization since I’ve been here,” Jeffery said.
The news comes a day after the Herald & Review reported that Buffett, the son of multibillionaire Warren Buffett, is expected to be named Macon County sheriff on Friday. He would be filling out the term of retiring Sheriff Thomas Schneider, who previously announced he would not run in the 2018 election and is expected to step down.
The donation is the latest in millions of dollars that Buffett has given to various law enforcement, social service and recreation causes in Decatur through his private foundation. A spokesperson for the Buffett Foundation, which focuses its work on global hunger and wildlife conservation, could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Jeffery said the money will help with the Boys & Girls club mission of being a safe place for young people. He hopes it will especially help teens feel like they have their own place to hang out at the club.
The donation also pays for new vans for the organization as well as new floors and air conditioning — “You name it, it was included,” Jeffery said.
The need for a safe place was highlighted when a 12-year-old boy was shot May 17 after police say a man forced his way into a residence in the 400 block of South Maffit Street. After that incident, Jeffrey expressed his concerns and frustration about the safety of Decatur's children to community leaders.
“When children are exposed and have to deal with gun violence, that is the real issue in our community,” he said.
Jeffery said the right person must have heard his message. Soon after, the Buffett Foundation expressed interest in donating to the club.
The fall festival is free on Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will include the groundbreaking of the teen center, entertainment, food and free T-shirts for all the guests.
“It is really one of those (situations where) he could have picked anybody, and the fact that he chose us — I am very very excited about that,” Jeffery said.