Project is about four years ahead of schedule

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FARMINGTON — Many stakeholders in a five-year plan to build a teen center at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Farmington have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly the project has progressed.

An original plan for the project called for the money funding its construction to be raised over a five-year period. But supporters managed to generated the money in a far shorter period of time, putting the project approximately four years ahead of schedule.

Members of the community and local officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the John Oliphant Taco Bell Teen Center at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Farmington on Monday afternoon.

The approximately 2,500-square-foot addition, which has an estimated price tag of $622,000, will provide middle and high school students with a space dedicated solely to them.

Recognizing the rapid growth of the club's teen membership, the board of directors and club officials identified the need for additional space, according to its CEO Maria Rodman.

"We knew if we didn't build it, we would lose them," Rodman said.

Kenny Anderson, vice chair of the club's board, said there were only about six or 10 teens in the program when he joined the board three years ago.

Now, the after-school program for middle and high school students has about 60 teens enrolled with a total of 486 teens participating in the after-school, summer and sports programs, according to Rodman.

Rodman and Anderson told The Daily Times how discussions started nearly 30 years ago about the possibility of opening a teen center at the club when Marilyn Anderson — Kenny's mother and franchisee of the three Farmington Taco Bell locations — spoke about the idea with former Boys & Girls Clubs of Farmington CEO John Oliphant.

Kenny Anderson is the director of operations for Four Corners Taco Inc., which manages his mother's restaurants. It was a discussion he and his mother had in late 2016 that started to put the wheels in motion for the construction of the teen center.

Their discussion followed a presentation by Rodman to the club's board in which he said the club was out of space and "bursting at the seams."

Kenny Anderson was providing an update on the board's activity when his mother suggested the project.

"She was like, 'Maybe we build a teen center,'" Kenny Anderson said.

Marilyn Anderson suggested initiating a fund-raising drive to generate money for the project. The Farmington Taco Bell restaurants then launched a five-year campaign in 2017 through which employees were tasked with asking for donations from customers throughout the month of March each year.

The program has been in place for two years, and all the money raised from that effort went toward the original five-year plan to raise funds for the teen center, Kenny Anderson said.

An advisory committee was formed after more than $45,000 was raised during two annual donation drives. The club also received a $50,000 grant from a private family foundation.

Marilyn Anderson followed by making a separate five-year commitment of $100,000 to operate the center.

"With that generosity, we were certainly open to naming the teen center in her honor," Rodman said.

A compromise was reached, and that led to the John Oliphant Taco Bell name on the teen center, Rodman said. Oliphant passed away in January 2017.

The Farmington City Council pledged a total of nearly $350,000 to the project in 2017 and 2018, part of which comes from federal Community Development Block Grant funds, according to Rodman. The city's funding helped accelerate the plans for construction of the teen center, as the funding came with a deadline by which the money needed to be spent, Anderson said.

Other fundraising efforts, including an auction of Oliphant's art, helped cover the nearly $622,000 in construction costs.

Work on the project is expected to start in November, and officials hope to stage a ribbon-cutting ceremony before summer.

The addition will be built on the south side of the building in an enclosed patio area near Los Ninos Park.

The teens wanted to have their own entrance that would provide them with opportunities to hold night and weekend events, Kenny Anderson said.

A conference room will be built where teen clubs can meet, including the Boys & Girls Clubs' community service-focused Keystone Club.

"They wanted spaces in their teen center where they can congregate and talk with each other," Rodman said.

Offices will be constructed, as the organization is considering creating new teen director and teen coordinator positions.

Rodman plans on making the teen center available for other middle and high school community programs, citing the amount of funding the city of Farmington contributed to the project.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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