Muskegon County Commissioner donates $ 1 million to Boys & Girls Club facility to honor late wife

MUSKEGON, MI – The Boys & Girls Club of Muskegon Lakeshore has received another million dollar donation for a new clubhouse for youth and teens.

Muskegon County Commissioner Bob Scolnik, a Republican from Norton Shores, pledged the gift to a stunned crowd at the Boys & Girls Club Great Futures gala on Saturday, September 18.

“I’ve been thinking about a major donation for a while and wanted to leave a legacy for Muskegon,” Scolnik said.

Related: Muskegon Boys and Girls Club buys Lakeshore Fitness Center, promises community access

The Boys & Girls Club recently purchased the former Lakeshore Fitness Center, 900 W. Western Ave., to house the new pavilion. A $ 7.5 million fundraising campaign has been launched to support renovations and upgrades to the 40-year-old facility.

Scolnik, a founding board member of the Muskegon Boys & Girls Club, said he made the donation to honor his wife Merle, a former teacher who died in January.

“She had a great warm place in her heart for children. I wanted to have our names on this building just to remember her, ”he said. “Years from now people might not know who she was, but at least they know she cared enough.”

Bob and Merle Scolnik, shown in the Scolnik House Depression-era Historic Site at 405 W. Clay Ave. in Muskegon for which they were major donors. (MLive file photo)

This was the third million dollar donation for the new Boys and Girls Club facility.

Dave House, a former Muskegon resident who now lives in California, made the first gift to the fundraising campaign, and local couple Chris McGuigan and Gary Neal donated $ 1 million in June.

“For them, entrusting their legacy to the Boys & Girls Club is a lesson in humility,” said the organization’s professional director, Dakota Crow.

Crow said the new clubhouse will be named after Bob and Merle Scolnik and a fitness center will honor the Neal family.

Approximately $ 5.6 million has been raised to date, with an additional $ 500,000 coming from Scolnik’s donation for an endowment.

Related: Local couple donate $ 1 million to new Muskegon Boys & Girls Club facility

Crow said the endowment would be used to secure “the future of this space as a community center” after former owners Muskegon Community College and Muskegon YMCA encountered financial problems maintaining the 60,000 square foot facility.

Muskegon Community College closed Lakeshore Fitness Center in May 2020 and sold it to the Boys & Girls Club after losing $ 2.5 million over five years.

When the facility was purchased for $ 1.17 million, the club pledged to provide public access to the beloved fitness center and reopened the pool this summer.

Located on Muskegon Lake next to Heritage Landing, the facility houses a lap pool, hot tub, weight training equipment, exercise studios, basketball courts and an indoor track .

“This project has become more than just a boys and girls club. It has turned into a full community center for everyone, of all ages, ”said Crow.

Related: Muskegon College lists closed fitness center after $ 2.5 million in losses

Renovations are slated to begin in January 2022 to develop a new teen zone, cafeteria, STEM lab, art studio, game rooms, study areas, and outdoor recreation space.

A dividing wall will also be built to separate the pavilion from the community fitness center.

“We’re really going to end up having one of the best boys and girls clubs in the whole of America when it’s completely renovated. And I wanted to help with that, ”Scolnik said.

The Boys & Girls Club of Muskegon Lakeshore began in 2015 serving 30 youth. It now reaches 1,700 young people each year in seven schools and three summer parks.

The new clubhouse will increase its capacity to accommodate 250 young people per day when it opens fully in 2023.

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