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St. James Center's new look
Ernie Walthour, Jr., Director of the St. James Center, stands on a treadmill in the newly renovated weight room. The new Body Master equipment cost around $80,000. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon
The St. James Sports Center is sporting a new look as renovations to the gym and weight center are now complete.
Director Ernie Walthour said he was pleased with the way the facility turned out and is anxious for the kids to enjoy the renovated facility.
“We made a lot of improvements to the center,” he said. “We purchased $80,000 worth of weights for the weight room, and spent $50,000 on the renovations to the rest of the building. We improved the aerobics area with new mirrors, overhauled the main gym area with new paint on the ceilings and walls, renovated the snack bar and gave the place a whole new look.”
In addition to the interior renovations Walthour is looking to expand existing programs and create new ones.
“We have so many participating in basketball and now we have co-ed volleyball and we are clearing the field across the street to develop our new soccer field,” he said.
Walthour said that his pool of volunteer coaches and staff in soccer and volleyball are helping his ability to expand on these programs sooner than he originally expected. He felt it was a positive response from the community in the way the St. James Center is viewed as a value for the children in the area. In expanding his program for this year he is working on a volunteer that will come in to teach music for the children and is preparing the facility for the after school program that began Tuesday.
The St. James Center is free to school age children and Walthour extends the use of the facility to schools like FPCA who use the gym for their basketball and volleyball teams. The student athletes may also work out in the weight room if their school does not have one.
Walthour has been with the St. James for 10 years and has developed a basketball program that is recognized by the community and collegiate scouts. Many of the young players who join the St. James Coastal Crew Rebels, during their off-season at school, develop skills making them more suitable to schools looking for potential players. Recently Bradwell graduates Justin Monroe and Deon Villascencio signed with Moorehouse College and Valdosta State, respectively.
This is part of what Walthour finds rewarding about his job.
“When you see someone from the lower end come up and get scholarships and go to college and they become lawyers and become successful, that is rewarding to me, that is why we do this,” he said.
Although the services provided to the children are free Walthour is grateful for the generosity from the community as the center does rely on donations. The center does not receive any funding from the government and Walthour knows that the success is related to the people and families around him. Among the many contributors Walthour had a special thanks for two local men who really made several things possible for the center this year.
“Jay and Joel Osteen, God bless them, they are major supporters to the St. James Center and I personally would like to thank them both for all their support,” he said.
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