It was cold and empty inside the usual home of the Sherman Boys & Girls Club Wednesday afternoon; cold because there was no heat — no utilities at all, in fact — and empty because the structure is currently condemned.

It was cold and empty inside the usual home of the Sherman Boys & Girls Club Wednesday afternoon; cold because there was no heat — no utilities at all, in fact — and empty because the structure is currently condemned.


Utility service to the building was disconnected last week after thousands of pounds of ice collapsed the roof of the building’s gymnasium, folding steel supports as if they were made of gel and pulling vertical I-beams away from the main structure, creating an open-air gap in the roof several feet wide. The building was ruled unsafe for even construction crews.


"We still only missed one day of service," said Club Director Mike DeLong. "We’ve pretty much got (the gym) shored up now, which is what we’ve been working on with our engineer. We had to get it safe for the people working in it. We’ll work on demolition and then the next phase will be to reconstruct."


For DeLong and the 800-odd kids that the organization serves each year, the wrecked structure has meant a temporary change of location. The Club is now running its operations from an outbuilding at the Fairview Baptist Church and will use the gymnasium at Austin College for sports.


"With the new location and with the use of the Austin College facility, there have been several folks that have contacted us about making contributions to help us rebuild," said DeLong. "We do have insurance, but when you get into these things, we are going to have additional expenses over and above our deductible. But the community has responded."


That response will need to be ongoing, said club organizers facing an unspecified time table and uncertain costs as experts evaluate their blighted home.


"As we get further into the evaluation of our facility from the engineer, we’ll have a better idea of how long we’re going to be out of pocket" said DeLong. "We could be looking at a month, maybe two months. Everything is kind of a crystal ball right now that we’re looking through; it’s like a moving target. We haven’t been able to evaluate the entire facility to get a good pulse for all the damage that’s there."


Club staff is doing their best to make the Fairview location feel like home. Donated basketball rims have worked to retrofit the church gym, and a Foosball table is among the games that they’ve transferred to the new digs.


"We got a ping-pong table put together; some of the other recreational stuff we do, we can do here," said DeLong. "There’s some more that we need to bring over. We’re just trying to get our feel for how it’s going to work this first week. Depending on how long we’re going to be out, potentially we could bring some of our computers over."


Club employee Erica Lashley said attendance at the new location was slow to catch up, but has since rebounded to levels near those before the storm.


"Monday it was low, because it’s a different place and some people just didn’t know," said Lashley. "But it’s coming back up to where it should be."


DeLong said the children are simply grateful to have an uncollapsed roof over their heads.


"I think they’ve adjusted better than I have," he said with a laugh. "They’re just happy to have a place to go after school, you know, where their friends are and where they can catch up with their homework."