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New Stateline Boys & Girls Club grand opening set for Dec. 28


After months of construction, the Stateline Boys & Girls Club is inviting the public to the grand opening of its new Joel Barrett Boys & Girls Club facility on Dec. 28.

The event, scheduled to run from 3 to 5 p.m., will include guided tours, refreshments and little gifts for all.

“It’s an opportunity for us to show the public the finished product,” Stateline Boys & Girls Club CEO Mark Rand said. “This also gives club members and their families the opportunity to see it and get the lay of the land before it officially opens on Jan. 3.”

Kids in attendance will get a passport to collect stamps in each room of the new facility. Those who get all the stamps will be entered in a prize drawing.

Visitors also will be able to view the new history wall, assembled with help from the Beloit Historical Society. The wall includes historic photographs and news articles about the club and the community.

The Boys & Girls Club broke ground in April on parcels bounded by Maple Avenue, Shore Drive and Sixth Street in Beloit, just blocks from Beloit Memorial High School. The work is scheduled for completion by the end of this month with children arriving at the facility for programming after winter break on Jan. 3.

The club’s current Beloit facility, built in 1960, is at 1851 Moore St. on the city’s far west side. The new facility is more centrally located and is closer to the student population at Beloit Memorial. Not only will the new site expand its reach to teens, but it will be more visible and accessible with its location on school bus routes.

Rand said the club provides shuttle service to schools and some school bus transportation options. The current club location is on two bus routes and the new location is on four school bus routes.

The new facility would offer expanded science, technology, engineering, art and math activities; increased teen programming; and allow for increased capacity to reach more youth. The center also will allow for community collaboration for career exploration, cooking classes and more.

The new facility will have enhanced safety features including video surveillance and two sets of doors at each entrance. It also offers 24,765 square feet of space compared to the existing facility’s 16,000 square feet.

It also features a large gym, bigger classrooms, more office and sports equipment storage space, kitchen facilities, a teen center, patio areas, a sound studio, a playground and more. A teaching kitchen donated by Kerry Ingredients will be in the teen area where youngsters can learn about healthy eating and hone their culinary skills. The gym will be large enough to be split in half to offer two programs at the same time.

The teen center entrance will be on Maple Avenue with the main entrance off the parking lot on Shore Drive. With the enhanced focus on programming for teens and the new location near the high school, the club hopes teens can go from 20% of club membership to 30% or 45%.

The facility is located on 4.7 acres, which will include soccer and football fields.

Rand said current membership is 1,600. Its average daily attendance on its after-school program is 100 in Beloit and 60 in South Beloit, Illinois.

“Those numbers are steadily climbing and coming back from COVID-19,” Rand said.

The club has served primarily the Beloit, Beloit Turner and South Beloit school districts and Rock County Christian School. The number of Turner students and Lincoln Academy students participating is increasing.

The club provides daily after-school care from 3 to 6 p.m. and expanded teen hours from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The clubs also pick up Beloit School District students on early-release days and provide care for all districts on nonschool days.

“When schools are out, clubs are in,” Rand said.

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Time to send mail into Rock County Jail, state prisons running short

Changes made earlier this year for sending mail to people in state prisons and the Rock County Jail could make sending holiday mail a little complicated, but officials say it isn’t too late to get mail to inmates by Christmas.

Instead of handling personal items addressed to incarcerated people directly at state prisons, the Department of Corrections now sends items to an outside company called TextBehind to inspect and scan the mail and then deliver it to prisons.

Authorities said the change was in response to paper mail being soaked in synthetic drugs and sent into prisons. During the month of September alone, they said, 182 incidents occurred where K2, also known as “spice,” and other cannabinoids got into prisons.

The new process comes with no extra charge for senders or inmates. Periodicals, legal mail or other professional mail are exempted from the scanning process.

In October, the Rock County Jail implemented a similar process through a company called Earth Class Mail. Local authorities also said more drugs were being smuggled into the jail in the form of cannabinoid-laced letters to inmates who later rolled them up and smoked them.

Both the DOC and county programs are similar with incoming mail sent to processing facilities in Maryland and Oregon, respectively.

TextBehind, the company working with state prisons, has photocopies printed and delivered to prisons free of charge, but inmates have to wait up to three days to receive them. It takes TextBehind up to 24 hours to screen, photocopy and mail physical letters through the U.S. Postal Service’s two-day shipping service.

The process for Earth Class Mail is similar, but the photocopies are sent digitally to tablets that are regularly accessible to inmates. They can also have letters printed for a fee included in the jail’s phone privileges.

County jail Administrator Capt. Kim Litsheim said there is a demand for printed photos for inmates.

“What we’re finding is that people don’t want pictures on the scanning system,” she said. There is a workaround, however, that allows people to place orders online or through stores that develop photos digitally that can be sent directly to the jail.

Litsheim said the jail’s mail program has been successful up to this point and has eliminated all drugs sent via mail. Prior to the switch, the jail made an announcement giving the public advance notice, but the process was not without hiccups.

“It was a learning curve for everybody,” Litsheim said, adding the jail is working its way through any initial issues.

The DOC has acknowledged complaints surrounding the quality of processed mail, which included images being cut off during the scanning process, but this does not appear to be an issue locally. Litsheim said she has yet to field such complaints.

“I have not heard anything about mail and not being readable, so it seems to be going well,” she said.