Summer program in 43rd year

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2014

Erik McClain goes up for a lay-up shot as Jay Benson defends him in the gym of the Will Coleman Center.

Erik McClain goes up for a lay-up shot as Jay Benson defends him in the gym of the Will Coleman Center.

For the 43rd year, Andalusia boys basketball coach Richard Robertson is devoting his summer to helping area children, and he has gathered a staff of like-minded people over the years.

Coach Marshall Locke is just one of the staff members, which also includes lifeguards and other workers, at the Will Coleman Center in Andalusia, where he says approximately 60 kids come each day to beat the heat and get in some good, safe fun.

“Coach Robertson started this 43 years ago,” Locke said Wednesday, while watching over and semi-officiating indoor basketball, dodge ball and various other games. “He started this as a coaching tool; as a way to coach local athletes during the summer.”

Locke said the program was originally held at Andalusia Middle School, located just down the road from the center on C.C. Baker Avenue, but was eventually moved to its own building in order to accommodate the program’s growing numbers.

“It started as all boys,” Locke said. “It later evolved into adding females about 32 years ago. It was housed at the middle school, but the program grew and the city built this building in 1989.”

Today, Locke said the City of Andalusia continues to oversee the program, while the Andalusia City School System provides lunch each day at Andalusia Elementary School.

The program is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. for children, ages 5 to 14. Locke said the children typically play table games in the morning, before spending their afternoons on the playground outside, or inside the gymnasium. From 1 until 4 p.m., the public pool is also open and children may swim for $1.

Locke said the program gives local children a safe place to come and be active in a controlled, disciplined environment.

“We just have one motto here,” he said. “To stay here, you must do right.”