by Barbara Garland –
As I walked into the Boys & Girls Club (located in the old Carver Elementary School) I was immediately struck by the bustling activity. Ushered into the library, which was cheerfully decorated with Easter and Spring decorations, our group from Seeds of Strength was warmly welcomed by Diane Rasmussen, Volunteer Coordinator. Kelly St. Julien, Branch Manager, and Tommy Rice, Unit Director, spent time explaining the program and how the Seeds of Strength grant is being used.
The $20,000 grant from Seeds of Strength has made it possible for approximately 45 children and youth to be mentored in one-on-one weekly sessions. These children are those who need extra attention because of discipline issues, those who need a little one-on-one attention, or those who may be more introverted. While they have not devised specific metrics to monitor results, the staff is seeing consistent improvement in the behavior for those children who are being mentored.
The Boys & Girls Club currently serves 167 children and youth, half of whom come from single-parent homes. At least 75% of the children served qualify for reduced lunches, but children do come from all demographics. The cost of the program is $25 per child per year, but there is a $50 maximum fee per family. Children can participate in the summer program for $10 per week per child.
After we received an overview from the adult staff, we were greeted and taken on a tour of the facility by Serenity and Rayna, two regular participants in the program. Serenity has been coming to the center for two years, and her favorite activities are martial arts and STEM Scouting. Rayna has been coming for five years. She likes the staff, piano, and choir.
As we toured the arts room, music room, and computer room, it was clear that the programs of the Boys and Girls Club are fluid and ever-evolving. From a study club to dance classes, music and choir classes, STEM activities, computer, arts and crafts, LEGOS, and sports and fitness, there is something for every child to become immersed in. Clearly, the classes provide some of the same advantages that private lessons might give to children in other demographics.
The program of the Boys & Girls Club could not run without volunteers. Many of the programs that are offered depend on the expertise of the volunteers, who volunteer to teach various classes, such as music and art. In addition, the music program depends on the availability of various instruments, such as keyboards and guitars. Other volunteers are students from Southwestern University and local high schools.
As we walked down the halls, decorated with thank-you cards to Seeds of Strength, it was apparent to me that our grant to the Boys & Girls Club has truly made a difference in the lives of these young people.
It was a joy to attend this site visit with SoS folks Terri Boroczk, Eugenia Koog, Christine Williams, and Therese Verdonk.