TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Where do children receive education and career development, participation in arts programs, sports, fitness and recreation, health and life skills with character and leadership development?
At the Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe in Kings Beach, celebrating their 15th anniversary this year. Drop in for a tour, and find youths from Kings Beach, Truckee, Incline Village and Tahoe City tucked around tables intent on homework, coloring with bright markers, painting or perhaps making pottery, teens cooking in the Chop Shop program in the commercial-quality BGCNLT kitchen.
Under the caring supervision of adult and peer counselors, almost 300 children are tended to daily after school, with more than 100 arriving each day for the summer program.
Three founders, Dave Ferrari, Annamaria Shannon and Joe Bourdeau had a vision, which continues today in full swing, with attendance numbers increasing.
According to Executive Director Mindy Carbajal, BGCNLT seeks to make a hub of youth activities accessible to all children, regardless of socio-economic background, and through partnerships, meet the needs of families.
On June 16, 1997, a kickoff campaign began for the Club, with incorporation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization status following the same month. That summer, the Founder’s Fund Campaign yielded donations and pledges of $420,000 to be collected over three years, including $70,000 per year for three years from the North Tahoe Public Utility District to run the Parks and Recreation program. The Club negotiated a contract the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District for the temporary use of an additional house on Wolf Street in Kings Beach, and in January 2004, opened the new BGCNLT building on the campus of Kings Beach Elementary.
“This club is here today because of partnerships,” said Carbajal. “Putting this building on their (TTUSD) property next to Kings Beach Elementary … is one of the greatest successes.” It is a win-win situation, where the expansive, airy gym and art facilities is used by KBE students by day, then filled with activities at the BGCNLT after school. Partnerships range from the school district, NTPUD, the Tahoe Rim Trail, the Aim High school readiness program and many, many others.
Diversity is a key component to the BGCNLT’s success, catering to all types of interests. But what makes the programming really click is the longevity of the staff, leading them to form relationships with each child, offering a strong mentoring component. It’s the “meat” of the program, said Carbajal of a staff where 60 percent stay three years or longer.
Austin Von Renner, who is taking a semester off from Sierra Nevada College and is currently a Club counselor, said, “It’s an awesome place for the opportunities it gives children … who might have nothing … to snowboard, to learn the computer … in a safe environment.”
Leaders at the Club might do a quick check in on a day-to-day basis, a simple question like “How’s your day going?” to being connected with community services such as Tahoe SAFE Alliance, Family Resource Centers, can turn a bad day to good, and effectively help children with their schoolwork and home lives.
“The general feeling is that the Club has really transformed,” said Development Director Stephany Arroyo. “It has become a second home to the kids. The founders initially thought it would benefit the kids, but it’s really benefited the entire community, I’m grateful they had the vision to create it.”
And the vision is passionately supported by the Board of Directors, said Carbajal.
President of the Board and 38-year educator John Neary tells it like this: “OMG! … I taught sociology, and often sociology says there is no stronger human need, not water, not sex, not food, well, maybe food, is the affiliation need, the need to belong, from elementary to high school kids and on through life.”
He mentions for many working or single parents, who might absent more than they would like, the Club provides everything from Power Hour, the daily the homework club, to athletics to arts.
BGCNLT members learn the value of community service, learn to follow rules, get along, wait their turn, and are held accountable for their behavior. Neary said they take away a sense of being important, their self esteem is greatly enhanced, they find friends, and have an inter-cultural experience.
A study by Columbia University, (click here) confirmed that Boys & Girls Clubs — officially founded in 1906, with origins dating back to 1865 — confirmed that B&G Clubs in public housing have a significant impact on juvenile crime (reduced 13 percent), drug activity (reduced 22 percent), and the presence of crack cocaine (reduced 25 percent). “We have a place where kids are surrounded by positive influences with cool activities,” said Arroyo. “It makes perfect sense.”
The world of nonprofits is a tough existence these days, even with the multitude of present partners. BGCNLT is a charter of the national organization. They receive resources such as curriculum for Power Hour, trainings at other Boys & Girls Clubs, and branding recognition. Arroyo said this is advantageous because the staff doesn’t “have to reinvent the wheel,” however, they do not receive financial support.
“It sure would be nice to have a big corporate sponsor,” said Neary. “It’s a tough economy, and we want to be goin’ and growin’, but we need some help.” Hint, hint.
Potential donors, community members, families, everyone is encouraged to attend the Club’s annual Kid’s First Breakfast, June 8, 9-11:30 a.m. at 8125 Steelhead Ave. in Kings Beach. Club Chef Melissa Erle will prepare the gourmet breakfast with support from Northstar’s culinary team.
“The great thing about the breakfast, everybody (the Club kids) who comes in is so damn cute,” said Neary. “The kids really take ownership of the place.”
The breakfast is free, with donations gladly accepted. RSVP to 530-546-4324. For summer programming and more information, visit www.bgcnlt.org.
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