Boys and Girls Club celebrates 10 years | SierraSun.com

Boys and Girls Club celebrates 10 years

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

Jessica Luna, 15, has grown up at the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe and her success story reflects the club’s decade of progress.

Luna first joined the club when she was a shy 6-year-old. Since then the staff, her peers and the organization as a whole have helped her grow from a timid troublemaker to the confident, outgoing teenager she is today.

“Something happened this year and she blossomed,” said the club’s executive director Isabelle Rodriguez.

Luna is not the only North Tahoe teenager reaping the benefits of joining the Boys and Girls Club. The organization now serves approximately 200 youths each day, Rodriguez said.

“It’s hard to believe it’s really been 10 years,” said Dave Ferrari, one of the club’s founding members. “I think the idea started in about 1994, then when we opened the club 10 years ago, we opened it in an old shack.”

North Tahoe residents Ferrari, Joe Bordeau and Annamaria Shannon founded the Boys and Girls Club in 1997 in response to a lack of affordable child-care and youth-development activities.

“They felt there was room to bring [the club] and had a vision for a youth-development center on the North Shore,” Rodriguez said.

None of the three founders even had children of their own who would be served by the club, but were nonetheless dedicated to providing opportunities for North Tahoe students.

“When we started the club we were looking to do something for the kids in this community, because there had never been an after-school program and there just really wasn’t much to do,” Ferrari said.

The organization began operating out of two small houses in Kings Beach and soon incorporated with the national Boys and Girls Club organization raising more than $400,000 in their first year.

In 2001 the club initiated a campaign to raise nearly $5 million for a new building to partner with Kings Beach Elementary. Boys and Girls Club staff and the youths moved into the new 26,000 square-foot facility in January 2004.

“The Boys and Girls Club here, now in year 10, serves over 200 children a day between 3 and 6 p.m.,” said Rodriguez. “More than 50 percent of these kids come and have been here for more than one year. Seventy-five percent of these kids attend three to four times a week, and that is what you’re seeing in a person like Jessica Luna.”

Just two years ago Luna was a self-proclaimed troublemaker ” she was getting bad grades, involved in school fights and didn’t have a lot of friends. She decided to change both her attitude and her behavior, and is now doing well academically and employed part-time at the club.

“I was known as a troublemaker and I wanted to be known as a good person,” she said. “And to be more open to people instead of really shy.”

“I got more confidence in myself. I always used to be so negative towards myself. They also taught me manners … This year I met more people and I’m known more.”

“We are debt-free on our building, we’re serving more kids than ever … now that the building has been built, we’re focusing on building lives,” Rodriguez said.

The Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe is always looking to the community for continued financial support to expand programs to serve more youth, she said.

April is Boys and Girls Club Month, highlighted by a fundraising campaign, “It just takes one.” The campaign asks for help to keep the successful programs alive and for funding to serve the community for decades more.

Last July the club set a fundraising goal of $500,000. So far they have raised half of that and have just three months to raise another $250,000, Rodriguez said.

“The message I would love to get across is the importance of the community support for these kids … it’s the passion of the community that keeps it alive,” Rodriguez said.