Boys & Girls Club

Front Page / Dec. 10, 2009 3:35pm EST

Several Changes, Same Goal

By Mary Margaret Breed

The Boys and Girls Club (B&GC) of the White River Valley has undergone significant change in 2009. The executive director, programming director, and almost all other employees are new.

As of last month, the administrative offices have moved to the former Chittenden Bank building at 34 Pleasant St., just across the tracks from the teen center, which reopened in October on South Pleasant Street.

However the B&G Club’s mission—to enable all young people to fulfill their potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens—hasn’t changed.

“We are open to all kids, although those who might otherwise be left to their own devices after school are a special concern,” said White River Valley B&GC Executive Director Katina Cummings.

“The club is a safe and positive place to learn and grow, while having fun.”

And while the teen center is the facility most identified with the B&GC, most of its programs are run elsewhere—in schools and at municipal recreation fields.

In Randolph during the school year, groups usually meet right in the school building, Cummings noted, where B&GC staff can supervise and facilitate.

“At the same time it’s not a repeat of the school day,” she emphasized. “Last year kids in one of our after-school programs built a catapult, and this year we have hip-hop.”

She said the fun part “is very important,” along with personal relationships with caring adult mentors, and opportunities for kids to learn from each other and complete homework.

Randolph, Bethel, Brookfield, Northfield, Braintree, and Hartford are served through programs on school campuses and teen centers are located in Northfield and Randolph. There are fees for membership and certain activities, but these are modest and families going through hard times may get scholarships.

Programming Director Becky Raymond, who came on board Sept. 1, emphasized, “We don’t want cost to be a barrier.” She encourages families who would like to participate not to hesitate for financial reasons, but to contact her to explore financial options.

The club also contracts with Randolph to manage the skating rink, swimming pool, summer camps, and some adult sports. The town will pay the club about $80,000 for those activities this year.

Camps and Sports

B&GC summer camps in Randolph serve 65-70 kids in grades 1-5 for six to eight weeks, typically in one-week sessions, gathering at the “red building” near Randolph’s Little League fields.

Camp Go for grades 6, 7, and 8, meets in one-week sessions for six to eight weeks, and is run by veteran youth worker Kevin Dunwoodie. Camp Go campers usually take a full-day out-of-town outing once a week, with the rest of the week devoted to activities in and around town. Most days include swim time at Randolph’s town pool as well.

“We also hire really good kids from high school and college to staff the camps, which run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily with extended opportunities for working families. And the cost to families is half the cost of a typical summer camp, even a YMCA camp,” Raymond said.

Pricing and other details for camps in the coming summer are under development in concert with the town of Randolph. Camps are jointly funded by the town of Randolph and the B&GC.

The B&GC is currently advertising for a sports and fitness director to serve the entire White River Valley alliance of B&GC.

Raymond will manage the ice rink and, when hired, the new sports director will assist.“We are interviewing carefully,” Raymond emphasized. “We’re determined to get just the right person.”

Board members for the WRV alliance are drawn all over the region, including at least one from each town. They’re a mix of business people, educators, retired people, mid-career citizens, and people with kids in the program, Raymond reported.

Funding comes from several sources including federal grants and the town of Randolph. Boys and Girls Club of America got federal stimulus money this year and distributed it among their clubs.

The administrative staff for WRV includes a part-time grant-writer, Erin Smith, who also works directly with kids in Bethel; Ashley Patton, office manager; Becky Raymond, director of programming; and Katina Cummings, executive director. There are 12 to 15 paid field employees.

Volunteers Prized

“And without our wonderful volunteers, including many parents, we could not do what we do,” Cummings emphasized. “Kids thrive on parental involvement.”

This is one of six B&GC alliances in Vermont, part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which serves about 4.6 million young people annually in approximately 3.900 clubs nationally. The Clubs emphasize character and leadership, personal growth, education and careers, creativity, and health and life skills.

Boys and girls participate in about equal numbers, Cummings said, “although at the teen level we see a slight increase in the percentage of boys.”

Most alumni of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America are not famous, but a few are, including Bill Clinton, marathoner Joan Benoit Samuelson, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, and many other household names. Actor Denzel Washington has been national spokesperson for 16 years.

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