The Boys & Girls Club keeps growing
The Morgan County unit of the Boys & Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle just keeps growing.
Some 105 children and 35 teen volunteers attended the 10-week summer program, said Boys & Girls Club unit director Chris Risinger at the August 24 Morgan County Commission meeting.
During the 2006-2007 school year, the Boys & Girls Club served 117 youths daily—45 teens and 72 children ages 5-12. Risinger said they had had a waiting list for the last five years that at times had 50 names on it. There are only six or seven names on their waiting list now, he said.
The summer program ran from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, he said. Children were served breakfast and lunch daily.
Summer program activities included daily sports, educational activities, computer skills training, swimming at Berkeley Springs State Park, cooking class, arts and crafts, safety class, games, Basic Aid Training with the Red Cross and Smart Moves, a program that helps youth build self-esteem and make good decisions.
Summer program participants went to a tri-county Boys & Girls Club gathering at Cacapon State Park. Some 600 kids attended, said Risinger. The day was nice and the kids were well behaved, he said. Risinger enjoyed taking a group of kids fishing.
Some 38 Boys & Girls Club members received daily homework assistance during last year's after-school program.
Other activities included sports, computer lab, Torch and Keystone Club community service and leadership development clubs, cooking class, guitar lessons with Jonathan McBee and arts and crafts. The club has two computer labs, one for teens and one for younger kids, said Risinger.
The Boys & Girls Club also offers Teen Nites for ages 13-18 where teens can hang out with friends in a safe and positive environment, he said.
The Community Partnership sponsors an Oasis event every Friday night until 10 p.m., said Risinger. They have snacks, movies, bands and dances with D.J. Justin Litten, he said. The turnout averaged 35-40 teens last year, said Risinger.
The Boys & Girls Club's mission statement is "to enable all young people, especially those who need us the most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens."
Commissioner Tommy Swaim felt it was important that kids have a connection with older kids and adults. As an adult, you remember that connection, he said.
"We should pay more attention to them. It means a lot," said Swaim.
Risinger said he'd interviewed former Boys and Girls Club members. They remembered staff that spent time with them, he said. Risinger noted that there hasn't been a lot of turnover in staff or club members in the seven years that he has been there.
Biser St. crossing problems
Commissioner Glen Stotler suggested looking into a crosswalk and "Children crossing" signs on Route 9 East so club members could safely cross to use the Biser Street facilities. Some teens also have written permission to go to Sheetz from the club.
Risinger worries about cars flying around the bend and is hesitant to take kids to Biser Street because of the crossing problem.
Creating additional field space for activities at Biser Street is also being considered. Scheduling conflicts at Harmison Field make after-school use of the field difficult for Boys & Girls Club activities.
With the space crunch at the club, Risinger had considered expanding into the schools, but that would require additional staff. The long-term dream of having a new facility still exists, but the Boys & Girls Club needs support for that to happen, he said.
In a few years when a new senior center gets built, there could be more space available in the building for club members, said Stotler. Though the new senior center is still on the drawing board, Stotler wanted club staff to start thinking about how they could use additional space.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson inquired about the staff-to-child ratios and fees at the club.
The club follows the national Boys & Girls Club recommended staff-to-child ratios for activities, said Stefani Pierson, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle.
The Morgan County unit has 5-6 employees. Game room and field activities are generally a ratio of one staff person to 30 or 35 children. Instructional activities may be one staff to 15 kids. Supervision for homework help or field trips may be 1-4 or 1-8. There are usually two staff in the most occupied room, said Pierson.
Each club sets its own fees, she advised. Hutchinson asked about using a sliding fee scale. The national Boys & Girls Club encourages clubs to keep fees as low as possible, said Pierson. Parents are encouraged to make donations to the club if they can, said Risinger.
Corporate, advisory boards
Keith Unger from CNB is president of the tri-county Boys & Girls Club corporate board and social worker Gail Shade is vice-president. Other corporate board members include Lyn Goodwin from War Memorial Hospital and Assistant School Superintendent Joan Willard.
Risinger said they have a local advisory board for the Morgan County unit that helps with special events and fundraisers. About four parents are members.
More parents and community members are needed to serve on the advisory board, he said. If interested, call Risinger at 258-5012.
The Boys & Girls Club requested $7,000 from the Morgan County Commission. The commissioners wanted to help them get new carpeting as part of their contribution. Flooring estimates are being sought before the final breakdown of the commission's donation is decided.
Hutchinson said she had toured the club and thought they had done a very good job. She felt new carpeting and furniture were needed. The carpeting and sofas had been donated and the kids were hard on things, she was told. Swaim said the club was like a beehive whenever he's stopped in.