Strong need for services, membership continues to grow
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
The Boys and Girls Club (BGC) of Morrison County welcomed 13 youths on the day the doors opened in June 2009, in Little Falls. Today, the club has more than 500 members, serving upward of 100 members daily.
Although the largest age group served is the 6- to 9-year-olds, youths of all ages come to the Club every day.
“What separates us from other organizations is the focus we’ve adopted on academics, health and character,” said Ricky Solomon, president and chief executive officer of Boys and Girls Clubs of 10,000 Lakes, which has seven branches.
Representatives from the BGC presented an annual report to the Morrison County Commissioners Tuesday.
“We have a strategic plan that we are really pushing —that every person through our doors in the next five years graduates from high school,” said Solomon.
Two of the programs that enhance the Club’s plan are Power Hour and Smart Moves. Power Hour is an education enhancement program that provides members with homework help and individual tutoring.
“Smart Moves teaches kids at a very young age to avoid drugs and alcohol,” Solomon said. “Seventy-two percent of our members have graduated from this program.”
The Little Falls branch serves 312 families, 75 percent of whom live in Little Falls. The annual membership fee is $10. Healthy snacks are provided and age-appropriate activities are available.
“We have reached out to other Morrison County towns and while parents are in Little Falls running errands, the kids come to the Club,” said Janelle Hansen, Little Falls branch manager.
“Eighty-two percent of our youths received free or reduced lunches,” she said. “Last summer we collaborated with Tri-County Community Action/Head Start and the Hunger Free Morrison County Coalition to serve a cold supper to 60 kids. In addition to the lunch we served to everyone, we were able to provide those kids with two meals each day.”
Another successful program involves working with the county’s probation officers to find community service projects for the youths to complete.
The Club has been using a former funeral home across the street from the County Government Center which is owned by the county, rent-free.
“We really thank the Board for your support,” said Bernie Jeub, BGC Board president. “That is critical to getting this whole thing going and keeping it going.”
Jeub explained that the Board is addressing the longer-term needs of the Club.
“The advisory committee is looking very closely at the old Red Owl building on the west side of Little Falls,” he said. “We are still gathering information, trying to move in an orderly fashion.”
Jeub expressed hope that by this time next year, there will be a lot more to talk about.
“It’s been a labor of love,” Jeub said. “We had an idea there was a need. None of us dreamt it was as much as it is.”