Boys & Girls Club Tour

Resembling a report more than a blog post, this is primarily intended for Kiwanis Club of Oklahoma City members to understand the services and requirements of this organization if we consider incorporating an affiliate in our Carver Mark Twain Head Start project.  Full utilization of a facility engaged in serving children and their community is the goal.

During the school year, the club serves about 350 youth daily with a 375-person capacity, which is reached daily during the summer.  In the summer, the location opens for service at 7:30 a.m., and additional older students attend.  Serving at capacity all day requires engaging and fun activities, opportunities and volunteers.  Programs range from tutoring to drama, the arts, music, sports, soccer, reading, computer lab, weight training, etc.

After School

After school from 2:30-3:30 P.M., kids arrive by school bus or public transportation, the majority at 3:10.  Club members check in and receive one cooked meal each day.  Power Hour, after school tutoring, is mandatory for ages six through twelve is mandatory; for thirteen and up it is optional.  Older youths often help with the younger ones during Power Hour.  During the school year, school buses deliver children to the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma County, but parents must provide transportation home.  Neighborhood youths walk.

Out-of-School Schedule (school holidays and summer)

‘From 7:30 A.M. – 7:00 P.M. with a break, lunch and afternoon snack plus a ton of activities at full capacity!

Costs

Membership fees are extremely low, $5 per child for the after school program, and $5 for the summer program.  A Kiwanian asked what happened if a child or family could not pay.  A Jaye said he lets them work around the facility.  Those few kids are the first ones to offer to unload a truck; they want to earn their way.  This option fosters character building, instills values and increases self-esteem.  As A Jaye said, “Pay generates a sense of ownership and pride.  Free doesn’t mean anything.” 

Partnerships Matter

Eighteen years ago, this began with twelve youths.  Through the years, 15-20,000 youths have stepped through the doors.  Essentially, A Jaye and the staff are told to keep get the kids in the building; the board and the CEO will keep the doors open.  Partners help keep the doors open, too. 

Chesapeake, Devon, Dell, the Junior League, the Metropolitan Library System and others make it happen.  [Dell provided the computer lab and an onsite technician/instructor.]  Junior League, a longtime consistent partner, not only reads with the youths but also provides books, which can be taken at a child’s discretion.  Even the nearby 7-11 allows the club ice when needed. 

Wes Welker, who has also furnished a weight room and mini-gym for the facility, invites 100 of the club members to his summer camp.  Professional football player Tommie Harris gives to the club as do many other professional athletes.  United Way, which recently had its site visit, supports the organization. 

In the summer, when additional older youths attend, the Oklahoma City police volunteer in larger numbers.  Playing sports together builds bonds.  Also in the summer, the Junior League continues its reading program. 

Facility & History

Founded in1995, the Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma County was housed in the approximately 7,000 square foot Uptown Kiwanis building in Memorial Park.  Later as the new clubhouse was being built, the club operated out of the “new” gym and the old building.  In 2009, it moved into this approximately 35,000 square building, and the old building was torn down, although the Uptown Kiwanis sign is still around.

Operating Budget

As a ball park figure, the annual budget is about $1.3 million dollars provided by fundraisers, grants and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for targeted outreach and intervention. 

Possible Expansion

Boys & Girls Club is hoping to expand to the south side, which means an increased budget.  For example, an old armory at SW 44th and May

Affiliates & Similar Programs

The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, an affiliate at 2808 SE 44th Street, has about 50 youths a day.  If the Kiwanis Club of Oklahoma City wishes to expand its Carver Mark Twain Project, it could perhaps have an affiliate program.  Jane Sutter did welcome Kiwanis sponsorship at the Western location, of course, since the Uptown Kiwanis Club, which launched the program has suspended involvement.  Similar youth organizations are the YMCA, Urban League and parks and recreation program “Play in Park” program.

       http://www.ymcaokc.org/YouthDevelopment.aspx

      http://urbanleagueok.org/  

      http://newsok.com/oklahoma-city-parks-and-recreation-kicks-off-summer-program/article/3680582 

Some Out-of-Building & Unique Activities

Kids climb the former grain elevators at OKC Rocktown Climbing Gym.  “The mission of Touchstone is to serve youth through adventure-based education, mentoring and life skills cultivation. Touchstone operates after-school programs and summer day camps at Rocktown. Low-income youth participate at no cost” (http://www.rocktowngym.com/).

Club members have gone camping at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge and other places outdoors as part of the Udall Foundation’s Parks In Focus program.  Chandra Boyd, education director of OKCMOA, accompanied the photographers to the Myriad Gardens, where she observed excitement, enthusiasm and deliberation to get the best shots.  Of the thousands of photos the youths took, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art hosts the exhibit featuring forty selected works blown up for display in the OKCMA lobby.  O is for Oklahoma features some of the Boys & Girls Club members’ work. 

Demographics

About 87-90% of the children are from single-parent homes, usually with no dad.  The only qualification is to be a kid.  Even foster kids are club members.  Generally, one adult has eight to nine youths. 

Discipline/Rules

Fighting is not tolerated.  Expectations are known and enforced, but if something negative arises, a warning is issued, if necessary a two-minute time-out, a conference with A Jaye, and also if necessary with parents.  Gang identifiers if any, are left outside.  Members respect the club and its opportunities.

Turnover

The electric enthusiasm of the staff shows why turnover is little.  A Jaye worked there eleven years; Kris, five to six; and LaRissa, two years. 

Personnel

Among our presenters and tour directors were A Jaye Johnson, director of daily operations; LaRissa Conn, volunteer coordinator and music and drama director; Shea Bainter, chef; Kristin Minnis, program director and Club Youth of the Year; Milen Darby, sports director; and Jane Sutter, CEO.  At present, staff is from 17-20.  Volunteers vary from three to 50 depending upon activities, but as many as possible can be used.