The new Yelm’s Boys & Girls Club is projected to open its doors on the first day of school in the fall, pending the results of fundraising campaigns.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County is gearing up to expand into the old city hall building and has every intent to establish a local program that will benefit Yelm in a unique way.
“It’s exciting to think that we are going to be tailoring this to the Yelm community and making this something to meet the needs of the children in that community,” said Chris Woods, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County.
Woods said that the expansion to Yelm was carefully considered.
“A lot of time, energy and conversation was put into the idea of serving Yelm — a lot of conversation with city officials and also the school district,” Woods said. “Really, pretty quickly (we) came to the understanding that Yelm could benefit from a Boys & Girls Club program.”
Boys & Girls Clubs traditionally have the strongest relationships with the school districts they serve. This is primarily because the clubs exist in part to assist the schools with their primary objectives.
“Now, more than ever, I think school districts are looking for more and more opportunities to provide safe places that can also be an extension of the school and the school district,” Woods said.
Since Yelm didn’t have a place like that for children to go before or after school, he said it became obvious that it needed a club.
In addition, the Yelm program is already unique in that it is fostering collaboration with both the school district and the city.
Usually, the school district owns the building that a Boys & Girls Club ends up operating from, but in Yelm’s case, the city owns the building, creating a unique opportunity for Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County to fully assert itself as an important aspect of the Yelm community, Woods said.
“The nice thing about Boys & Girls Club is I don’t think there are two clubs that are alike,” he said. “We currently have five — we have Tenino, Rochester, Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey. Every club is different and unique, kind of has its own personality.”
Yet the structure and the core of the Boys & Girls Club, as far as programming, is the same from club to club, Woods said. However, within that structure, there is also an opportunity to provide something that’s unique for each city. If there is a need within the Yelm community that needs to be filled, Woods and company would try and fill it.
The three prongs of the Boys & Girls Club program are academic success, healthy lifestyles and good character and citizenship.
“What we are trying to do is become an extension of the school by supporting the students and their academic work,” Woods said, adding that the club is dedicated to the lifelong health of its members and will ensure by example that the students become thoughtful, kind and responsible members of society.
Once those three aspects of the program are in place, the club can truly branch out and serve the specific needs of the community.
“Some of it may happen during the course of our programing in year one,” Woods said. “We may, as we get into it, find that there are some needs that we need to do a better job of meeting. That’s where we’ll continue that collaboration with the city and with the school district to strengthen the program further.”