Boys and Girls Clubs looking to boost exposure, youth involvement

2014-07-29T17:10:00Z 2014-08-01T17:11:08Z Boys and Girls Clubs looking to boost exposure, youth involvementBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Boys and Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County has joined up with a national campaign to provide its services to more local youth and increase its presence in the Billings area.

The youth-centered nonprofit, which is based in Billings and is part of the larger Boys and Girls Clubs of America, provides an active place after school and during the summer for as many as 650 kids a day.

Called the Great Futures Campaign, the renewed effort aims at exposing more people in the community to what the clubs do, increase membership and access, motivate youngsters to be healthy and encourage them to get involved in their communities.

“It’s just really bringing into specific focus the urgency and the need for the services that the clubs provide,” said Brian Dennis, president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County. “We need to reach more kids, plain and simple. It’s really about engaging the community in the discussion of, ‘What do we want for our kids and how do we best serve the kids who need it most?’ ”

The clubs will host the Be Great Lunch Date on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the lawn of the Yellowstone County Courthouse and invite anybody in the community to attend.

It will bring community members together with staff and kids from the area clubs to learn more about what they do and take part in a few activities that might happen over a day at the clubs.

“We want people to see that this is a place where, inside these doors, kids find that trigger, that spark that helps them get on a path to great futures,” Dennis said. People will have a chance to see the sorts of things that our kids do. They’re going to learn a little bit more about what we do.”

It’s also part of a larger and continuing effort to expand the clubs in Billings. While there are four clubhouses throughout Billings — one on the South Side, one in Lockwood and two in the Heights — officials want to open them up to kids from other parts of town as well.

Beginning in the fall and using funds secured by the local clubs, about 50 McKinley elementary students will be bused to the Bair Family Clubhouse, at 505 Orchard Lane, each day after school.

Each of the kids will be full club members.

Terry Bouck, Billings School District 2 superintendent and a member of the clubs’ board, said the partnership is part of an ongoing SD2 effort to give kids a safe place to go after school.

“Obviously, I’m a big supporter of what they do,” he said. “It’s a big-picture thing and if you look at the clubs, they’re involved in our planning efforts and they were involved in our planning at McKinley. We just value partnerships like that.”

Bouck said that includes efforts to make Billings schools true community schools, possibly with Boys and Girls Clubs clubhouses opening in other schools across town.

Dennis said there’s an immediate need in the community and in other towns across the country for the clubs’ services.

While growth plans continue to develop, that need doesn’t go away, he said, and the campaign is designed to both help address that and put a spotlight on it within the community.

“We’re not doing anything terribly different than what we already do,” he said. “We’re just being more public about it. We serve a lot of kids and we do it really well, but quite frankly, there are still hundreds of kids in the community who don’t have anywhere to go.

“We can all wait until everything is good and we’ve got all the pieces, but the kids who need it most can’t wait.”

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