Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Duneland Boys and Girls Club set to play another year at Methodist center

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Boys and Girls Club of Porter County Duneland unit will remain at its current location inside the Methodist Activity Center building in Chesterton -- at least for another year.

But the recent influx of members served at the 5,085 sq. ft. facility located at 135 Lincoln Ave. in Chesterton has the BGC board of directors looking for a long-term solution to alleviate the space and capacity issues.

BGC board chairman Tim Rice and interim president Ryan Smiley told the Chesterton Tribune last week that they had renewed their lease with the First United Methodist Church for twelve months. Rice said it is likely that the Club will remain at the MAC building “for awhile yet” but board members have been considering ways to find more space.

Rice said the board earlier this year had considered the purchase of an existing building, which is how he believes rumors of them leaving the Methodist church building were started, but ultimately decided against it. Board members will start again on a search. As of now “all options are open,” Rice said.

But Rice was adamant about one thing -- that the prospective future location will remain in the confines of Duneland to serve its current members. He said it is likely that the new location will stay in Chesterton but all discussions are “preliminary” right now.

“We have signed the lease with the (Methodist) church. We are excited for another great year with the kids and are grateful we can serve the community,” Rice said and expressed his gratitude to the Methodist church trustees for allowing the BGC to operate here for the past seven years.

The Duneland unit is the youngest branch of the county’s Club locations. The others are Valparaiso, South Haven and Portage, which together see 5,300 youth. Each are guidance-oriented and include a games room, learning centers, computer labs and gymnasiums. Rooms are monitored at all times by staff for safety.

Smiley said attendance at the Duneland unit has spiked this year with roughly 400 members total and an average daily attendance of 125. That’s up from 2012’s 322 total members and 95 daily average.

“We are simply outgrowing the (current) facility,” Smiley said.

The Club welcomes students enrolled in grades K-12 with an annual membership fee of just $25.

This week marks the end of Summer KidsCamp at the Duneland unit on Tuesday and regular hours will begin on the first day of school Wednesday, from 2:30 to 6:20 p.m., Smiley said.

In partnership with the Duneland Schools, bus transportation to the club is offered at Bailly Elementary and Westchester Intermediate schools where parents can drop off their children at the end of the school day.

New to the Club this year is the physical fitness program Sports Play and Active Recreation for Kids, or SPARK, which begins in September and will introduce members to team sports. Smiley explains that improving overall health and wellness is one of the core objectives the Club has for its members and it follows the guidelines set forth by the Presidential Youth Fitness challenge.

Sports offered include basketball, dodge ball in the Club’s upstairs gymnasium and flag football outdoors in the nearby park.

Academics are another focus. Free tutoring is offered through the Clubs’ “Link N Learn” volunteer tutoring program and a computer lab is set up to help children research on safe websites and features academic-based games to challenge their minds.

“The Club is more than just a place to hang out. We take great pride and responsibility in educating the children who come to us,” Smiley said.

The third tier of the Club is the development of good character and citizenship with a variety of community improvement projects.

Raquel Lozano, academic coordinator for the Duneland unit, said during the past year Club members have volunteered at the local soup kitchen, raised funds for the Duneland Animal Hospital, and have been active with VOICE, which advocates against the use of tobacco products. Members have collected signatures from patrons at local movie theaters to urge filmmakers to keep smoking out of movies and spoke to state lawmakers about the dangers of smoking at the Indiana General Assembly, Lozano said.

Older Club members, ages 11-13, can join the Torch Club, which is a leadership and service group that recently raised $1,000 in the fight to stop human trafficking.

Smiley said the activities give Club members a sense of empowerment that they can make a positive difference in their environment.

One thing that surprises many parents is that the membership fee is a flat $25 per year, and financial assistance is available for those who qualify.

“We are proud that we are able to provide inexpensive, higher quality youth development programs,” Smiley said.

Lozano added that the Club is commonly mislabeled as an “after school day care center,” when its mission is to be a resource to build character and inspire children to be productive, caring citizens.

“One of the things people misunderstand is that we are not a day care. We are a club. We are there for the kids. We talk with them and help them with any problems they may have. There’s a big difference.” said Lozano.

Smiley said interested parents are welcome to call and request tours at 926-9770.

While the board ponders the future vision for the Duneland Boys and Girls Club unit, Smiley said any member of the public can direct their comments and concerns to him directly at rsmiley@bgcpoco.org or 462-7282 ext. 224.

 

Posted 8/20/2013