Parents and their school-aged children sometimes need to get creative about after-school care. Younger ones can enroll in daycare or casual play groups, but what about the older kids?

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This is where the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County (BGCTC) serve a vital purpose. Its localized branches are more than just a place to hang out while mom and dad are at work. With strong core beliefs of academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles, the organization prepares students for school, the world, and their place in it. And in the fall of 2019, the BGCTC opened a Yelm branch to do just that for a whole new group of students.

For more than 100 years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America have worked hard to give kids a safe, positive place to go. Its inclusive, caring and welcoming spirit pays off in many untold ways. According to national polling, “97% of Club teens expect to graduate from high school and 88% expect to complete some kind of post-secondary education.” Over the years, distinguished alumni include actors like Denzel Washington, military leaders, athletes, politicians and globally admired personalities.

Photo courtesy: Boys and Girls Clubs of Thurston County

Within Thurston County, BGCTC’s 58 staff and 97 volunteers served more than 3,000 youth in 2018 alone. Of those, 80% were under the age of 12, 20% were teens, and 47% are from single-parent homes. Director of Operations Shellica Trevino explains that the new Yelm branch—hosted in the former Yelm City Hall at 105 West Yelm Avenue—hopes to serve nearly 100 students, with 50 attending on average.

“Yelm has been part of our strategic plan for a number of years,” explains Trevino. “When the opportunity of the City Hall building presented itself, our board and Club leadership felt this was a great time to make the dream of a Yelm Club a reality. Yelm Community Schools committed to being a strong partner, which is crucial to the success of a Boys & Girls Club Branch. The City Council worked through a process to ultimately allow us to lease the building we are using. Many community members indicated that they would help support the Club financially. There is very little in the way of youth services after school in Yelm, and over 40% of the students receive free and reduced lunch, which indicates a high-need population. Everything came together to make this happen.”

With hard work and dedication, the new branch opened its doors on September 4, 2019, and held its grand opening ribbon cutting on October 23. It offers “mainly afterschool programming,” says Trevino, “with several program areas, including art, homework, a games room and a computer lab. We are open after school until 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. We will also run a summer day camp for Club members. Sign up for Day Camp will be in mid-April.”

But none of this wouldn’t be possible without generous local civic partnerships. “The Yelm community has welcomed us with open arms and has made a significant financial investment in our program,” Trevino explains. “We are blessed to have opened the Yelm Branch and grateful to the Yelm Community for the warm welcome!”

One of these partners is Budget Blinds and local franchise owner Amber Snaza. “My husband I have both been supporting the Boys & Girls Club for years,” says Snaza. “I’m so happy to have them right here in our home town of Yelm. I have family kiddos that go after school and they love it! Boys & Girls Club is an organization that directly benefits not only the youth in our community but the whole family. Strong families build strong communities!”

Boys and Girls Club of Thurston County Yelm
In fall 2019, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Thurston County opened their newest branch in the former Yelm City Hall. Photo courtesy: Boys and Girls Clubs of Thurston County

Follow these exciting first weeks on the Club’s Facebook or BGCTC location page. There you can also find membership forms, download the updated parent handbook, or even apply for a part-time job or to volunteer with the team. Have additional questions? Keep checking on the BGCTC website or email info@bgctc.org.

The federal government’s Youth.Gov explains that “Effective afterschool programs bring a wide range of benefits to youth, families and communities. Afterschool programs can boost academic performance, reduce risky behaviors, promote physical health, and provide a safe, structured environment for the children of working parents.” If you or someone you know needs a place to go after school, give the Boys & Girls Club a try. Want to help, kids of your own or not? Try one of their giving options like donating goods and services, sponsoring an event or program, or providing an item for their annual fundraising auction. Any help provides children in your neighborhood and community with a safe, healthy place to learn and grow. Join the BGCTC mailing list for upcoming events, activities, camps, registration links, and more or call 360-956-0755 with questions.

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