Wallyhood has given its fair of love to Interconnection (refurbishing computers for low income communities around the world) and to FamilyWorks (providing food bank and family servies to those in need), but we’ve given short-shrift to another great service organization right in midst: the Wallingford Boys and Girls Club.
We had seen the building there for decades, but knew vaguely that it was not operating as the Boys and Girls Club until more recently. Turns out they had moved out in 1989; there was a renovation starting in 2004 and they moved back in in 2007. Who knew?
So, about a month ago, we loaded up Baby Z into his carrier and marched our way up to chat with Meghan Sweet, the Associate Executive Director. We scrawled notes old school-style on a legal pad while bouncing and tossing Baby Z (with a short break to change him on top of Meghan’s graciously cleared desk) and have been putting off writing about it ever since.
Having never attended a Boys and Girls Club growing up, we were foggy on the whole concept. So here’s a typical day during the week:
2:00: Kids arrive from schools, hang out, free time
3:45: Gym time (rotates daily between grades K-2 and grades 3-5); teens in Teen Center
4:30: Homework time, different age groups in different areas, adults there to help
5:00: Small group activities, extended homework assistance, computer lab, art room, service clubs, etc.
6:00: Free time; families pick up members
Hang out? Get a snack? Get a little help on our homework? Play some games in the gym? Maybe a bit of art? We’re in! How much does it cost?
Amazingly, it’s pretty close to free. There’s a $15 / year membership fee, but that’s for the daily program. There are also extended hour (7 a.m. to noon) and weekend programs that are a bit more ($95 / week), but even this is a bargain at twice the price.
When you look at the demographics of who is attending, you start to see why having such an inexpensive program is so essential. They are drawing from almost 20 schools around the city, serving 175 kids / day (roughly 2/3 elementary, 1/3 teens; about 10% are special needs), with a total of around 300 kids coming in at least occasionally.
Many kids are coming for the fun growth experience, but the Boys and Girls Club is also clearly filling a need: if you’re a parent trying to work a 9 – 5 job to pay the rent and put food on the table, and your elementary age kid is getting out of school at 2:00 pm, what do you do? Where do you send them? Without the boys and girls club, there would be an awful lot of young kids finding their own way home, letting themselves in and, at best, sitting themselves down in front of the TV for a few hours.
It was interesting to learn, in particular, that the building at the southwest corner of Stone Way and 45th Street (1215 45th Street) is partially low-income housing (35 of the 70 units are subsidized), feeding many kids into the club. We tend to think of Wallingford as a relatively affluent neighborhood, but there are lots of folks living with us that can use a bit of help earning a living and raising kids at the same time.
One touching detail was that Meghan is not only a Boys and Girls Club Associate Executive Director, she’s a customer, or, as she puts it, a “club kid”. She grew up going to Boys and Girls Clubs, joined the Wallingford Boys and Girls Club right out of college, and moved her way up through administrative assistant, education director, program director, unit director, operations director, to Associate Executive Director. It’s home for her, and she clearly enjoys making a home there for the many kids who come through: she even gets college graduating and wedding notices from alumni.
In addition to the school year program, they have a special summer program, as well. If you’re interested in enrolling your child (age 5 – 18), check out their web site. If your interested in helping out, you can volunteer, make a donation, rent their facilities (their “large gym, art room, industrial kitchen, teen center and gamesroom would be the perfect venues for your next birthday party, pick-up basketball game, or event”) and more. Be sure to check out their “wish list” of donated items.