Boys & Girls Club hoping to fill gap
If you would like to support the creation of a Boys & Girls Club in the Delavan-Darien community, call Ashley Contreras at (262) 949-9141 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to learn more about the national organization, visit bgca.org.
DELAVAN At first, Ashley Contreras was shocked when people asked her, "What's a Boys & Girls Club?"
Then she realized that what she saw as an obvious hole in services for kids in Delavan and Darien was not so obvious to families who'd lived so long without a club.
While Contreras' vision still is just a vision, pieces slowly are falling into place for the creation of such a club.
So, how does Contreras answer the question?
The Boys & Girls Club of America is a national organization that provides after-school programming for school-aged children in cities and neighborhoods. If a community wants to start a local chapter, the national club provides support and direction, Contreras said.
However, the programming would be based on the needs of the community, she said. Programming possibilities include arts, sports and health. Programs that offer outreach for members of the Latino community or for gang prevention or intervention also are available and could be good for the Delavan-Darien community, Contreras said.
The center would be open at least four hours every day after school and could be open on weekends.
In January, a 10-member advisory council will meet and Club/Estimated annual cost would be about $150,000 officially agree to try to create a boys and girls club to serve school-age kids in Delavan and Darien. The next step would be finding a building—hopefully one that is donated, Contreras said.#
Securing a building would lead to the next step: fundraising. It's too soon to guess how much money it would take to get the project off the ground, Contreras said. The answer will depend partly on the cost of the building and partly on the will of the Janesville Boys & Girls Club advisory council.
Rather than having its own charter and tax exemption number, the Delavan-Darien club would operate as a chapter of the Janesville club. However, the Delavan-Darien club would be responsible for its own funding and budget. Money raised in Janesville would be spent in the Janesville club, and money raised in Delavan or Darien would be spent in that club, she said.
The Fort Atkinson Boys & Girls Club has a similar arrangement with the Janesville club, Contreras said.
The Janesville club's advisory council likely will decide how much money the Delavan-Darien club will need to get started, Contreras said. That could be 18 months' or three years' worth of money, she said as an example.
She estimated it would cost about $150,000 a year to run the club, which would serve about 200 kids. Most of the kids would be middle and high school age.
The Janesville club has not yet approved including a Delavan-Darien club under its umbrella, Contreras said.
The possibility of a Delavan-Darien club has grown since the beginning of the school year, when Contreras was hired as the district's community outreach coordinator. Although the club would not be affiliated with the school district, part of Contreras' job description is working on the project, she said.
"Having the time to go out to meet with people and pull the right people together has been really, really beneficial," Contreras said.
One of the first things she had to do was prove to the Boys & Girls Club of America that Delavan needed a club. She had to collect data on the demographics of children in the community. The national organization requires communities to meet one of three criteria to support a club.
The criteria are poverty rates, juvenile delinquency and the amount of programming available from sources other than the proposed Boys & Girls Club. The Delavan-Darien community exceeded the requirements for all three, Contreras said.
She was frustrated to find that fewer less than 15 percent of the 3,000 kids in the community were getting the sort of social and recreational programming the club would provide.
With 60 percent of children in the district living below the federal poverty line and the high number of Latino students attending schools in Delavan and Darien, "It blows my mind that we have so few services," Contreras said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Approximate number of children living in the Delavan-Darien School District.
Percentage of Delavan-Darien children getting the kind of social and recreational services that would be provided by a Boys & Girls Club.
Percentage of children in Delavan living below the poverty level.
Estimated cost of operating a Boys & Girls Club in Delavan.
Percentage of minority students in the Delavan-Darien School District, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.