Nonprofits

Boys and Girls Club Returns to Evergreen

Several years following its closure, the Boys and Girls Club will launch after-school services in Evergreen

By Skye Lucas
A boy plays on the waterslide at the Columbia Falls Boys and Girls Club on July 9, 2021. JP Edge | Flathead Beacon

The Boys and Girls Club (BGC) of Glacier Country is returning to Evergreen at the end of summer to provide after-school services for youth in the community. 

Programming will serve school districts in Evergreen and Helena Flats and begin on the first day of school, Aug. 30. The organization will also continue offering its after-school and summer programs in Columbia Falls.

After-school services will take place in the Evergreen AIM Center next to Evergreen Elementary School and is open to students in grades K-8, Monday through Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The nonprofit will also provide transportation to all registered youth from school to the AIM Center.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to bring our programming back to Evergreen,” said Mandy Anderson, director of BCG of Glacier Country.

In 2016, BCG sold the former roller rink clubhouse and closed due to financial constraints. Anderson, who joined the nonprofit in 2019, is determined to reenter the community as a healthier and more secure establishment.

“Every child that has nothing to do after school could benefit from the services that we provide,” said Anderson, who believes providing students with afternoon experiences reduces opportunities for drug abuse, delinquency and sexual risk-taking behaviors, which she says are greatest during after school hours from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Data collected by the Boys and Girls Club of America shows that 38% of club members are more likely to graduate from high school on time, 42% are less likely to get into physical fights and 44% are more likely to believe schoolwork is meaningful.

After school, students participate in small cohorts where they interact with the same staff member each day, reinforcing a positive role model in the children’s daily lives. For the average student who spends most of their day in a 20-person classroom, Anderson says it’s important that staff members develop a stable relationship with the child and their parents as well.

The BGC also supports working guardians and parents, allowing them to stay at their jobs and not have to worry about their child’s wellbeing. Another benefit of the program is more positive employee engagement for local businesses. 

“It has an overarching theme of wellness for the entire community,” Anderson said.

Additionally, the club introduces children to a variety of skills and sparks new interests, such as art, crafts, baking and homework. At the Columbia Falls clubhouse, students took to sewing as part of a sewing club. 

“You wouldn’t believe how many of the kids didn’t even know that was something that would interest them,” Anderson said. “They made pillows, hats, little drawstring backpacks, and it was amazing how many little boys took to it and loved it.”

Recently, BGC of Glacier Country received a $100,000 grant from the Whitefish Community Foundation as part of the Kids Fund, which will be distributed over the next three years. Although the grant gives the new club a solid base, Anderson says more fundraising is needed to reach their financial goal and make the first year a success.

“We are on the ground seeking community support and looking to hire additional staffers,” Anderson said. “Obviously, everyone is very excited that we are coming back. But now we’re working on translating that excitement into a financial give.”

Giving to the BGC of Evergreen takes on many forms. Corporate sponsors can donate monthly or community members can volunteer or donate in the form of a snack for the students, who receive an after-school snack every day.

“We’re open to any possibilities,” Anderson said.

The club welcomes everyone to sign up and there are no income restrictions. Since the after-school club requires a membership fee, there is a scholarship program available to families who are registered for free or reduced lunch.

Although reopening the BGC of Evergreen responds to the needs of the community, Anderson knows there is a demand for Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the Flathead Valley. So while Anderson prepares for reopening, she is keeping her eye on the big picture too: providing Boys and Girls Club services to every community in the valley.

“People have already expressed interest in Kalispell, and we want to springboard into different communities, so this is just the beginning.”

To make a donation or volunteer, visit www.bgcglacier.org. People can also contact Melissa Dunning, director of development, at mdunning@bgcglacier.org or (407) 754-67223.

To enroll a child in the Evergreen or Columbia Falls after-school program call (406) 892-2679.

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