By Ross Markman
With more than 3 million kids participating at more than 2,800 clubs in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the Boys & Girls Club of America has been providing youth programs for 140 years.
And in July, it's coming to Havre.
But not without a cost.
The club will open its doors at the Devlin School this summer with a new name HELP Committee and Hi-Line Boys & Girls Club. The organization's executive director, the HELP Committee's Robin Morris, on Friday announced the club's goals and funding needs $48,000 for the next 18 months.
Morris and program director Krista Solomon said they hope to raise the money from community donations.
Contributors of $500 or more will become part of the Founders Club and will be recognized on a permanent display at the Devlin School. Also being established is an endowment fund to be used for philanthropic gifts, memorials and long-range capital improvements. Donations to the endowment will range from $2,500 to $20,000.
"We've already had some cash pledges and people express interest in donating equipment," said Morris.
The HELP Committee was started 23 years ago due to an increasing amount of drug and alcohol-related problems in Havre. It since has implemented programs including the HELP Youth Leadership Camp, the Red Ribbon Campaign and youth tobacco education courses.
The committee never considered a Boys & Girls Club until the Devlin School closed last spring. With the approval of the School Board, the club is leasing the school minus the east wing for the next two years at 50 cents a year. The lease says the school district can take the building back if there's an enrollment change or loss of another facility.
"It was a timing thing. Devlin School closed last year. We never looked at the idea in the past," Morris said.
The club, which will serve kids 6-18, will be open weekdays from 1 to 5 p.m. during the summer. Morris said the goal is to have two branches of the club a sports/recreation center and game room/teen center up and running by July. The sports center will offer kids open gym hours and various recreational activities. The game room will likely include pingpong, pool and foosball tables, Morris said.
During the next 18 months, the club will add a life skills and family support center, which will include after-school programming weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. Plans are also in the works to open a technology center, where kids will have computer and Internet access.
"We want to have it fun for the kids. It should be social for them," Morris said. "When you're tied in with the Boys & Girls Club, it opens so many doors."
Though its objectives are now clear, Morris acknowledged that bringing the Boys & Girls Club to Havre wasn't an easy task.
"We went through a lot of panic. This is a huge bite to swallow. When you look at a town as small as Havre, we said, We can't do this,' " she said.
But less than four months after first considering the club in October, they are doing it.
"This is huge. We're actually getting closer to what the HELP Committee mission statement is. That's service to all children," Morris said.