Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Alex Ross 

Hi-Line Living: Activities abound at Boys & Girls Club


January 19, 2018

Ryan Welch/Havre Daily News

Every weekday afternoon scores of children disembark from school buses outside of the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line.

When the crowds of children rush through the door, the environment goes from one of quiet to one of active children chattering and laughing,

After checking in at the front desk, they disperse, some heading to the game room to play pool or use an XBox, or to another part of the club to take part in a host of other activities,

Club director Tim Brurud has seen the same scene play out at about 3 p.m since 2002 when the club opened.

The Boy's & Girl's Club of the Hi-Line is one of 12 organizations and 20 clubs in Montana, Brurud said.

He said when the club in Havre opened its doors in 2002, it was to fill the need for area children to have a place to go after school.

"We saw a real need to go and learn good things every day, and that is what it has turned out to be." Brurud said.

The club initially shared the old Devlin School building with the Havre School District, leasing their part of the building from the district for $1. In 2010, the district sold the building to the club for the same price.

The club had fewer children in its early days, starting off with 70 or 80 children coming to the club daily, Brurud said, but the number quickly mushroomed.

Because of a lack of space the number of children had to be capped at about 150, he said. The cap was soon lifted and between 200 and 210 children come to the club each day, out of a total membership of about 350.

"Havre has really taken off," he said.

The club has been able to lift the cap on members in large part because of expansions to the building. After years of fundraising, planning and construction, the club completed a 5,700 square-foot, $1.9 million expansion of their building to include a multipurpose room, full-service kitchen, a widened foyer, and a more ADA accessible entrance.

Each day the club offers a meal and later a snack to the children. The biscuits and gravy served in the kitchen received a good review from K'Lana Espinosa, 7.

"I love it, she said. "I can't stop eating it."

The club offers a variety of activities and programs for children such as a tech room, where children can play on the computer, the Power Hour room where children can do their homework, a gym which is currently being redone, a teen center and an outdoor playground.

"We try to have as many activities as we can happening so the kids have as many choices as possible, and then they get to decide what they want to do," Brurud said.

Elsewhere, there are STEM activities - or science, technology, engineering and math - arts and crafts, and the performing arts.

The club's performing arts program puts on two talent shows and two plays Brurud said. When not putting on shows, children, like Donovan St. Pierre, 8, who hopes to one day become an actor, are learning new skills or playing games.

After having learned a line-dance, St.Pierre and a group of other children taking part in performing arts activities enjoy a game of musical chairs.

The game. St. Pierre said, is his second favorite game aside from hide-n-seek.

Children can also learn about healthy eating and other habits or if they need a break from the bustle of the hallways and other rooms, can go to the quiet room.

The quiet room includes puzzles and word searchers and serves as a place where children can read a book.

The majority of club members are in grades K-5, Brurud said, but the club does have its share of teenagers.

Most of the high schoolers at the club though are employed through the junior staffer program, Brurud said,

People in the program undergo job skills training once a week, learning how to fill out applications and write resumes.

Junior staff members help out in the kitchen, supervise children in the club's centers and assist club employees.

For many teenagers, a junior staff position at the club serves as a first job, Brurad said.

"And that is kind of the purpose, to give them something to put on an application," he said.

` The club also includes employees who each day watch and educate the children and keep the club operating.

Lona Gibbs, an elementary education major at Montana State University-Northern monitors the Tech Center.

She began working at the club last summer because she was curious about the tech center and wanted to work with children.

"I love working with the kids," she said. "They have an energy that I love. They're awesome, and I know I am making a difference."

She added that she also likes the structure and routine of the computer room and observing the children as they learn.

For Sandy Viste, also an early education major at Northern with a minor in art, her job at the club teaching arts and crafts is an ideal fit.

Viste said she comes up with ideas for crafts through art books and the online media site Pinterest.

The job, which she has had for two and a half months, gives her some real-world experience in her profession, she said.

The high-energy atmosphere, she said, is sometimes a little crazy but she loves it.

Other employees, like Andrew Potter a former nursing assistant at Northern Montana Care Center, said that he started working at the club to get into a new line of work.

"I just wanted to try something new," he said. "I haven't worked with kids as much, so one day I just wanted to get a whole new job experience," he said..

Potter now teaches STEM and performing arts activities at the club.

The club has more activities coming in 2018.

Work is being done on the building through a Community Development Block Grant through the Montana Department of Commerce.

The work includes the installation of a new intercom and sprinkler system, repairs to the roof and doing over the club's gym.

Brurud said the club hopes to have the upgrades to the building completed by spring.

Ryan Welch/Havre Daily News

The club will hold a family night soon, he said. A meal will be served and members of the public will be allowed to see the club's facilities and children can showcase their artwork.

The club this year will also introduce a program called "Passport to Manhood."

Brurud said the program is funded through a Montana Board of Crime Control grant and will teach young men a about domestic violence, the importance of respect and what it means to be in a good relationship.

Recently the club has also started an alumni program to stay in touch with past club members. Brurud said the club's first group of teens who joined in 2002 are now in their 30s.

"We are reaching out and connecting with some of our alumni, and we are going to have an alumni reunion this summer, which is going to be pretty cool," Brurud said.


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