Intern to The Standard
KAWARTHA LAKES: Boys and Girls Club of Kawartha Lakes (BGCKL) have made a difference for youth and parents in the community for the past 47 years.
They work with 8000 kids each year, supplying them with just over 111,000 snacks and 45,000 rides to and from their programs annually.
They offer a variety of services from licensed child care before or after school, to sports programs. As well they offer a subsidization program for families that can’t afford to pay for their services.
The Executive Director of BGCKL, Scott Robertson, says he thinks subsidization is the best way to help low income families.
“A lot of our services are offered at low to no cost to start with and then if families can’t afford the fees we will subsidize them as needed.” Mr. Robertson said, “The approach we use is, what can you afford to pay?”
Mr. Robertson says the club is mainly interested in getting kids involved and out of the house.
“They’re having fun, they are meeting new friends, they’re in the community and not parked in front of a screen all the time,” he said.
They run a lot of different sports and recreation programs for older kids and physical literacy for younger youth.
Through the physical literacy programs, BGCKL are trying to familiarize young children with the basic movements of sports to instill those skills into the kids from a young age.
“If you can engrain the movements early on, it really creates a lot more potential for them to be more active for the rest of their life.” Mr. Robertson says, “It really sets them up to be lifelong participants in sports.”
A former member, volunteer, and current employee of the club, Kyley Stevenson had benefitted from their sports programs in her youth.
“It helped me out with my confidence and got me into sports. I ended up playing basketball at Brock,” Kyley said.
Boys and Girls Club of Kawartha Lake aren’t just working towards fostering a healthier generation of kids. The club is also the leading provider of early intervention and prevention programs, to support physical, mental, educational and social health for young people from infancy to early adulthood.
They offer kids with information about mental health as well as counselling, Mr. Robertson says the focus is targeted prevention.
“We have trained staff in there equip to deal with various issues youth are struggling with,” he says.
“The nice part is the kids come to have lots of fun but if they need some other supports from us or other organizations they are right there as well.”
BGCKL helps kids with homework or any problems they may face at school.
“I struggled at school and I remember them helping me do my homework there. They have a really great staff, that develops strong relationships with the youth,” Kyley said.
The staff becomes very involved and gets to know all the members of the club. She remembers inviting staff to her basketball games and says, “It meant the world seeing them there.”
Mr. Robertson said, “The staff are here because they care about the kids and their families.”
BGCKL was a godsend for Kyley’s parents. Both her parents worked in Toronto which was a 2-hour commute so the before and after school programs benefited them greatly.
“I know it really helped my parents out, knowing we were going to a good place,” Kyley said.
Parents from Lindsay and surrounding areas, living in low income families wouldn’t have a place to send their kids if BGCKL didn’t exist, according to Mr. Robertson. The Kawartha Lakes location is close to 50 years old now, and took a long time to get where it is today.
Over the years BGCKL has offered local opportunities for leadership which provides youth with good life skills that can transfer into the workplace later in life.
“They are better equip to be good employees for local business,” Mr. Roberson said.
This is just one of the ways BGCKL positively impacts the economy.
“We are a big employer here in the community. We employ about 120 staff,” Mr. Robertson said.
BGCKL has a 3-million-dollar annual budget that is almost all spent locally, right in the community.
BGCKL has also built many attractions for visitors in the area. They recently finished building a beach volleyball complex and are in the process of building a basketball court and a new playfield. Future projects include a splash pad and skateboard park.
“The beach volleyball courts, the skateboard park, and the splash pad are going to attract visitors to the community and boost the economy with more folks buying lunch’s, shopping, and doing things while they are here in town.”
Through fundraising Boys and Girls Club of Canada raise about a quarter million dollars each year, to help with subsidizing and operational costs.
BGCKL has made a positive impact on the community and economy since starting in 1970. According to the Boys and Girls Club of Canada, 69 per cent of alumni say their involvement in the club “saved their life.”