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Ball, auction to benefit Boys & Girls Club

Club promotes values, commitment to learning

If you want to reduce after-school mischief or merely have a soft spot in your heart for kids, here’s a way you can help.

A masquerade ball and silent auction, the main fundraising event of the year for the Boys & Girls Club of Kootenai County, will take place on Saturday at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. During two previous balls and from individual donors and a variety of smaller fundraisers and grants, the organization has raised $1.5 million toward its goal of $2.9 million. The money will be used to build and operate an 18,000-square-foot center in Post Falls for the hundreds of kids age 6 to 18 who take part in the club’s after-school and summer programs.

The local club’s annual budget is $250,000 and the charge to parents is $20 per year.

“We really need the facility,” said the club’s executive director Ryan Davis. “Right now we’re working out of rented space in the Post Falls Nazarene Church and using the facilities of the Seltice and Mullan Trail schools. We simply don’t have room or staff to provide services to other kids who live here or in other areas of the county. And some 150 are on our waiting list.”

Ryan explained that the club hosts some 150 boys and girls each day during the summer months and 100 a day during the school year. He said its programs are designed to promote a positive self identity and values, good health, a commitment to learning, social competency and community and civic involvement.

The after-school program, from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, includes snacks, games, drug and alcohol prevention programs, homework and a reading program. It’s staffed by two full-time employees and volunteers, all of whom have had background checks to ensure they don’t have criminal records.

The staff increases by eight part-time college students during the summer months when day-long programs are offered. And during the Christmas vacation and other nonschool days, the program also operates throughout the day.

“The need for those programs is huge in this weak economy,” Davis said. “We have many kids from single-parent homes whose mother or father has to work. And in many two-parent families, budgets are so tight that both moms and dads have jobs. The kids need somewhere to go and something positive to do after school.”

Boys & Girls Club of Kootenai County is part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, an organization of some 4,800 member clubs with 6 million enrollees. It traces its antecedents to a boys’ club founded in 1860 in Connecticut. Females were included in 1990.

The local affiliate was established at Coeur d’Alene’s Lakes Middle School in 2007 but closed in October 2008 because there wasn’t enough room there to support its programs, according to Davis. It reopened in Post Falls in December 2008.

Graduates of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America include actors Denzel Washington and Cuba Gooding Jr., Gens. Colin Powell and Wesley Clark and ballplayers Alex Rodriguez and Michael Jordan.