The smell of fresh paint wafted through the former Mead Middle School as volunteers prepared for the opening of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane County’s Lisa Stiles-Gyllenhammer branch. Named after a beloved Shiloh Hills teacher who died after battling breast cancer in 2006, the club will feature approximately 20,000 square feet of space for kids ages 6 to 18.
Ryan Davenport, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane County, said, “We’ll probably have 150 kids a day by the end of this school year.” He estimates that next year the site will serve more than 200 young people daily.
According to Davenport, the dream for the Mead facility began with two elementary school principals. “I think it’s amazing what these principals have done,” he said.
The principals, Heather Havens and Jon Iverson, had visited the organization’s Northtown branch 18 months ago. “We fell in love with the place and the concept of hope and opportunity,” said Havens.
And they saw the need for a club in the Mead area. Havens, principal at Shiloh Hills Elementary School, said, “Over the course of my years I’ve seen our free/reduced-price lunches go from 35 percent to 65 percent.”
In addition, Evergreen Elementary School’s principal, Iverson, said, “Because state funding for education has been decreased, we’ve lost a lot of important programs. Tutoring funds went away.” They believed a Mead-based club would help fill the gap left by the budget cuts.
Their idea found broad support in the community. “The Mead School Board needs to be commended for stepping up,” Iverson said. The district has leased the space to the club for $1 per year.
Local businesses and individuals contributed to the project by donating cash, time and supplies. The result? The club features a performing arts center with warm red walls, a technology center complete with 22 new computers and a teen center furnished with tall pub-style tables and chairs.
Of course, there’s plenty of space for homework help. “We call this the Discovery Center,” said Davenport, as he gave a visitor a tour. “It’s a fancy way of saying ‘homework center.’ ”
The new site also includes a full kitchen. “Every day, after-school kids can get a hot meal,” he said. All of these services are available to any child and the yearly membership fee is only $10.
In the gym, Lisa Stiles-Gyllenhammer’s brother, Chris Stiles, joined the paint crew. He said of his sister, “She would think this is fantastic. It’s all about giving kids an opportunity to succeed.”
Havens and Iverson agreed. They both worked with Stiles-Gyllenhammer. “She loved at-risk kids who struggled, and offered a helping hand without judgment,” said Havens.
The mission of the club focuses on building young peoples’ self-esteem and confidence by helping them develop positive relationships with adults who serve as mentors and role models. Its core programs are education and career development, character and leadership development, health and life skills, arts and sports, and fitness and recreation.
Davenport hopes the new facility will become a hub for the Mead community. “We plan to bring in family counseling services, drug and alcohol diversion services and work force training,” he said.
As Iverson and Havens wielded paintbrushes alongside volunteers, Iverson reiterated the purpose of the club. He said, “Every child needs a safe place to come after school.”