When Dick Hanlin was offered the job as executive director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane County, he didn’t hesitate to take it. A 1981 Washington State University graduate, he spent time in Anchorage, Alaska, before moving to Portland, then to Grants Pass, Ore., and now he feels like he’s coming home.
“It’s been 30 years and most of it has been dedicated to the Boys & Girls Club, so taking this job in Spokane does feel like coming full circle,” Hanlin said. “It will be nice to live in the land of the Cougars after swimming so many years in a sea of Ducks.”
Hanlin’s official first day was Monday, but he’s been getting acquainted with the Boys & Girls Clubs’ main office on East Providence Avenue since early December.
“That’s when I got here with my truck and everything,” Hanlin said.
He got here just in time for some major good news: Comcast donated $25,000 toward new computer equipment at the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Mead location.
“That is huge,” said Hanlin, looking at the big cardboard check. “Technology is vital for kids today, and some of our members have zero technology at home.” The Comcast donation will go toward 22 workstations, a new server, a laser printer and an LCD projector, the latter to help Boys & Girls Club members learn how to do PowerPoint presentations.
“At the Boys & Girls Club you can spend more time in the computer lab than you can at many schools,” said Hanlin, adding that the computer systems are monitored and protected. “We have very structured programs so the kids learn some skills – they don’t just surf on the Internet.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane County opened in 2001. At the time Spokane was the largest metropolitan area in the country without a Boys & Girls Club, and 658 youth signed up for the first clubhouse on East Providence.
Today, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane County serves about 3,700 kids at its three locations.
Membership is still just $10 per year, but Hanlin said the cost of providing programs to one child is several hundred dollars. The difference is made up by donations, grants and other fundraising activities.
“We just got an unexpected $5,000 check in the mail from Avista,” Hanlin said. “I think we’ve passed the good housekeeping litmus test by now, so more and more people and organizations think of us.”
The Boys & Girls Club is entering its tenth year in Spokane with an annual budget of about $1.1 million.
The organization has been serving inner-city and low-income kids since 1860, and like many other social services organizations, it has seen an increased demand on services over this past year; membership went up by 54 percent in 2010.
“We are not trying to take the place of any other community organization, but we’ve become a nice piece of the community pie,” said Hanlin. “We have a nice program here that can be built upon for the future.”
The Northtown Clubhouse is also the main office, and aside from after-school programs in music, reading, sports and technology, that location also hosts a Second Harvest Food Bank outlet and a special food bank for children called Kids Café.
Hanlin said he hopes to focus on the sustainability of the organization, perhaps by creating an endowment, and on maintaining good facilities.
“I’m a stickler for presentable facilities,” Hanlin said. “I was in a Boys Club as a kid and the place stunk. It wasn’t very well maintained, so I guess that’s why maintenance is so important to me.”
The Boys & Girls Club is currently most active on the north side of Spokane, but Hanlin would like to expand.
“Ten years from now it would be nice with a few more sites,” he said. “And to ensure we have the financial means to weather the next storm, whatever that is. I hope we learn from this recession, and that will make us stronger.”