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Duneland Boys & Girls Club

Written by Nicholas Serrano. Posted in Featured

Published on October 26, 2011 with No Comments

 

With nearly 400 members at the Duneland unit and close to 5,000 members in Porter County, the Boys & Girls Club is popular among area children for recreation, education and socialization.

A pillar in the community and in the lives of thousands of youths throughout its time in Porter County, The Boys & Girls Club continues to provide a positive place for learning and recreation. On Oct. 6, the Duneland Unit of the Boys & Girls Club of Porter County celebrated its fifth year in Chesterton with a fun fair and open house.

The event was as much an event creating awareness as it was a celebration of the club’s time in the Duneland community. Joe Juarez, unit supervisor at the Duneland Club, has been privileged to be a part of this club since it first started. He said, in that time, the club has signed up about 1,500 members and on any given day there are roughly 110 children there. However, despite having nearly 400 active members, Juarez said many people in the community are still unaware there is a Boys & Girls Club in Chesterton. This is due in part to the club’s location, nestled in a quiet neighborhood several blocks from Broadway. The building itself is an old church owned by the First United Methodist Church.

 “The Methodist Church was trying to develop a youth center for the area and they weren’t having much luck. Chuck Leer, president of the Boys & Girls Club of Porter County, met with the Pastor Terry Rhine, and he said, ‘You guys have the building and we have the ability to attract kids, so let’s partner up,’ ” said Juarez. “For the first few years they leased the building for one dollar a year so the church made it really easy to get started.”

The Boys & Girls Club is one of the most affordable children’s programs in town, said Juarez, and the quality activities offered and fun opportunities available are difficult to match. At the club, they focus on three main areas: Academic success, development of good character and health and fitness. When a child comes to the club, Juarez said, these are the areas they try to focus on. They may be playing sports in the gym but the children are also learning about fair play and good sportsmanship as well. The Triple Play program, targeting healthy body and mind, helps children to learn balance in their lives while another program called Net Smarts, helps the children to learn how to safely use the Internet. Intelligence and education are also emphasized at the club and one popular program, Link & Learn, encourages the combination of fun and learning.

 “We do a lot of educational programming however the thing is, we know kids are coming right out of school to us so we try to make it fun,” said Juarez. “The last thing a kid wants to do after school is sit down and do more school work so the first step we take is to make their learning here fun. They may not know it, but they are learning.”

Many of the programs offered to the members of the Duneland Boys & Girls Club are run by children themselves. The Art Club for example, is run by three club members. Youth Enterprises is another example of a member-run program, teaching responsibility, economics and good business practices.

Each day, the children set up and run a “snack shack,” located in the club. They sell various food items, snacks and treats. The profits help fund activities such as camping trips, said Juarez. The children also receive a portion of the profits, similar to a paycheck. One of the programs which Juarez admits, is closest to his heart, is the Torch Club.

 “The Torch Club is our leadership and character development group. I lead that group and It’s fun. We strive on community service projects. The children come up with the idea, I help guide them and we go do it,” said Juarez. “We’ve done Toys for Tots, helped fund raise for the animal shelter and we’ve raised money to build a well in Haiti. They take those projects and run with them. They’re an awesome group.”

The Boys & Girls Club isn’t just a place to occupy children’s time after school, but also a place to develop friendships and relationships, both between the children themselves and the staff members. The club staff and the kids share a relationship that is different than most, according to Juarez. The children get to have fun but they also get to have a relationship in which the children can open up and talk to the staff about things that are important to them. The club also provides an excellent opportunity for socialization among peers for children who may otherwise end up sitting at home by themselves after school. Overall, the environment provided for the children is positive, enriching and special.

 “The kids just absolutely love to be here. I’ve never felt that the kids were feeling forced to be there. The kids just love the place. So many times when the kids get picked up they are mad that they have to leave. They love the club and love to have fun,” said Juarez.

This year is also the 40-year anniversary of the Boys & Girls Club’s existence in Porter County. Collectively, the clubs and their programs support and service nearly 5,000 members each year. For more information call 219-464-7282 or visit www.bgcpoco.org.

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