While many people may envision Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis as nothing more than a place for children to play sports and games, the folks who operate the Keenan-Stahl branch at 1949 E. Troy Ave. know differently.
“We are a hidden gem that offers much more than sports and fun,” said Bob White, president of the club’s advisory board. “The community needs to know about us and what we have to offer. It’s not all fun and games here. We have a structured program. The kids have to complete their homework before they do anything else.”
Children spend about an hour each weekday in the club’s learning centers, where they read, play educational games and do homework. Points are earned for each completed assignment and can be redeemed for prizes ranging from school supplies to DVD players and TVs.
“We offer daily craft projects, computer labs, career development programs, field trips and leadership groups, all of which develop skills that the kids will need,” said White, who spent a lot of time at the center when he was a youth. “I really believe in the program we offer; we help a lot of kids.
“I like working with the children; this is my way of giving back to the club for what it did for me when I was young.”
The center is open from 3-7 p.m. weekdays (earlier during the summer and school breaks) and serves about 225 children ages 5-18 each day.
“We have room to grow,” Director Michael Coleman said “If we get the funding to keep our pool open year-round, that frees up space for 60 more kids.”
The club is hosting a basketball tournament from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday for boys and girls ages 8-14 and a skills clinic at noon. There is no charge to participate, but donations of money and food for the center’s Pantry of Hope will be accepted. Teams and individual players can register on-site. Call White at 317-220-2172 for more information.
Also on the agenda is an open house from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, to showcase the club’s programs and its pantry, which is always in need of donations. The center’s free Thanksgiving dinner will be served from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22.
Established in 1893 as the Newsboy Home, Boys & Girls Club of Indianapolis is known for providing safe havens for young people from distressed and challenged communities throughout the city. Eighty-six percent of members qualify for free or reduced lunches, and 45 percent come from single-parent households. A school-year membership only costs $15.
The organization’s mission statement is: “We believe that every young person deserves to have a life filled with hope and opportunity. Because we care about our young people, we provide a safe, educational and positive atmosphere where they can prosper and reach their full potential.”
White credits the center’s success to its outstanding staff and volunteers, saying, “Everyone works as a team, and the volunteers play a key role.”