Boys & Girls Club serves area’s youth
The Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows is heading into its 40th year of serving the youth of northern Nevada. Over the past four decades, what started as a few dozen boys in a makeshift clubhouse on Terminal Way has transformed into the largest youth-serving organization in the region. This year, the Club will serve nearly 14,000 youth at 20 sites in Reno, Sparks and Fernley.
“Forty is a big milestone,” said Executive Director Mike Wurm. “It’s incredible the way the community has rallied around the Boys & Girls Club. Without the support of so many people over the years, we wouldn’t be here today to celebrate this anniversary.”
Because of the support of the northern Nevada community, the Boys & Girls Club continues to be a vital resource for local youth. The 20 Club locations serve urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods, with sites spanning the Truckee Meadows from Lemmon Valley to Neil Road and Verdi to Fernley. The Club has youth centers for 6- to 12-year-olds, teen centers for the 13 to 18 crowd, and even the E. L. Wiegand Early Learning Center for little ones 6 weeks to 5 years, including an all-day kindergarten.
The Club offers dozens of programs, activities and special events for young people, from afterschool tutoring to sports leagues to leadership clubs. Every program focuses on one of five core areas: Education & Career Development; Sports, Fitness & Recreation; Character & Leadership Development; Health & Life Skills; and the Arts. Together, these programs help kids grow into educated, contributing, well-rounded adults.
“We have a proven formula for success. Our programs are a great hybrid of national models customized to meet the unique needs of our local kids,” said Wurm. “Of course, if you ask Club members what they like about the Club, they’re not going to talk about evidence-based program models. They’ll tell you it’s fun, and they’ll tell you about our amazing staff.”
“A lot of people think that the Boys & Girls Club is just a place for kids to hang out and be safe, but it’s so much more than that,” said Gissel Gonzales Aguilar, the Club’s 2015 Female Youth of the Year. “I’ve always been the shy kid who wouldn’t talk to anyone. The staff at the Club recognized this and reached out to me. With their support, I started talking more and making new friends at the Club. It’s truly a place to build friendships.”
More Growth on the Horizon
With 40 years under their belt and tens of thousands of youth impacted, one might think the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows has reached its pinnacle. Not so, says Wurm. “We’re constantly looking for ways to bring the Club to new neighborhoods and new kids. There’s always a need. But we’re very intentional about our growth. Our board is diligent to make sure every new growth opportunity makes sense and is sustainable long-term.”
One such growth opportunity occurred in 2014 as the Club opened the new William N. Pennington Facility. Located on Foster Drive in Reno, the facility celebrated its one-year anniversary this past June, and it’s already operating near capacity, serving nearly 300 youth every day. It’s clear from the site’s high level of use that this facility is filling an important need in this neighborhood.
Another significant growth opportunity is now in the works for a Boys & Girls Club on Bresson Avenue in Reno. The Club first started working at the Bresson site in 2014, and since that time, attendance has skyrocketed. The site now serves 75 to 100 youth every day. But the aging, dilapidated facility is in need of major improvements to better serve the community. The Club is in the process of making that happen, which would allow the Club to serve even more of the local six to 12-year-old population as well as further develop a teen program to serve students from Vaughn Middle School, which is right across the street.
“The Bresson facility is in a neighborhood with a high need for our services,” said Wurm. “About 2,000 kids live nearby, and 95 percent of them qualify for free or reduced lunch. If there’s a place in Reno for a Boys & Girls Club, this is it, and our team is working hard to make sure this project happens for the kids in this area.”
Once this project is complete, it’s hard to say where the Boys & Girls Club will head next, but there’s no doubt that growth will continue. “Our ultimate goal is to put ourselves out of a job,” said Wurm. “Once every single kid in our region has everything they need to thrive, there won’t be a need for the Boys & Girls Club. But until then, we have work to do.”
Longtime journalist Steve Ranson, editor emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News — a sister publication of the NNBW — has published the 280-page book “Legacies of the Silver State: Nevada Goes to War.”