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New name, same mission: Starting kids off on a firm foundation

Eight-year-old Dante Lauk laughs delightedly as he shows off his creation of Play-Doh and Popsicle sticks in the art room at the Youth Club of Powell on Thursday afternoon. Watching (behind) is staff member Morgan Ley. Eight-year-old Dante Lauk laughs delightedly as he shows off his creation of Play-Doh and Popsicle sticks in the art room at the Youth Club of Powell on Thursday afternoon. Watching (behind) is staff member Morgan Ley. Tribune photos by Ilene Olson

What’s in a name?

For the former Boys and Girls Clubs of Park County — now the Youth Clubs of Park County — it’s sustainability.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Park County opened their doors in Powell and Cody in 1998 under the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, said executive director Tina Bernard.

“At that time, there was quite a bit of pass-through funding coming through to small clubs,” Bernard said. “But ... over the years, it was costing us more to kind of stay under the umbrella and comply with charter requirements.”

That situation led to a recent decision by the club’s board to break away from the charter.

“That really opened up the doors to put us in a great financial position,” by allowing the club to stop sending a portion of its funding to Atlanta and to increase the membership dues it charges, Bernard said.

It also necessitated a new name for the Park County clubs.

“We decided on Youth Clubs of Park County,” Bernard said.

That’s the biggest change people will notice, though “everybody knows us as ‘The Club,’” she said.

“We keep our 501c status, our address, the building. We have the same programming, the same vision and mission. ... The purpose of the Youth Club is to serve our community kids, and our community kids are our future leaders. We want to get off to a good start.”

While the clubs can’t use programming owned by Boys and Girls Clubs, they’ve picked up other curriculum that mirrors it, Bernard said.

The membership fee increased to $50 per youth per month at the club, up from $10 (the limit set by Boys and Girls Clubs of America). But Bernard stressed that the club never turns away a child.

“If that is a hardship for a family, we scholarship them in. They fill out paperwork, then we can get those kids in this program.”

As before, the Youth Club of Powell serves youth ages 6 to 18. Activities are planned daily for different ages.

Community support

Another difference is less noticeable: Other than occasional funding through grants, “now, we are 100 percent community dependent,” Bernard said.

The community has responded with more help — providing monetary donations and volunteering to help with projects.

“We feel that the community is a lot more willing to step up and help us out more now that we’re not sending funding to Atlanta, Georgia,” Bernard said. “We have really had a lot of folks step up and want to do things for us.”

For instance, volunteers with Powell Valley Healthcare recently helped paint the gym and clean the art room in the club building, and SWI Inc. donated a fence, she said.

Monetary donations can be made directly to the club, or they can be sent to the Northwest College Foundation, which manages an endowment for the Youth Club, or the Wyoming Community Foundation in Laramie, which manages a second endowment for the club. Donations made directly to the club can be spent as directed by the donor or club management; donations to endowments remain in those funds in perpetuity, and only the earnings on that money are spent quarterly, Bernard said.

For more information, contact Bernard at 754-0202.

Bernard said the Youth Club of Powell is important, not only to children, teens and families, but also to employers in the community.

“As a mom or a grandmother, you’re only as good of an employee as your child care provider is,” she said. “You should want to donate. They will be great employees while their children are being taken care of here.”

The club’s biggest expense is for fun, high-energy, well-trained staff members to work with the kids, Bernard said. On top of that expense are utilities, insurance and other things that grants won’t pay for.

“We need unrestricted money for those things,” she said. “Without those things, we can’t have the other things.”

Bernard said the recent changes have been positive for the club.

“We were a bit nervous to start with, but it truly was a good move for us.”

Family Fun Night

To celebrate its name change and all that goes with it, the Youth Club of Powell will have a Family Fun Night at Plaza Diane from 6-8 p.m. Saturday, April 1. The free event features a kids’ carnival, food and an opportunity to buy raffle tickets for a Kawasaki Teryx. Staff will be on hand to visit with guests and talk about the club’s name change and the services it provides to families.

Scott Shopa (left) and June Minchow, volunteers from Powell Valley Healthcare, help paint the gym room at the Youth Club of Park County in February. Boys and Girls Clubs of Park County changed their name to Youth Clubs of Park County when they severed ties with Boys and Girls Clubs of America — a move that made the club independent and more sustainable.

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