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Boys and Girls Club focus of presentation to city council

Would a Boys and Girls Club benefit Sunnyside?

The Sunnyside City Council at last night's workshop in an effort to answer that question heard about the programs available through the organization from Greg Faulk.

He is the president of the Boys and Girls Club of Benton and Franklin Counties.

First, Faulk provided a history of the organization, dating back to 1860. He said a group of women wanted to offer food and shelter to young boys in the community of Hartford, Conn. The club was called the Dashaway Club.

The organization slowly grew becoming known as Boys Club and in 1906 there were 53 clubs in the nation. That slow growth continued and in the 1980s girls began participating in programs offered to boys.

Faulk said the girls participation came about as the result of mothers instructing their sons to "take your sister with you."

In 1990 the organization began formally serving girls and the name changed to Boys and Girls Club.

The programs offered by the organization, he said, all relate to the Boys and Girls Club mission, "To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to become productive, responsible and caring citizens."

Faulk said his organization would change its name if a club opened in Sunnyside. The name would need to reflect the communities it serves.

He also noted Boys and Girls Club programs are not focused on getting youth out of gangs, but preventing them from joining gangs.

Sunnyside, said Faulk, is just the type of community in which Boys and Girls Clubs are located. The demographics, including the ethnic make-up and the number of children receiving free and/or reduced price lunches in the schools, as well as the per capita income ($10,332) fall within the criteria of areas Boys and Girls Clubs like to serve.

Faulk said if a Boys and Girls Club was to be established in Sunnyside the organization would seek partnerships with the city, schools and the businesses.

The partnership with the schools, he said, is particularly important because the Boys and Girls Club likes to communicate with teachers to address the needs of the children participating in the programs offered by the organization.

"We want to expose kids to things they don't normally get exposed to," said Faulk, telling the Sunnyside City Council the organization also seeks to serve youth by taking them on trips.

The cost of operating a Boys and Girls Club in Sunnyside, said Faulk, would be between $250,000 and $1 million.

"We are not designed to get kids out of gangs...we are designed to keep them from joining gangs," said Faulk, stating a Boys and Girls Club in Sunnyside might be targeted at youth between first and seventh or eighth grade. He said there might be teen programs because of the gym at the Sunnyside Community Center.

Those programs, said Faulk, would be run after the general programs for the younger children.

"It would be a crime not to offer high school programs with that gym there," said Faulk.

The funding for the Boys and Girls Club, he said, would be dependent upon community support. He said Prosser's club raised $120,000 through community efforts. Another $70,000 was provided by the city, which asked the club to run the parks and recreation programs with the exception of the municipal pool.

Faulk said the director of the local club must be local and no one joins the club for free. The cost to join Boys and Girls Club is $20, but scholarships are available and youth are provided opportunities to complete tasks for the scholarships.

He said the fee is necessary to ensure the youth are invested in the programs offered at the Boys and Girls Club.

Faulk then detailed 10 different programs that could serve the youth in Sunnyside and said, "We don't do much of what Sunnyside's Promise does...we would love to partner with them because it appears Sunnyside's Promise offers programs that are needed in this community."

Councilman Mike Farmer asked for elaboration on the organization's role in running the parks and recreation programs in Prosser.

Faulk said the city of Prosser had a low number of youth participating in programs offered by the parks and recreation department. As a result, the Boys and Girls Club will organize and operate programs like a rugby and a football camp during the summer months.

The Sunnyside City Council appreciated the presentation and felt community input is important in deciding how to proceed. Council also agreed a tour of the Boys and Girls Club in Pasco would be prudent.

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