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Boys & Girls Club bursting at seams

To say that the Boys and Girls Club of Detroit Lakes summer program is a success would be an understatement. To say the club is at its highest membership ever would be pure fact. To say that the club is bursting at the seams would be cliché, but also extremely accurate.

“We had an overwhelming response to our summer programming,” Program Director Tami Skinner said.

Held over a two night period, sign up for the summer program was filled at 130 kids, with a waiting list of 25 more. Last year, they had 92-100 kids for the summer program.

To be able to house that many more kids this year, the club is working with two other entities in town for space. The teenagers will spend their summer in Grace Lutheran Church, as they have in the past.

The kindergarten through second grade kids will stay at the club, and if all goes according to plan, the in between ages will go to a new space in M State. That arrangement has yet to be cemented though.

“If we get the college, we’ll be able to take all those kids,” Executive Director Pat Petermann said of those on the waiting list as well.

Though it’s a lot of kids in different locations, Program Leader Michelle Dominguez said it’s actually a good thing to be able to split the kids into age groups rather than having everyone together.

“It’s more age appropriate and the activities they do,” she said. “It’s so much easier with programming because we can focus on what’s right with that age.”

For example, Skinner said that hopefully the teens will take on a leadership role and decide what they want to do for fieldtrips and service projects in the community rather than the leaders having to tell them.

“We want to let their interests drive the program,” she said.

The teens aren’t the only ones taking fieldtrips either. Dominguez said there are fieldtrips twice a week for all ages and they range from swimming and playing in the Backyard at the community center to horseback riding, golfing to Bingo, fishing to history lessons at the museum.

And while those activities all sound fun – and likely are – the leaders will also be working with the kids on academics, character, leadership, volunteerism and healthy living.

“It’s lots of fun but we also want to use our time with them,” Skinner said.

Another change will be the same staff working with the same age group. In the past, leaders have rotated through the kids.

“The staff will be consistent with that age group,” Skinner said. “We need to pull in some consistency.”

Skinner and Dominguez said the paperwork for planning the summer program continues to grow. Though the kids will be spread to other locations, they will all eat breakfast and lunch at the club, so the women are working on the scheduling of getting everyone fed but not having to stack kids on top of each other just to eat lunch.

Getting back to working with the kids

Skinner has only been with the Boys and Girls Club for four weeks, but Petermann said she’s learning just fine.

Skinner’s background is in school-aged care, and she has been working with kids for many years.

She also taught at Concordia College in St. Paul before she decided to get back into the care side of things rather than teaching.

“Now I have to walk the walk,” she said with a laugh.

After she and her husband moved to the Detroit Lakes area four years ago, she worked at Mahube Early Head Start. She said it was more a management position though and she wanted to get back to working directly with the kids. She said she was looking for an afterschool program to work in and found the Boys and Girls Club.

Nowhere left to go

With having to split kids into three different locations around Detroit Lakes, it’s no secret the club isn’t adequate for the space needs anymore.

There have been talks with the Detroit Lakes School District for the Boys and Girls Club to partner with the district and rent a portion of the Rossman Elementary building if the district should pass a building referendum in the near future.

That referendum vote is still up in the air though.

The club board has also talked about holding a capital campaign and constructing a new building on the existing club site. The city of Detroit Lakes owns the land and building the club resides at on the hill at Highway 34 and Roosevelt Avenue/County Road 22.

“We need to let the community know we are out of space,” Petermann said.

He added that the club has a good staff, but there just isn’t the space in the club to host all the kids and programming they would like to.

They are also out of office space, with everyone sharing the small amount of space they have already.

And the club only continues to grow.

“We have a lot of new families that registered for summer (programming),” he said.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield