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New era for Boys & Girls Club in Kingman

From left, Chris Edwards, Simon Winokur and Justin Smith play a card game at the Boys and Girls Club of Kingman in July 2011. Significant changes designed to improve the club have begun.

KINGMAN - A new day has dawned for the Boys & Girls Club of Kingman.

The board of directors has renewed its focus on the children the organization serves and changes have been made to further that goal.

Longtime executive director Noreen Frisch last week was let go from the position she held for a dozen years. The board of directors would not discuss the reasons behind her termination, saying it's a personnel issue.

All other staff members retained their positions and a search for a new executive director is under way, said Vice President Robin Gordon.

The first order of business is to enhance the club's after school program.

Program Director Debbie Thomas said programs have expanded in a host of areas, with more games and other activities, a homework center with tutoring assistance and more access to the gymnasium.

The arts and crafts and music programs have also been expanded.

Plans call for a new computer center - monetary donations are needed to purchase equipment - and a big-screen TV and game console will be set up. The plan is to use the entertainment system as a way to reward children who bring up their grades or make progress in other areas of their lives.

The Boys & Girls Club also has a backpack program that provides a crucial service.

Many children who belong to the club are from low-income households. They qualify for free breakfasts and lunches while at school, but it isn't uncommon for them to not have food that lasts through the weekend.

The backpacks they pick up on Thursdays and Fridays are filled with nutritious nonperishable food items.

"Some children are not eating at home," said Gordon. That's why the board started Power Up, an acronym for Positive Opportunities When Eating Right.

The United Way, she said, has been instrumental in making the program a success.

The Kingman Walmart, she said, has provided a substantial amount of food to the Power Up program and the store's employees have played a key role in raising funds.

Other partners the board wanted to recognize are Arizona State Prison-Kingman, which donated computers and raised funds. Frontier, Staples, Pizza Hut, the Salvation Army and the Kingman Area Food Bank also partner with the club.

J.M. Eagle and the Kingman Daily Miner lend the club assistance, said Gordon.

The activity sponsors are Mohave State Bank, Taco Bell, Monica J. Busch Investments, UniSource, Performance Specialists and Mohave Community Federal Credit Union.

"It's all about the kids," said Board President Busch. "That's what we want our focus to be and our partners have been great. We could not operate without them.

"We could not keep the doors open. The community support is unbelievable."

Between 65 and 70 children take part in the club's after school program, said Thomas. Buses from the Kingman Unified School District and Kingman Academy drop off students at the downtown facility at 301 N. First Street.

The club has started a scholarship program to help disadvantaged children join the organization.

"This will allow children whose parents can't afford the yearly membership dues to come," said board member and City Councilwoman Carole Young.

Annual dues are $60 per child.

For the expanded summer program, the dues increase to $175 for the five-week session.

The club is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays during the summer. According to Thomas, about 100 children participated last year.

The board is working on implementing a scholarship program for the summer months.

Overall, about 160 children are full-time members.

Another project the club sponsors with low-income children in mind is its eyeglass program. In partnership with the Lions Club, eye exams and eyeglasses are provided to students who require them.

More than 100 children in Kingman have been helped, said Thomas.

And while the club's motto is "It's all about the kids," the club depends on the kindness of everyday Kingmanites in addition to its corporate sponsors.

With that in mind, a bowling tournament fundraiser will get under way March 24 at 10 a.m. Call Curtis Cutshaw of J.M. Eagle at 928 530-5575 for more information.

The hours during the school year are 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The club accepts cash donations and nonperishable food items. The club's mailing address is PO Box 4362, Kingman, Ariz., 86402. Individuals can sponsor a child by paying his or her dues, as well.

Busch said the board will meet Wednesday to discuss Frisch's replacement.

"The big thing is we're not closing," said Busch, responding to what she referred to as the gossip all board members have heard recently.

"We're moving forward. We want to get as many kids in here as we can. We're committed to keeping the doors open."

Keeping the doors open provides children with more than a safe haven.

A study commissioned by the national Boys & Girls Clubs of America found that children who belong to the club are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college than are their peers who don't participate in club activities.

But the national club also found preteens and teenagers often end their involvement because the clubs don't cater to their interests.

The Kingman board is working on programs designed to keep older children and teens engaged, said Gordon.


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