Garfield Elementary School in Olympia could be the next site for a Boys & Girls Club.
“We’re at the very initial stages of the process,” said Joe Ingoglia, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County. “If everything goes right, we would expect that a club could be open in three years.”
The organization is partnering with the Olympia School District on the effort, Ingoglia said. It’s also launching a $5.95 million capital campaign to raise money for the facility, which would likely be built on school district property, he said.
“We did a lot of research into locations, and I think the site at Garfield was kind of the best combination of space available and high density neighborhood and access to a number of schools,” Ingoglia said.
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The Boys & Girls Club of Thurston County operates at four sites in South Sound.
The oldest one, opened nearly a decade ago, is housed in a former bus barn in the Tumwater School District. Other clubs are in a building owned by North Thurston Public Schools in Lacey, the Rochester Community Center and a middle-school only program at Jefferson Middle School in Olympia.
About 49 percent of Garfield students qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch programs, an indicator of poverty. A Boys & Girls Club would give children in the area structured activities, mentors, and supervision before and after school hours, said Garfield Principal Bob Hodges.
“There’s just a huge need for it in this neighborhood,” he said. “A lot of my kids don’t have the typical middle class opportunities that exist in other areas of the district.”
Hodges added that the club would likely draw students from other feeder schools in the Capital High School attendance area, which is most of the west side of Olympia.
One of the main differences between the Boys & Girls Club and traditional child care is cost: Families pay $25 a year for its after-school programs, and scholarships are available for those who can’t afford the fee.
On a recent afternoon at the Tumwater club, kids lined up in the gym for a snack before dispersing to different areas to work on homework, play table games such as air hockey, meet with service clubs or simply hang out with their friends. The club offers dozens of activities each week including Scouts, martial arts and drama club.
“It’s always fun and energetic here,” said Lyndsie Bell, 10, a fifth-grader at Michael T. Simmons Elementary School. “There are a lot of fun activities every day.”
The club serves about 200 kids who are bused from schools throughout Tumwater, said Monica Langford, director of the Tumwater club.
The Boys & Girls Club is funded mostly through private donations, including corporate sponsorships and individual gifts, she said. Staffing costs are kept low because high school students and community volunteers lead many of the activities.
As part of its feasibility process for a new site, the Boys & Girls Club of Thurston County plans to work with neighborhood groups and local foundations to let them know what its programs are all about, Ingoglia said.
“The best description I’ve heard is ‘We’re a guidance-based program, disguised as a recreation program,’” he said.
Hodges said community meetings will be held to get public input about the proposal. Right now, he added the idea is in the investigation and “what if” stage, but he hopes it will become a reality.
“I can’t think of one thing that we can do for this neighborhood that would advantage kids more than to have a Boys & Girls club at our site,” Hodges said.
“I just think it’s a wonderful opportunity.”