Grant to help open Boys & Girls Clubs

GRAND MOUND - Tribes in Washington may have an easier time opening Boys & Girls Clubs, after an $101,700 grant to help the nonprofit open clubs on reservations.

The grant from the State Attorney General’s Office will pay for at least two years of a coordinator with the Washington Association of Boys and Girls Clubs who will help tribes work with their local Boys and Girls Club associations.

“The challenge was on our side, not the tribal side. It was really the time and attention that was needed,” said Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Snohomish County, where the Tulalip tribe has the only reservation Boys & Girls Club. Several other tribes that have expressed interest in opening Boys & Girls Clubs on reservations, including the Chehalis, Lummi, Yakama and Quinault.

There could be many variations on an agreement between a county Boys & Girls Club organization and an individual tribe, covering everything from financial agreements to the local staff hiring process, officials said.

“The tribes are sovereign nations, they have their own approach – as they should – to how they approach pursuing these kinds of opportunities and having their own questions,” Attorney General Rob McKenna said. “The process of deciding whether there should be a Boys & Girls Club should be done in a way that respects their sovereignty and respects their own deliberative process and is a culturally appropriate process, as well.”

“There’s a very strong interest in not only this tribe, but with tribes around the state making sure that our kids are taken care of,” said Chehalis tribal chairman David Burnett.

Burnett said he planned to organize tribal youth directors and other tribal leaders throughout the state to be part of the process of finding the right coordinator with the Washington Association of Boys and Girls Clubs.

Burnett, who helped announce the grant, said that having a Boys & Girls Club on the reservation has been a topic of interest for several years, though no decision is imminent.

The Chehalis tribe already provides youth activities, an education program and a homework club at its community center, Burnett said.

However, Burnett added, some children who are members of the Chehalis tribe attend the Rochester Boys & Girls Club. The tribe’s vice chairman, Don Secena, is also a board member of Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County.

The grant was from Washington’s $1.6 million share of a multi-state consumer protection settlement from drug maker Merck and Company, Inc. in 2008. The $85 million settlement was related to the states’ investigation into the company’s promotion of the painkiller Vioxx.

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