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Boys & Girls Clubs offer summer opportunities and more

When school ends in May for the summer, some southwest Missouri youth have exciting things such as family vacation and church camp to look forward to. For other families, though, school not being in session creates a burden for working parents or puts kids at risk for lack of proper supervision and nutrition. Boys & Girls Clubs of the Ozarks can be a lifesaver, providing extended care until the end of a busy parent’s workday or a full-day program when kids are not in school.

 

Now in its 30th year serving the youth of Taney and Stone counties, the mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Ozarks is “to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us the most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.” This is accomplished by filling the gap between school and home for some of the more than a248,000 Missouri kids who leave school each day with nowhere to go. In 2023, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Ozarks (BGCO) served over 2,000 youth, including registered members at locations in Branson, Reeds Spring, Crane and Forsyth; a recently-added after-school program at Blue Eye; and community outreach such as monthly teen nights and events promoting a drug-free life.

 

Providing these services, of course, takes money and staff. Generous contributions by individuals and organizations throughout the community help provide professional adult staff, assisted by dedicated volunteers from the community for specific programs or special events. Contributions also cover facility expenses and supplies. Safety is a top priority, said Operations Director Patrick Stewart, including thorough background checks for all staff and volunteers, a healthy staff/student ratio, and strict sign-out procedures. The Clubs are also a safe space for supervised internet use.

 

Another recent addition to BGCO is Roxanne Amundsen, who serves as Resource Development Coordinator. Amundsen is well-known for her civic involvement in area Chambers of Commerce, Taney County 100 Club, and more, and said she is excited to be able to share the benefits of Boys & Girls Club of the Ozarks with even more businesses and individuals throughout the area. The Globe was recently invited to tour the Branson facility with Amundsen, and as part of her duties, she is glad to offer a tour experience to others interested in learning more. 

 

The BGCO approach includes three areas of priority, with every activity designed to align with one or more: Healthy Lifestyles; Good Character/Citizenship; and Academic Success. The recent tour showed the Healthy Lifestyles component at work during a stop by the kitchen. Students rotate helping with kitchen duties, which gives valuable preparation for job skills, made extra fun with activities such as a food truck competition. Students in the after-school program receive a hot supper, and full-day attendees are served breakfast and lunch. Regular exercise and outdoor activity, including a vegetable garden with the produce used in club meals, are also part of the Healthy Lifestyles element.

 

As the tour progressed, it was easy to observe various activities through large windows which allow for even better supervision and are just one of several facility upgrades; a recreation court and pavilion sponsored by Branson/Hollister Rotary Club are also in progress. On the day of our visit, students were enjoying a game of Minefield, part of a discussion of navigation procedures used by NASA and a component of the Academic Success priority. In addition to such hands-on STEAM learning, each day has a “power hour” time for students to receive homework assistance and tutoring.

 

“We add value to the student’s school day, extending it through variety and enrichment activities,” said CEO Stoney Hays, himself a “club kid” who answered the call to give back through serving the organization that contributed so much to his own young years. Along with filling a gap for working parents after school, area clubs are now helping pick up the slack in terms of supervision and learning retention as several area schools have adopted four-day school weeks.

 

The tour also gives a glimpse of the Character/Citizenship element, as Torch (middle school) and Keystone (high school) groups meet to plan and discuss service projects to be done in the community. Also, toward the citizenship goal, students at the Crane facility recently had the opportunity to learn about immigration, as Roxanne Amundsen visited that Club to share about her immigrant parents. While enjoying cookies made with an ethnic Armenian recipe, students were immersed in the powerful third-person story of a young girl whose parents made the decision to move to the United States because of the freedoms its citizens enjoy—that young girl, of course, was Amundsen, whose appreciation for her citizenship shows clearly in her dedication to her community and to this new opportunity to impact kids.

 

Want to get involved? Your investment of Time, Talents, and Treasure helps create opportunities for even more kids and point them to a great future. Visit www.bgcozarks.org/donate to get involved financially, with giving levels available to fit every individual and corporate budget. Or do you want to learn more and see a Club for yourself? Roxanne is eager to meet you and give you a tour! Call 417-335-2089, or email RAmundsen@bgcozarks.org.

 

Summer is also a great time to encourage visitors to the Branson/Tri-Lakes area to show appreciation for our workers, many of whom depend on BGCO to provide a secure place for their kids, by giving through the Buck Up For Kids program. Call Stoney or Roxanne about posters for your business location, and watch for posters when you’re dining or enjoying community activities.

 

Also, mark your calendar now for October 10, 2024, the annual Thanks4Giving Gala to be held at the Branson Convention Center. Various levels of sponsorship are available, and you don’t want to miss this year’s special guest, St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith! Watch for details coming soon!

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