There is less than one week left until the Boys and Girls Club of Menasha opens for its first summer! Plans for the new center have been in the works since the fall of 2013, and the organization broke ground one year later. In celebration of the club’s official opening, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 6 at 10 a.m., followed by a public open house until 2 p.m. Kids are welcome to attend, of course, and there will be many activities available for all ages during the celebration. The club officially opens for regular summer hours on June 8.
Greg Lemke-Rochon, CEO of The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley, says “We’re just thrilled with the building overall … it’s a gorgeous building inside and out.” The opening facility is just around 40,000 square feet, and contains both youth development areas for 6 to 12-year-olds and a “Club Teen Center” on the second floor. This teen area includes a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) center, a robotics laboratory, a computer room, a sound stage, a game and lounge room, a leader room and a career development center.
The new facility also will have a 7, 500-square-foot gymnasium for recreational activities located on the first floor, as well as a full-grade kitchen and cafeteria, an arts and crafts center, a drama and music room with a sound stage and lighting, and rooms for individual, family and group counseling.
Lemke-Rochon says that the new facility will serve an enormous need in Menasha, since the city “arguably faces some of the largest challenges … within a youth population in the Fox Cities.” Currently, two-thirds of the youths in Menasha are living in low-income households, which Lemke-Rochon says has “a direct impact on how well collectively the population is doing academically.” The gap between low-income students and their peers is, in fact, “larger than any of the other school districts in the Fox Cities,” he says.
The physical location of the Boys and Girls Club of Menasha will hopefully help tackle some of the challenges the youth population currently faces. Lemke-Rochon stresses that there are many service organizations currently assisting the general population in Menasha, but that youths in particular lack the amount of service they need. He says that the decision to locate the new facility in Menasha will give youths a place to finally call their own, something that has been sorely needed in that community.
Getting an enormous project like this accomplished so quickly is no easy task. “The response was quite frankly overwhelming in a positive way,” says Lemke-Rochon, speaking of the individuals and businesses who contributed to the campaign. He especially credits campaign leader John Bergstrom as being vital to the success of the project, as well as the companies and architects who assisted with construction. The building was completed in close to record time: “They saw the need, they saw the opportunity and they stepped up quickly,” says Lemke-Rochon.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley has been working in the community for 17 years. Currently, the organization serves more than 13,000 youths annually. While Lemke-Rochon says there are no current plans for further expansion, the organization will continue to communicate and work with local communities to make sure needs are being met in the area.
If you are interested in signing up for summer programs, you can register online at bgclubfoxvalley.org or call 750-5864. There also will be opportunities to register during the open house on June 6.