New building pays off for Club

Melissa Berg

The 36-year-old Boys & Girls Club of Ames has doubled in membership since it moved into its new facility last April.

Club membership has jumped to 820 children and teenagers between the ages of 7 and 18.

The new 11,000 square foot building, located at 210 S. Fifth St., houses a full-size gymnasium, a game room, a computer learning center, a weight room and an arts and crafts area, said Boys & Girls Club executive director Geff Gescheidler.

“Its purpose is to be a positive place for kids. It is a safe environment for them to come and have some fun,” Gescheidler said.

Marty Lester, program director of the club, said Boys & Girls Club workers also try to “build self-esteem for kids.”

Lester said a program called the Youth Development Strategy is used to help make children and teens more aware of themselves.

The key components of this strategy are to provide children and teenagers with a sense of confidence, belonging, usefulness, power and influence, she said.

Several different programs and activities are facets of the strategy.

“Age-appropriate challenges such as spelling bees and large group activities give the [kids a] sense of confidence,” Lester said.

She said ID cards and T-shirts have been made available to members to give them the sense of belonging to a “family.”

James Linn, 14, a student at Ames Middle School, is a regular at the club. He said friends at school encouraged him to join.

“My dad thinks it’s great because I can meet people,” he said. “I have made a lot of friends here.”

James said the atmosphere at the club is similar to that of his home.

“We have the same rules [at the club] as at home, too,” he said. “You can’t swear or anything.”

Member input is essential to the club, Lester said.

“We always ask the members for their opinions about how they want to use the club,” he said. “There was a lot of input for the development of the new facility.”

Though the club offers activities of its own, Lester said directors encourage students to become involved in extracurricular activities at school. The club provides a pick-up service at eight of the 10 Ames schools.

The club charges participants $3 for a yearly membership, but it is mostly funded by the United Way.

“We can afford such a low fee because we are a non-profit agency supported by the United Way,” Lester said. “We also receive grants and have annual fund raisers.”

The club currently is seeking volunteers in five key areas: character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, arts, and sports fitness and recreation.

The Boys & Girls Club is open during the school year Tuesdays through Thursdays from 3 to 9 p.m., Fridays from 3 to 8 p.m. for the general public and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Summer hours have not yet been determined.