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Nespelem Boys & Girls Club opens

 

Children, staff, and volunteers of the Nespelem Boys & Girls Club water garden beds where they are growing watermelon, radishes, carrots, corn, peppers, tomatoes, and more. Pictured are, left to right: Natalie Viera, Niah Thomas, Dakota Thomas, and volunteer Leah Ali. - Jacob Wagner photo

Nespelem now has a Boys & Girls Club, located in the area's community center, offering a range of activities, mentorship, and help with homework.

A soft opening of the club occurred on June 21 for the summer, and an official opening will occur sometime in the fall after school starts and when the club will be assisting with academics.

Some 157, and counting, school-age children have signed up, and the club is averaging about 30-50 children attending each day, according to Director Michelle Paul Jane.

The Boys & Girls Club of America is a national organization that dates back to 1860 and currently has over 4,300 clubs nationwide, with more than 175 in the state of Washington. The organization's mission statement is "to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens."

"We strive to provide a wide variety of programming in areas such as education, sports/recreation, career development, character/leadership, arts, and culture," Paul Jane said. "We also welcome volunteers who want to help in any way that they can, whether it's chaperoning, teaching the kids, or running activities."

Paul Jane said activities currently range from gardening, arts and crafts (such as painting rocks for the Convalescent Center residents and tye-dying T-shirts), swimming in the nearby creek, and playing kickball to scavenger hunts, trips to Buffalo Lake, and more.

Kids recently took a field trip to Keller, where they saw a professional dunk contest put on by Kenny Dobbs.

"That was a pretty good show; good presentation and basketball camp," said Program Assistant Charles Thomas.

"In my experience, we didn't have anything like this growing up around here; I wish we did," Thomas said. "We don't let them use profanity, we teach them manners and respect. I can see a difference in the kids' attitudes already. We have fun."

"The CCT Fleet has been amazing and supportive in providing vans for us to take kids to lunch at the Nespelem School and field trips to Buffalo Lake," Paul Jane said.

"If you ask me about the club, I like pretty much everything," Dasyn Abrahamson, a kid in the club said Monday. "I like swimming at Buffalo Lake," said Dakota Thomas, another club member who said he's made friends there.

The Boys and Girls Club of Snohomish County, in partnership with the Colville Tribes, helped establish a club in Inchelium in 2015, whose success in that community led to the establishment of one in Nespelem. Tammy James-Pino, Colville Tribal Education and Employment Director, gave partial credit to the club in Inchelium in removing the Inchelium school from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction's priority list for underperforming schools.

The Colville Tribes funds the club and the Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County assists with the management of funds and the operations of the club. The Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County is involved now and has 23 clubs under their guidance, ensuring that the clubs are operating under the policies and procedures of the Boys and Girls Club of America.

"I have heard from so many community members that the Nespelem community needed this," Paul Jane said. "My hopes for this club is for it to continue to be supported, because the kids love it and it's a safe and healthy place for them to be."

In addition to Paul Jane, the Boys & Girls Club of Nespelem is staffed by Program Director Khristy Covington, and Program Assistants Tatianna Abrahamson, Riley Epperson, and Charles Thomas. Volunteers are also on the scene to help mentor the children, including high school students who can get volunteer hours towards graduation requirements.

Boys and girls from the surrounding area, including the Grand Coulee Dam area, Keller and more, are welcome to join the club.

Donations of cash, food, toys, art supplies and more are accepted.

For more information call 509-634-2140.

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