Just a few weeks out from summer vacation, staff at the Mountain View Boys & Girls Club are busy preparing for one of the club’s busiest seasons.
The clubhouse on Price Street is the largest in the state, said Jennifer Brown, the club’s communications director. It has about 1,000 young members, Brown said. She believes it has something to do with the sidewalks running through the neighborhood.
And they do; from the high school students who come by after 2 p.m. to the elementary kids at 3:30 p.m. The club also drives several vans to pick up students from local schools. David Barney, the clubhouse manager, has both a master’s degree and a commercial driver’s license.
And while daily attendance tends to decrease in the summer, Barney said the club suddenly becomes busy throughout the day. Besides programs the neighborhood branch library and a few local parks, there aren’t many other options.
“School is the form of structure in 60 percent of our kids’ lives,” said Barney, who’s worked for the Boys & Girls Club for more than six years. “They just don’t have anybody telling them when to go to bed, when to wake up — they have nothing to wake up for in the summer.”
That’s where the clubhouse comes in. The Boys & Girls Club has a long-term lease on the municipally owned building, Barney said, and the nonprofit shares it with Nine Star and the Mountain View Community Council, among others. There’s a game room where a handful of middle school students shot pool Thursday afternoon; a digital recording studio and a live music room lined with secondhand guitars and drum sets. On the other side of the building, Brown said kids complete after-school study hours in a long, mirrored room, and volunteers from Children’s Lunchbox prepare dinner in the clubhouse’s kitchen.
Cooks said they usually serve about 90 kids.
Barney said there are also afternoon environmental workshops with instructors from Trailside Discovery Camp and fieldtrips to places like Thunderbird Falls, Flattop and the Alaska Zoo. There are teen nights and dances and late night basketball games designed specifically for growing teenagers.
“They get their teams together and go at it, then they’re nice and tired and when 12:30 comes, ready to go home and go to bed, not gonna try and find any mischief and trouble,” said Barney, who has five children of his own
The basketball program is overwhelmingly popular, the club manager said. While the league itself ran for five weeks beginning in March, Barney said the court is perennially busy. During the school year, the Boys & Girls Club subleases the gym to different user groups, but Barney said club kids are the primary players during summer months.
Thursday afternoon, a group of older players scrimmaged while a club mentor kept score.
The gym was recently redone, Barney said, and state capital budgets were usually kind to the nonprofit. State records show hundreds of thousands of dollars appropriated to the organization over the past several years.
“The politicians like us and they take very good care of us,” Barney said.
Operating costs are a different story, he said.
The club still holds several fundraisers throughout the year, according to Brown. Next on the calendar is the Faster Than a Falcon 5k, which is set to kick off May 10 at Clark Middle School. Brown said event proceeds – usually around $10,000 – go directly to the Mountain View Boys & Girls Club.
After the fundraiser, Brown said the staff would briefly rendezvous for training before reopening for the summer. While she said some programs around the state might close for several days, Barney said the Mountain View clubhouse would try to keep things running as smoothly as possible.
Over the past six years, he’s seen how important the club is to many of its members.
“We don’t like to close unless we absolutely have to,” Barney said. “A lot of these kids don’t have anywhere else to go.”