Rotary updated on kids club

PARKERSBURG – The Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and members of the Parkersburg Rotary Club learned about new programs underway at the club and those planned for the future.

Ben Shuman, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, said one new announcement he had to make Monday was that the club would be taking over the Parkersburg Safetytown program, which marked its 30th year this summer.

Safetytown organizers were concerned earlier this year that the current summer might be the last under the program’s current management, but Shuman said the club’s board of directors voted in July to take over the program for 2015 and beyond.

“Parkersburg Safetytown ended operations this year; this was the last year after 30 years of providing that program to the community,” Shuman said. “They decided that as an independent organization that they were not able to continue. This was their time to pass it on to another organization and came to us to ask if we would be willing to do that,” he said.

Shuman said little has yet been decided about Safetytown beyond that decision. The Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg will be working in the months ahead on whether the program will continue at Fairplains Elementary School or relocate to somewhere else, such as the club on Mary Street.

“All of those details are up in the air,” Shuman said. “Right now, what we’re hoping for is to find someone that can help partner with us to ensure that those programs are provided to as wide a group as possible. That was not a small program they implemented, they had a lot of volunteers that were working with them and we’re going to need to find that same type of volunteer group to help us provide that in 2015,” he said.

Shuman also told Rotarians about how things are going at the Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The club has been doing activities to mark the milestone, including a celebration held the first weekend in May. Shuman said there are special activities and programs planned for the fall and winter to celebrate the milestone.

An average of 1,000 boys and girls are served each year through the local club, with an average daily attendance of 75 kids, Shuman said. The club had a 70 percent increase this summer over last summer in terms of attendance while school was out. It went from an average daily attendance last year of 100 to 170 this summer.

“We had a tremendous summer program this year,” he said.

The Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg has been focusing recently on three priority areas: academic success, healthy lifestyles and character and citizenship, Shuman said. In 2014, the club added STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) activities and increased fitness offerings with the addition of flag football and cheerleading activities.

The club began a daily challenges program for athletics and academics, allowing individuals to do skill competitions that will allow them to track their personal progress over time.

The club expanded its hours and ages this year, now serving children from 6-18 years, Shuman said. On days when there is no school, the club is now open from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., an hour earlier and an hour later.

Those expanded hours will be offered on holidays, snow days and other non-school days, he said.