A few weeks ago, we heard from the Laughlin Unit of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Colorado River. Today we hear from their another Unit in their organization- the Bullhead Unit! This Club, led by Unit Director Heather Baxter, has created strong community partnerships to expand their reach and offer creative programming opportunities. Read on to learn more!
Tell us a bit about your Club!
The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Colorado River Bullhead Unit has been operating for 30 years THIS YEAR! We have grown from a small building with 2 rooms and a rec room to an entire building with multiple rooms, playground and a gym facility, all on the same property we started with. So many of our Club kids have grown from Club members to Leaders in Training, then hired as program staff. Some have gone as far as growing into Unit directors and Director of Operations! It’s helped the Club maintain the same morals and also helped us change with the times.
The Club and community have also grown with us which has helped us branch out into 3 different Clubhouses – our original Bullhead Unit , Fort Mohave Unit and Laughlin Unit, which means we are covering the entire tri-state area to help ensure that when school is out, the kids can be at a Club close to them.
You mentioned Leaders in Training (L.I.T.). What is that?
L.I.T. is our teens program for summer. Through the program, teens are able to help staff and learn about what the steps are to getting a job including mock interviews and resume prep, and serve as great examples for the younger ones who are inspired by them. At our Club it is an honor to be an L.I.T.! The program scaffolds up- you start as a Club kid, then you step up to becoming a L.I.T., then it is an even bigger honor to move up to becoming a staff member.
We’ve heard from another Club in your organization, the Laughlin Unit, on how they get creative with their programming. Your Club has gone another route, expanding program offerings through partnerships. What does that look like and how does it help your Club grow?
We always like to keep our ties to the community and our summer program gives us a prime time to do so. One partnership we have is with the Mohave Daily Newspaper Workshop. This summer, our kids will travel to the local newspaper and take 6 classes to learn what it takes to create their very own newspaper. They will even be able to print theirs after the final class!
We also partner with our local college and offer multiple courses on their campus such as LEGO Engineering, Messy Science , Little Dentist and Junior Dentistry to name a few. We will provide transportation for these classes if the member is currently a member at the Bullhead Unit and we will also have a check in/check out hub for members who would like to attend from other Clubs or the community. This allows us to feature creative programming options without having to budget and staff them ourselves, and it exposes other kids in the community to the Club, since registration for these classes is done through us.
We also have had help from Lowes who have renovated our STEAM room to now include a Magnetic wall, Lego wall and custom tables to expand our STEAM Programming.
You’ve also used your food program to bring youth into the Club. How has that worked?
Last year we bussed our members to the local high school for their summer meal program. This year, we will be feeding them in-house. We’ve found that keeping everyone in-house helps ensure the safety of all members and keeps peace of mind for parents. We will be using our L.I.T. teens to help serve, which is a task we can easily train them to do, gives them a chance to be involved with the other kids, and keeps their work ethic pumping throughout the day. The food program is also another way to deepen our partnership with our local school.
Fundraising can be DIFFICULT in small communities. What creative ways have you raised resources?
We opened our very own thrift store! All funds are immediately put back into the Club and help fund a variety of things for the kids at all 3 Clubs. We found that a lot of people in our community often wanted to donate many items to our Clubs, but the types of items or the volume meant we were not always able to use them. With the help of the thrift store we are able to accept just about any donation that comes to our door and turn them into resources we can use. The thrift store is also another way that the community can help us, as it is run by local volunteers who want to give back to the kids but may not be comfortable or able to work in the Clubhouse.
What three pieces of advice would you give to another Club Director who is trying to increase membership at their Club?
- Community helps Community! Ask local businesses what you can do to bring their business into the Club and that will help them in turn promote membership opportunities for you.
- Get involved with your local radio, newspaper and schools. If you can get partnerships with those three, you will have the word getting to parents faster than any Facebook page could.
- Open a thrift store if you can. For us, it helps fund memberships and many other opportunities for Club members.
Heather has been in the Movement since 2013, rising from seasonal summer staff to Unit Director of the Bullhead Unit. She is excited to help lead the new Fort Mohave Unit starting this summer! When she isn’t at the Club she is loving on her two beautiful babies.
What creative ways has your Club increased programming options? How have you partnered with your community? Contact us at ClubXBlog@bgca.org to share your story with the Movement!