After approximately three years in the making, the Boys and Girls Club of Durant is open. The club officially opened its doors on Dec. 19, kicking off with a Christmas break program for local children.
Director Barb Dunnam said this was a soft opening to give children something to do over the Christmas break. She said that a Grand opening and ribbon cutting will be coming in the near future.
The Christmas break program ends Wednesday Jan 2. The club’s after school program begins the following day.
Several members of the community have been trying to establish a Boys and Girls Club in Durant for some time now.
“It’s been about a three and a half years process,” said Dunnam.
Dunnam said it takes a while for any nonprofit organization to raise the funds, create objective, policies find a location and hire staff.
All aspects of the club are strictly regulated by national Boys and Girls Clubs of America standards.
“The whole thing started with a traffic stop,” said Dunnam. She explained how a police officer had pulled a man over one night and gotten in a discussion with the man.
The men discussed the lack of activities for children and the need for a Boys and Girls Club in the area. When the officer went home he told his wife about the discussion.
“His wife, Kari Walker, took the bull by the horns so to speak,” said Dunnam.
The club has almost 100 members after its soft opening. Dunnam said they hope to have 350 to 400 by the end of the first year. The club serves children from age 6 to 18.
At the club, children participate in activities based on their age group. Activities range from arts and crafts, physical recreation, and board games to homework help and movies.
The cost of attending is a $25 annual fee and $10 per week but Dunnam said she does not want the money to discourage parents from bringing their children in.
Dunnam said that there are scholarship programs and other ways to help a child get into the program.
“It’s very important that folks know that,” she said.
Dunnam said that if a parent has a child who really wants to be a member, she will make it happen.
Teenagers do not pay the weekly fee. Dunnam said teenagers typically have other things they want to spend their money on and are likely not to join if charged.
“We want them to come here,” she said. They waive the fee so that teens will be more likely to participate in their safe activities.
The fees help pay for general operating costs such as bills and supplies as well as activities and food. Children are served breakfast lunch and a snack while at the club for breaks such as Christmas break.
Dunnam said that children who participate in clubs such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America get a sense of competence, belonging and usefulness that they don’t get just watching TV.
She said these clubs help children become more productive adults through programs such as Torch and Keystone which are leadership programs set up for different age groups.
These programs are youth driven. The children run the groups and learn leadership skills through organizing their own activities such as community service activities.
The Boys and Girls Club of Durant will be starting its after school program on Jan 3. The club will be open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The club is located at 1303 Waco St. next to the Durant intermediate school. For more information call the Boys and Girls Club at (580) 579-2423.
The boys and girls club will also be hosting its second annual Crystal Ball on New Year’s Eve beginning at 7 p.m. and lasting until midnight.
Tickets cost $50 and proceeds go to funding the Boys and Girls Club of Durant.