The Boys and Girls Clubs of Clermont County is an after-school and summer program which is helping to meet the needs of families in three communities.
The clubs are open to children ages 6 – 18 and teach the children lessons of honor, integrity and fairness.
“When the school bell rings at 3 p.m., many children head home every day to an empty house,” said Nancy Ball, executive director. “An estimated 50 percent of children over age 12 are unsupervised after school. That number includes children as young as 6 or 7 in low income families which can’t afford child care. The after school hours are a busy time for the police departments in any area. The outcome for kids without adult guidance isn’t good, but we provide a positive place for kids.”
"We have had an impact on juvenile crime," said Ball. "Within three and a half years after we started our program in New Richmond the caseload for juvenile crime went from 56 cases down to 23. We have also received positive feedback from the parents about improved behavior in their children."
According to Ball, many of these children face decisions about risky behavior without the benefit of adult guidance.
"There is a critical shortage of after school programs in the community," said Ball. "The programs that do exist are out of reach for the vast majority of the population due to cost and transportation issues."
In the communities of New Richmond, Amelia and Felicity the program is now available to give children a safe place to be and help them become responsible citizens and leaders.
One of the most positive influences that the clubs have instilled in those who attend is during the "Hour of Power." Children receive help with their homework from the staff and volunteers during this time. Ball noted that 51 - 74 percent of the children show an improvement in their grades.
"We stress the importance of homework and the value of an education," said Ball. "We cheer them on and encourage all of our students to pursue a college education. We know that each one of them, no matter what their circumstances, can go to college. We help them set goals and accomplish those goals."
Karey Herrin, 12, has been coming to the club for six years and was anxious to show her last report card to Ball. She will be attending the eighth grade when school resumes in August.
"What I miss the most in the summer is the hour of power," said Herrin. "This is a great place to be, it keeps me off the streets."
During the summer months, children can come to the club between the hours of noon to 5 p.m. Children in New Richmond and Felicity Clubs are served a hot meal during the day from funding by the state for areas where there is a greater incidence of free lunches served during the school year.
"We offer sports to the children to help them develop physical and social skills. We want them to have fun while they are here," said Ball. "If they don't have fun, they won't come back. We also have an arts and crafts time and teach life skills to help them develop healthy habits."
One of the children who is benefiting in a unique way from his six years of attending Boys and Girls Clubs is Frankie Taulbee, 11. Due to the efforts of one of the staff members, he will be attending the Anthony Munoz Football Camp on a scholarship.
There are currently about 700 children enrolled in the three clubs and more clubs are needed. There have been requests from Batavia, Bethel and Goshen to add clubs to their communities, but funding is the biggest issue.
"We need three things to get a club going," said Ball. "Adequate space for the children, dedicated groups of people within the communities to serve on the board and money to fund the club."
Ball said that it takes about $75,000 - $100,000 to support a club of 50 children. Most of that funding is for payroll. Boys and Girls Clubs of Clermont County receive about 40 percent of their funding from federal and state grants, 8 percent from the United Way and 52 percent from fund-raising events, gifts and donations. She also noted that they expected state funding to be cut next year.
"These kids need continuity, they need to know that the staff will be there for them everyday," said Ball. "We need a staff of dependable, reliable people. We try to have a ratio of one staff member for every 20 children and we rely on volunteers to help meet that need."
The New Richmond Club was started in 1996 with a staff of two people, the West Clermont Club was started in 2004 and just last year, the Felicity Club opened its doors. A total of 16 staff members are currently on the payroll, but more people are needed. Volunteers are interviewed and background checks are conducted before they can work in the club.
The New Richmond club operates out of the New Richmond Community Facilities, the West Clermont club operates out of Amelia Elementary School and the Felicity club is located in Felicity Franklin Schools. These clubs incur no overhead expenses at this time due to the schools providing space, office space, maintenance, utilities and custodial services.
Ball related a success story about a young man named Daniel. When he first came to the club he would come through the doors just looking for trouble. When he didn't follow their rules, he would be asked to leave but would return the following day.
"He learned that club staff expected him to show respect for himself, for staff members and for other kids. He learned that the club equipment belonged to him as a club member and therefore he needed to treat it well," said Ball. "He learned that consequences for not meeting expectations would be enforced every time. And he learned that club staff cared about him, really cared about him as an individual and would be there for him every day."
"Eventually Daniel graduated from high school and moved on to join the Army," said Ball. "He called us several months later from boot camp and let us know that he had completed basic training and had made the Rangers, an elite corps of the Army. Then he said, 'Thank you for not giving up on me. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the Boys and Girls Club.'"
For more information about the Boys and Girls Clubs of Clermont County or how you can help, contact Nancy Ball (513) 553-1948 or visit their web site at www.thepositiveplace4kids.org.