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Coastal voices: Beyond Boys and Girls Club

The Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods in Crescent City has been in operation for 5½ years and has served hundreds of kids in Del Norte County. A traditional Club, we opened in March of 2005 under the leadership of the Humboldt County’s Boys & Girls Club.

Our Mission: We empower youth to reach their full potential as responsible, caring and productive citizens through professionally led programs and activ-

ities that are fun, positive and relevant in a safe, supportive and healthy environment.

Over the course of time, we have looked up to our national organization’s legacy of more than a hundred years of experience with awe and admiration. Great thought has gone into the diversity of national options ranging from character and leadership projects like the Torch Club to digital projects designed to bring kids experience in graphics, music, and arts using the computer as a tool for expression. The range of program options is astounding. Sports, fitness, family life and other activities are nationally sponsored by corporate giants like Major League Baseball, Coca- Cola, Kimberly Clark, JC Penney and others.

Clubs have the ability to pick and choose those options that its community needs, and which funds can support. Communities contribute to help create and sustain a safe haven for the Clubs in order to operate over the long term. This has been our model and legacy as we attempt to fill those shoes.

Our Club began as an after-school and year-round program serving 6- to 12-year-olds in the county’s “Rec Gym,” and has grown to serve 6- to 13-year-olds as its primary group, while accommodating drop-in groups, open gym floor times for teens and middle school age youth. No child has been turned away due to inability to pay. Special summer programs and community events participation have enhanced our focus.

Over time our club has become a model of stewardship, service, enrichment, recreation, participation and citizenship. We have added Warrior Summer Teen programming this summer, and worked with outreach sites such as the Lighthouse Community Center in the Bertsch Tract and the Plaza Communitaria of Smith River on special projects.

We have been supported by many major funders and grantors from The Office of Juvenile Protection to the California Endowment. During the last two years the majority of our funds have been generated by local efforts of grant writing, and donor contributions. Del Norte County has provided a home and funding to our program from the beginning through the auspices of the Rec building and provided major funding along with other entities including the City of Crescent City, community partner agencies, casino funds, and many individuals. 

This summer we were surprised by a letter received in August that informed us, due to the difficulties faced in adequately managing and supporting a satellite Club so far from Eureka, and the current financial circumstances of recovery due to the economy, a decision was made by the Eureka Corporate Board to close the Boys & Girls Club in Crescent City and concentrate efforts on the Humboldt County clubs.

Previous efforts to create an independently chartered Crescent City program were denied by a widespread policy decision of the Boys & Girls Club of America, as it has seen the closure of about 1,000 clubs across the country in the wake of the economy’s financial downturn. Not inclined to be swayed by these discouraging financial times, and understanding the roots of efforts such as these clubs are found in the perseverance and generosity of individuals with a vision of the future, our staff and supporters seek to defy the odds, counting on the desire of our community to help us weather these times and lead the effort to keep an independent Del Norte Clubhouse open for business. 

Despite the difficulty of this undertaking, we understand the importance of leading youth toward a positive, productive destiny and know that this is an effort worth making for our community. The youth are our future and it takes all of us to make systems change and reflect our local will. We wish to thank all of those numerous unnamed individuals, businesses, families and entities that have helped us provide opportunities for kids, through your generosity of time or treasure. We hope to work with you again in the future as we move forward with the goal of providing continuous programs for Del Norte County through our reorganization.

The need has not gone away: The mission of providing a safe haven and healthy activities for youth will be there long after the door shuts on this chapter. Your help and support are what will make the difference. Donations to help us in this effort can be directed to the Wild Rivers Foundation, or c/o The Family Resource Center, earmarked for the Del Norte Youth Clubhouse. All funds will remain locally controlled in the most efficient manner possible.

Thank you for helping us open this new chapter in the continuation of a story authored here by the vision of generations of young people who deserve the most we can offer as a community. The Del Norte Youth Clubhouse offices can be reached by leaving a message at (707) 465-0405, the P. O. Box is 1707 Crescent City, 95531. All donations are tax deductible.

Holly Gensaw is the local director for the Boys and Girls Club.

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