By Jen Fisher, President, Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha
As President of the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha, I have known for a long time that we have some of the best programs in the nation. Our dedicated program staff is able to use the great resources available through the Boys & Girls Club of America and bring them to our new facility. The program templates are great and the facility is tops, but without the great staff we have working directly with the youth of Kenosha, none of it would work.
We got the first indication that our programs were really taking off when we opened our new facility last June. In our long-range plan, we anticipated that our membership would double in the first decade in the new building, possibly even in the first five years. We had just over 5000 members when we cut the ribbon last June.
As of today, we are just under 10,000 members. So in less than one year in the new building, we have almost doubled the number of Kenosha children we are reaching. I think that’s phenomenal!
A further indication of the great success we are having is the recognition our club has received statewide and nationally.
In September, our Capital Funds campaign was recognized at the State of Wisconsin Boys & Girls Clubs Area Council Meetings with a first place award in Resource Development. Our Treasurer Mike Worcester joined our Executive Wally Graffen at those meetings to accept the award.
The fact that we have raised over $10 million in a very difficult economy says a lot, not just for the club, but for this community too. The City of Kenosha started us off with a $5 million grant, allowing us to build this great new building rather than renovating our old facilities. The Troha and Madrigrano families led the way with personal donations, followed by hundreds of other Kenosha individuals and businesses who have stepped up to the plate as well. We still have about $4 million to raise to be debt free after the pledge periods and to have the endowment we anticipated, but there are many naming opportunities still available and we are continually giving tours and meetings with potential community partners. We are very confident that, with the growing support of our community, we will meet and exceed our goal.
The second award we received was really a once in a lifetime recognition. Our new community center was selected by the Daily Reporter construction magazine as one of the “Top Projects in Wisconsin” in 2011. The planning that went into this new building started several years ago. We visited dozens of other facilities and met with everyone from architects to the youth who would be members. The result is a unique facility that we all take pride in. Our Foundation President John Camosy accepted that award at the Harley Museum in Milwaukee on May 3.
And, for the first time ever, the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha has received two national awards from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. These awards are especially noteworthy when you consider that the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha, because of the size of our budget, competes with all of the big cities in America. We go up against Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles – every big city that has a Boys & Girls Club and enters these awards are placed in a budget-driven category that puts them up against us here in Kenosha.
The first one is a National Honor Award, which recognizes outstanding Boys & Girls Club programs. That award is for our “Sports of All Sorts” which encompasses many of our afterschool sports and fitness programs. One of the most noteworthy of those programs is our Wednesday incentive sports leagues. One of those leagues, the Rotary West Basketball League, has been successfully reaching out to inner-city youth ever since our club opened in 1992. This incentive program gives teachers and principals in targeted inner-city elementary schools resources and tools and a fun way to get their students active in reward for improving grades, attendance or behavior in school. Program staff Kathy Holland and Andrea Prichard were at the National Conference in San Diego the first week of May to accept the award.
Finally, we received a national MAC Award from the Boys & Girls Club of America for our marketing efforts when we opened the new building. Specifically, we were recognized in the Advertising Category for the wonderful tabloid insert which we ran in the Kenosha News. This special section gave Kenosha an opportunity to learn about our new building and was also a great way for our many supporters and partners to say “way to go” in the paper. Our marketing partnership with Dooley & Associates is largely responsible for the award and Jen Dooley, a member of our Board of Directors, was in San Diego at the National Conference, to accept it on behalf of the club.
As you can see, the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha is having great success in reaching the youth of our community in ways that our peers nationwide are taking notice. We are proud of the staff and we look forward to continuing to grow and deliver great programs for the community for many years.