Boys & Girls Club on track for fall

On the heels of what has been called the most successful fund-raiser in Kitsap County history, the Boys & Girls Club is going forward with plans to open at Naval Avenue Elementary School in the fall.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Kitsap County (KCBGC) has been planning a club for four years with the hardest push in the past two years since the 22-member board of directors was assembled.

In mid-April, the Supporters Kick-Off Dinner at the Admiral Theatre raised more than $300,000 for the organization.

“We were just overwhelmed. It’s a pretty clear mandate from the community when people give you that kind of money,” said Peter Braun, a board member for KCBGC. “We’ve seen there’s a community desire to do something for kids. There’s no disagreement from anyone that we need more safe places for kids after school.”

“The community is so supportive,” said Katie Perrone, a coordinator for the club. “The fund-raiser’s success, I think, really just reinforces that.”

Perrone said the fund-raiser allowed the club to purchase a second portable to accommodate the estimated 200 children the club will serve to add to one already pledged by the school district. She said the school’s gymnasium, library and covered play area will also be available for club use.

With the community behind them, Braun said the board is “really focused right now on executing that mandate ... getting the permitting process started, nailing down a lease with the school district.”

He said the club wants to be up and running as early as possible in the fall but it is too early to set a date.

In addition to the facility itself, the club’s next focus is hiring.

“There’s an extensive process to screen and make sure we have the right people and right number of people to provide the right services,” Braun said.

Among those services, he said, the sports activities are probably what comes first to mind for those with some familiarity with Boys & Girls Club.

“There are elements that are present in every club but also flexibility with things that can be offered,” Braun said. “There’s a lot of unique character in any community and we want to make sure the club reflects that.”

He said the elements the Boys & Girls Club focuses on in any location are education, partly by way of helping children with homework, leadership, character, health, wellness, arts, sports and other activities.

The club almost did not come to downtown Bremerton.

“We had plans to be out at the Fairgrounds but what they could offer changed,” Perrone said. “As it turns out, (Naval Avenue) was where the Boys & Girls Club could best serve a community in need.”

“Things always happen for a reason. This was where we ought to be in the first place anyway,” Braun said. “We knew there was a high need in Bremerton. The Fairgrounds started to really take off. We were really a victim of their success but that’s terrific for them ... and it really worked out for everyone.”

Besides, KCBGC plans to add more clubs long-term but feel the need to focus in and have success with its first before expanding.

For Braun, the owner of several area Taco Bell restaurants, there is a parallel between the KCBGC venture and the business world.

“Just as we own a chain of restaurants, Boys & Girls Club is a national formula ... for helping kids locally,” he said. “In the restaurant business, we employ an awful lot of teenagers. We watched the Silverdale Teen Center come and go twice. Kids just really need a place they can go that’s safe and supportive.”

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