EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
KINGSLAND — Spring Break is a few days away, but Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes-Kingsland branch director Colby Collins is already looking toward summer — for good reason.
“We have a lot of kids we serve, and we want to make sure we’re open during the summer for them,” he said. “Right now, we’re open several hours after school, but during the summer, we’re going to have to be open more hours.”
That takes funding.
It’s something Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes executive director Bill Drake ponders every day: how to pay for the costs of the summer program, particularly at the new Kingsland branch. The local Boys & Girls Club has well-established units in Marble Falls and Burnet, but the Kingsland branch only opened in August 2017.
“The day we opened, we had 17 kids, but now, they serve about 73 kids with 45 as the daily average attendance,” Drake said.
The Kingsland branch, located in First Baptist Church, 3435 RR 1431, provides after-school programs for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade who have no other option. Summer only compounds the problem because without regular school classes, many of the kids would end up at home or running around unsupervised, Collins said.
“For a lot of these families, this has been a huge relief and benefit for them,” he said.
Collins, a father of three, understands the challenges families face. One might describe the Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes-Kingsland branch as an oasis in a desert of youth activities.
“The challenge is we have to come up with $30,000 to fund the summer program before it starts,” Drake said.
While that sounds like a lot — it’s about 65 percent of the Kingsland branch’s annual budget —Drake pointed out that the facility is open from early in the morning to later in the evening during the summer while parents are at work.
“We basically triple our hours in the summer,” Drake said. “And we have to make sure we have enough people on staff for those hours.”
During the summer, the Boys & Girls Club also offers field trips, camps, and special projects.
The Kingsland Branch is fortunate in many ways, especially that First Baptist Church of Kingsland provides the space — about 20,000 square feet — and helps with utilities.
During the school year, the branch is open 2-7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and 2-6 p.m. Wednesday and Friday. Kids from the Kingsland School, Packsaddle Elementary School, and home schools attend.
Collins and his staff emphasize academics as well. The first thing kids do when they ramble through the door is tackle their homework, and if they don’t have any, the staff have them read, do some art, or work on other academic projects. The Boys & Girls Club is committed to the complete development of young people.
Along with attendance numbers going up at the Kingsland branch, Collins has witnessed the impact of the club on the kids. He shared a story of one youth who is autistic and suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. When the child first started attending the Kingsland branch, he spent the first two weeks in a corner and wouldn’t talk with anyone.
Eventually, the child began interacting and participating in activities.
“Now, he doesn’t want to go home because he’s having so much fun,” Collins said. “That one really hit all of us. It showed us what we can do here.
“And it’s something we want to keep doing through the summer,” he added.
Drake hopes the Kingsland community will see the impact local branch is having on the youth and will want to embrace and support it.
“We want the Kingsland community to see it as their club and take ownership of it,” he said.
Go to bgc-hl.com to find out how to support the Kingsland branch.