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April 7, 2013
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Publisher’s Notebook: Boys & Girls Clubs nourish the lives of our community’s children

It’s amazing what a small group of dedicated people can accomplish.

I was reminded of that last week as I worked on a page one story detailing the efforts of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Umpqua Valley. I wanted to do the story myself because I have been in love with that national organization since I was a boy growing up in San Francisco.

I don’t remember how I found it, or how the club found me, but it was the first time I’d ever belonged to anything and it may be why I’m here today.

And today marks the start of National Boys & Girls Clubs Week, designed to spotlight the 4,000 or so clubs across the country. By way of full disclosure, I’m also on the board for our Roseburg club, so forgive the shameless plug.

Because of space limitations, I may not have conveyed the club’s current needs and benefits as clearly as I wanted to in the story. So this is kind of an extension of that, except that I get to editorialize a bit more because this is the Opinion page and … well … I’m the publisher.

If you read the story (and I hope you did) you should have at least gotten a pretty good idea that the club on Cedar Street is meeting the mission and vision those child advocates had more than a dozen years ago when they gathered to address a growing juvenile delinquency problem.

As former county Commissioner Joyce Morgan pointed out, it was about our community’s future and how our community might give its children a better shot at life.

Or, as former Roseburg schools Superintendent Lee Paterson told me, “It was a bunch of people pulling in the same direction.”

If you don’t believe me, swing by the club any weekday afternoon and see for yourself. It’s a building bursting with youthful energy, guided by some caring and nurturing adults who have just three hours or so to do what they can to send the kids home feeling better about themselves. The club’s programs are built around five key elements: a safe, positive environment; fun; supportive relationships; opportunities and expectations; and recognition.

The hope is that the club is instrumental in nourishing academic success, good character and citizenship and healthy lifestyles — all things that make us whole human adults.

Inside today’s paper I hope you found an envelope. As you can imagine, it costs a lot of money to create the environment the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Umpqua Valley provides inside its 13,000-square-foot facility.

The $52 annual membership dues (there are scholarships for kids who can’t afford it) cover only a fraction of the costs to provide the programs and meals (more than 50,000 meals were served last year alone). We estimate the actual annual costs at roughly $500 per member.

The club relies on donations to cover the majority of the costs and those many donors are the reason the club continues to grow.

Believe me, I understand how tough the economy is today and how most of us are trying to make every dollar stretch as far as we can. And some of you may be wondering what the club has to do with you, since your own children may have left home many years ago and your days of wondering what the kids might be up to are long past.

But this club may be the core of our community. It certainly holds its future and is helping shape the kind of future the Roseburg community hopes for — a future where young adults understand responsibility and accountability and are hopeful and optimistic and good community stewards.

Perhaps those kids will look back one day, maybe 40 or so years down the road, and point to the club as the single-most influential part of their “formative years.”

I also wanted to make sure to thank those early visionaries for their efforts to fill an important hole in this community at a time when there really wasn’t much in the way of youth programs. Those folks include Joyce Morgan, Gillian Wesenberg, Steve Barnhart, Lee Paterson, Melanie Prummer, Vic Falgout, Janet Buchanan, Harry Mullins, Ron Yockim, state Senator Jeff Kruse, Vic Fresolone and many others.

The people who have carried that torch these past dozen years or so also deserve our gratitude. It’s a long list of volunteers, wonderful staff members and amazing donors working together to build a better future.

Kris Besson is one of the best administrators I’ve ever met and the volunteer board of directors is a collection of some of the best this community has to offer. A special shout-out to Lonnie Rainville, who continues to serve as our board president.

Then there is a staff … the ones who touch those many young lives every day. “I wanted to feel good about what I do every day,” said Sarah Gray, who is in charge of marketing and resource development for the club. “It’s my dream job.”

Daniel Bailey serves at the front lines as clubhouse director. He also grew up as a member of a Boys & Girls Club. “I wouldn’t know where I’d be if not for the club,” he told me. “I take home every day the notion that I’m impacting lives the same way someone impacted mine.”

That pretty much sums up what this club is all about. Thanks again to all of you who have already discovered this wonderful gem and are working to keep the doors open. Every dollar matters, so it doesn’t matter how much you put into that little envelope. I can guarantee you it will be money well spent.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or jackerman@nrtoday.com.


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The News-Review Updated Apr 7, 2013 09:49AM Published Apr 7, 2013 12:04AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.