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Cultivating the Seeds of a Brighter Future with Plymouth's Boys and Girls Club

By David Boegaard

Our children are our greatest joy, and our greatest toil. The cost of raising a child has grown so expensive that a family can often spend an entire salary on child-care costs for one child, let alone two or three. And for mothers who struggle to raise children alone, especially, those costs can bankrupt families and create incredible stresses. Even once children start in school, the time between when they are let out of school and when their parents get home can be a time of deep risks.

In Plymouth, Mass, many parents and children alike are so thankful for the wonderful services of the Boys and Girls Club of Plymouth. The Boys and Girls Club helps kids mature into the balanced, responsible adults they naturally seek to become, while having fun. And the Club helps parents engage in work and community without having to go deep into debt, or leave their children alone for hours after school.

Founded in 1911, the Boys and Girls Club of Plymouth was first established with an intent to provide opportunities for boys to get exercise and recreation. As time passed, and society changed, the club expanded its offerings to girls, as well, and extended its works to include more academic pursuits. Today, the Plymouth BGC has a clear mission, says Executive Director Garreth Lynch: "To inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens." With annual membership costs of only $25, the Plymouth BGC is a true blessing for children from six to sixteen and for their parents.

Recent years have seen a dramatic expansion of the Plymouth BGC facilities. In 2003, they built a new 17,000 square foot facility. And little more than a year ago, they opened the doors on a new, 3,000 square foot Teen Center dedicated to helping Plymouth community teens.

To fulfill their mission the Plymouth BGC offers an extensive range of programs and activities, every day, as well as many events that bring together the broader community. Each of these programs and events are developed to help encourage positive growth and well-being among the students. "The Boys & Girls Club of Plymouth will provide area youth with activities designed to build self-esteem, develop leadership skills, and promote positive life choices," says Lynch.

The Plymouth BGC's programs focus on education and career placement, but they also emphasize exercise, fun, emotional well-being and community engagement. There are more programs than one can count on one's fingers and toes, but a closer look a a couple of them can show the care with which the Plymouth BGC approaches its work.

The Compass Zone program is a licensed program that provides after-school activities from 2:30 to 5:30 each day. The program provides transport from many area schools, easing the burden on parents to take a break from work to transport their children. Since the most effective educational supports collaborate with schools and parents to create a unified enrichment program, the Compass Zone seeks out strong participation from parents and area schools. Taking part in Compass Zone requires an additional cost of $90/week for the first child, and $70/week for each additional child.

The new "The Club" Teen Center offers a meeting place for teens aged 14 to 18. Open from 2:15 to 7pm each day, there is no attendance requirement. But The Club draws young people to participate by providing computers and fun activities like a billiard and ping-pong tables, and a small cafe. The Club seeks not only to provide a safe place for teens to meet and have fun, but also to encourage and support entrepreneurship. They also work hard to prepare young people for college, work, and other provide needed support.

Other programs encourage exploration of various areas of learning and growth. The STEM Club, a hands on group of middle-schoolers focused on science, technology, engineering and math that meets twice each week. The Plymouth BGC also offers a range of arts programs for children and teens.

Among the events held each year, the Plymouth BGC hosts very popular 5k and 10k race each September. Last year's race had around 1,700 participants! For fans of golf, there is the Annual Charity Golf Tournament held at the Southers Marsh Golf Club. There are also award celebrations, like the Youth of the Year Gala each April, where one child is awarded the "highest achievement in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America," says Lynch.

It is a truism that the future is in the hands of our children. The Plymouth BGC not only acknowledges this fact, but makes every effort to ensure that this future is a good one for us all. And the best way to do that is to make sure that young people have great opportunities for education and fun, today. Staffed by caring employees and volunteers, the Plymouth BGC has as many to thank for its success as it has people who give thanks for its continued support.

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