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BGC offers kids opportunity to grow, learn and socialize

by Nicholas Haring, Quill Staff Writer

Boys and Girls Club of the Greater West Plains Area (BGCWP) is a youth development after-school and summer program which opened its doors and joined the Greater West Plains Area Chamber of Commerce six years ago at W. First St. in West Plains.

Since then, the club has grown to boast an average daily attendance of 176 children ranging from ages 5 to 17. The highest daily attendance recorded has reached 194.
Executive Director Aaron Evans says he’s proud of some of the changes he and his staff have brought to the organization.

“I’m really happy about our new Kinder Club, which now has over 20 kindergarten-age kids,” Evans said. The building that houses the Kinder Club was previously used for storage, but last year, an AmeriCorps team helped the club clear it out and renovate the interior.

Evans said the club has also reworked class schedules and structure so kids get to do more and stay with their peers for longer.

In addition, BGCWP has begun its Mind Works program, designed to help children improve skills related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. To help with this, the club recently acquired more than 100 Chromebook laptops.

Not only does BGCWP help with a student’s after-school learning and development, said Evans, it’s a great place for them to hangout.

“We have a pool table which is really popular with the fifth and six graders,” he said. “We’ve also started an archery program.”

The club also offers kids free hot meals, a lifeline for many children facing food insecurity.

According to Evans, Boys & Girls Club always needs volunteers to help with the youth. BGCWP is flexible and can work with volunteers to make sure they find the right fit, he said.
Evans himself started in 2016 as a volunteer with the club in 2016. He was named director of the program in January. In addition to the West Plains facility, the club operates a branch in Thayer on the Thayer Schools campus.

Because of its nonprofit status and commitment to affordable and accessible programing, Boys & Girls Club of the Greater West Plains Area can always benefit from donations, said Evans. The club will soon begin its annual fundraising campaign by sending out mailers to the community.

From 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 26, the annual Boys & Girls Club Thanksgiving Dinner will be held at the nearby Sole Cafe, 665 Missouri Ave. During the dinner, which is attended by club members and their families, the winner of the club’s Pie-in-the-Face fundraising contest will be announced. One staff member, to be determined by youth participation, will get a cream pie to the face.
On Feb. 29, the club will host its annual Casino Night at the Opera House in downtown West Plains, Evans said.

According to Evans since BGCWP is a nonprofit organization, any donation is tax deductible and state tax credits are available through Missouri’s Neighborhood Assistance Program.

Aaron Evans, director of Boys and Girls Club of the Greater West Plains Area, says he is proud of the changes he and his have staff brought to the club, including the new addition of the Kinder Club, a class dedicated to children of kindergarten age. (Staff photo by Nicholas Haring)