Even as the economy recovers, the community is increasingly reliant on the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood and its three locations — especially when school is out for the summer.
Currently, the club is providing more than 11 hours of daily service for area children, as the organization’s summer program is in full swing.
“It’s definitely growing. You’re seeing kids and families needing us more often and needing us for longer periods of time,” executive director Mel Culpepper said, adding that the club is open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout the week. “Clearly there’s a need in our community for that.”
In a typical day, the club’s three locations — West Hollywood, Van Ness Avenue Elementary School and Hollywood — provide services to approximately 300 children. Approximately 1,400 children visit the locations each year, Culpepper said.
While some people see the club as “running around and having fun,” the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood provides homework assistance, technology labs, college information, money lessons, skills training, character and leadership development, sports and fitness opportunities and more, she said.
“It’s going pretty good,” Culpepper said. “I think it’s one of those realities where the need for Boys & Girls Club in Hollywood is definitely not going away. The community needs organizations like ours to make sure that we are addressing some of the critical issues. Academic success is really important for kids.”
She said education is the great equalizer, especially for students who come from poor, working-class families.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re poor or [if] you don’t have all the latest gadgets and the fancy clothes,” Culpepper said. “If you have your education, no one can ever take that away from you. And that’s what we do here.”
The educational aspect to the Boys & Girls Club was on display on June 27, when the club’s youth leaders conducted an anti-bullying program — complete with dances and a puppet show. Culpepper said the program is one of the club’s newest initiatives, having launched in the last eight months.
“It’s something, I think, that all communities are dealing with, and we want to be advocates in terms of addressing anti-bullying,” she added.
Culpepper said the club is providing anti-bullying lessons to students at a very young age, since bullying can happen to students as young as 6 and 7 years old.
“I think it’s going very well,” she said, adding that the club has a no tolerance policy on bullying. “We hear a lot from our kids [about] bullying at their schools. For us, our club is a safe place to talk about those issues to … figure out ways to address those issues.”
The program received a “boost” last week, when representatives of Boost Mobile donated $11,000 that will be used for professional development for staff members. The company held a promotion recently in which new Boost Mobile customers could sign up for service and receive a phone for $1, which then benefitted the Boys & Girls Club.
“It’s tremendous,” Boost Mobile vice president Andre Smith said, adding that the company has 6,000 independently owned stores. “We wanted to unleash that to give back to our communities.”
He said the company raised $106,000 nationally. Boost Mobile representatives worked with community groups to determine what organization to benefit, and Boys & Girls Club was chosen.
“B&G Club is a key group for us,” Smith said, adding that Boost hopes to benefit the clubs again in the future. “They focus on education … as a way to differentiate and build these young youths.”
Culpepper and the students on hand were very appreciative. She said the work that corporations do is important, and they can be a part of positive change in a given community.
“This work can’t be done in isolation,” Culpepper added. “We can’t do it alone. It takes individuals, corporations [and] businesses to all understand that we each have a role in shaping the future of our communities. It’s not just Boy & Girls Club.”
She said the organization could use additional donations and volunteers, and she invited the community to attend the club’s annual golf tournament at Robertson Ranch on Oct. 15.
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