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Youth club brings kids together

Juneau Youth Services trying to raise funds for after-school program

Posted: Monday, October 26, 2009

One full week into a 90-day program for kids who attended the defunct Juneau Boys and Girls Club, kids say they're happy to be back with friends.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Many had stayed at relatives' houses or had simply gone home after the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southcentral Alaska closed the Juneau club with only about 24 hours of warning on Sept. 25, citing lack of funding. Several other clubs around the state and nation were closed, as well.

Juneau Youth Services started the Valley Youth Club and is attempting to raise enough in community donations to match a $15,000 grant provided by the Youth Action Committee, a group of philanthropic area youths, and its parent organization, the Juneau Community Foundation. The United Way of Southeast Alaska has also been active in facilitating a solution.

"I really missed it," said Aubree Lewis, 12, who said she walked to her grandmother's house after school after the Boys and Girls Club closed. "It (the Valley Youth Club opening) was happy for me."

Samuel Velazquez, 13, had attended the club for three years, he said. Thursday, he was sitting with a table of friends he had met through the club, doing homework.

"I feel good that it's opening up," he said. "Now we have somewhere else that our friends can be here."

JYS Executive Director Walter Majoros said while the club itself is going well, fundraising efforts are just beginning. "We're taking those first steps," he said. "We're hopeful that we will raise at least the $15,000 in matching funds."

He said while they're taking it "just one piece at a time," it's hard to imagine securing grant funding that would cover the projected $200,000 annual budget.

"The thought is still to form some kind of steering committee and develop a plan, but I don't know if we will be successful in finding a way to keep it all in one location," he said.

JYS has set up a Web site and bank account for donations.

Clubhouse manager Taralee Ellis said there are fewer kids signed up for the new club - 48 as of last week, compared to the 60 that regularly attended the Boys and Girls club and the 155 who were registered. Kids that were "hanging out at the mall" came back immediately, she said; others, such as homeless kids or those whose families had made alternate arrangements have been more difficult to get back.

"The kids that really want to be here are here, so that's exciting," she said.

Ellis said kids who want to help with fundraising have planned a book and bake sale at the club Nov. 7 from 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Montanna Requa, age 9, volunteered to be in charge of the posters.

"I'm going to make as many as I can," she said.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.



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