Boys & Girls Club keeping kids busy

BREMEN — With most households having two working parents — if they’re lucky enough to both have jobs — many face the question of what to do with their young children after school. The Boys & Girls Club of Bremen provides an answer.
Started just last year, the Boys & Girls Club gives kids a place to go between the end of school and when their parents get off work. Located within Bremen Elementary-Middle School, it is a refuge of learning and fun.
“I don’t want to call it baby sitting, but we are shuffling a lot of kids around,” said program director Marc Hayden, who is backed up by a four-person staff. “The key is keeping them entertained and busy.”
Based in the cafeteria, the club uses multiple areas of the school. There is a computer lab, which is featured during the daily “Power Hour,” where kids do homework and earn points toward group parties.
“We just had a pizza party for them, and it really gives them a goal to work towards to do their homework here instead of waiting until later at night,” program assistant Kayla Turpin said.
There are story times, crafts and games, and a mentorship program for young girls. For physical activity, children go through an obstacle course. “Fun Friday,” which includes swimming, ends the week with a bang. Special events are also held, like last week’s visit by Santa Claus and activities with Bremen High School sports teams.
Winter is a bit more challenging for the club’s staff. Playing outside is not an option, and using the gyms is a rarity with the winter sports season in full swing.
“We definitely have to get creative in the winter months,” said Turpin, who is helped by assistants Tricia Troyer, Alejandra Garcia and Holly Prawat.
The club is not without discipline. Thursday last week, the cabinet of games was off-limits.
“We had to take it away from them because (Wednesday) they left stuff all over the place and they didn’t take care of it,” Hayden said. “We just wanted to teach them a lesson in taking care of stuff. For the most part they are well-behaved.”
Cost is $50 per year for the first child, with a $5 escalating discount for each additional family member. Payment plans are available.
“No one is turned away,” Hayden said.
The club is open from 3-6 p.m. during the school week. Kids typically stay between a half-hour to two hours. There is a computerized identification system, which serves as a check in and has a list of who can pick up each child.
“It all runs pretty smoothly,” Hayden said. “It’s kind of controlled chaos at times, because there’s days where we have 75 to 80 kids here, but it’s fun. Kids are always going to be kids, and the majority here are under third grade.”
As part of the Marshall County Boys & Girls Club, members can also go to the club’s facility in Plymouth.
“Plymouth and its executive director, Billie Treber, really helped tremendously in getting this club organized and up and running,” Hayden said. “We’re only open during the school year, but they’re open year-round and have a very nice setup.”
Starting in January, the club will take part in “Mitch’s Kids,” an eight-week government grant program formed by Governor Mitch Daniels.
“When kids qualify for the program and go through it, things like homework and people coming in to talk about jobs and careers, we get money from the government for doing it to support the club, up to $400 or $500 per kid,” Hayden said. “It doesn’t cost us anything, so it’s an incentive to do more mentoring and teaching.”
For more information on the Boys & Girls Club of Bremen, call 574-546-3554. ext. 2013.