Monnier discusses remarkable growth, impact, and community support of CBGC

Culver area youngsters spent a combined total of some 58,000 hours at the Culver Boys & Girls Club as of mid-December, 2012, according to unit director Cory Monnier -- and that's just one figure among many which he told Culver Kiwanians adds up to some "exciting trends" at the club.

Addressing Culver's Kiwanis Club last month at the Culver Public Library, Monnier said he'd initially been hesitant to take the lead position at Culver's Boys & Girls Club, since he knew first-hand the challenges of raising funds for such a club even at his previous post in Valparaiso, a community of 30,000.

"But I overlooked how strong this community is," he admits. "We may disagree on things (in Culver), but when push comes to shove we come together in force. There's nowhere that's more evident than the Boys & Girls Club."

Before sharing new statistics on the CBGC, Monnier told the story of a local member he called Michael (not his real name). Rather than being at the club so his parents can work, Michael was sent by his grandparents so he can "experience childhood."

Michael's mother, explained Monnier, is a drug addict and his father's identity is unknown, so he lives with his grandparents. His grandfather is confined to bed or a wheelchair, and his grandmother is terminally ill with lung cancer; neither knows what will happen to Michael when they pass away. They're "crossing their fingers" his mother will be "clean" by then.

"His grandmother sends him to the Culver Boys & Girls Club so he can be a child and play with his friends," said Monnier. "We have stories like that all the time."

Though it started earlier as a youth club, Culver's Boys & Girls Club began in 2007; since then, he said, membership has grown from 150 to nearly 300, a staggering number given the entire school population at Culver Elementary is less than 500.

Average daily attendance, added Monnier, has nearly doubled recently. He shared a photo of one recent day at the club when 126 youngsters were in attendance.

Audience member Ginny Munroe, board chair for the CBGC, noted Culver's program is in the top tree in the entire state of Indiana, in terms of percentage of students who are club members.

CBGC members are also receiving quality programming, Monnier said, asking of the 58,000 hours members spent there in 2012, "Where would that time be spent, if not for the club?"

Two thousand hours of homework time took place there last year; without the club, Monnier said, "Who knows if they would get it done?"
Indiana, he pointed out, is one of the most obese states in the U.S.

"A lot of kids, if they go home, will eat Happy Meals, watch TV, and play video games. So we feel it's important to get those kids active."
In 2012, CBGC members spent around 15,000 combined hours engaged in physical activity. The rest of their time, Monnier added, was spent in arts and crafts, technology learning, and character building activities.

The CBGC board held a retreat at Swan Lake resort near Plymouth in November, where participants were asked what their dreams are for the youth of Culver.

"Maybe one day we'll have our own facility," he said, adding, "Right now, we're so gracious to be housed in Culver Elementary School."

Another dream was securing ongoing financial sustainability, something he expects the board will discuss more with the public in coming months.

Monnier also described the new free tutoring program underway for CBGC members. At present, 15 or 16 youth are signed up for regular tutoring, which so far has been handled via a work-study partnership with nearby Ancilla College. Ancilla, he said, has been "really phenomenal" overall in its support of CBGC. Ancilla students recently offered a soccer clinic for CBGC members, and the college has been consistently supportive of the club during CBGC's annual auction and campaign.

So, too, has Culver Academies, Monnier explained, whether its hosting or helping fund the auction, or hosting club members for visits and activities on Academies grounds. The Culver community at large has been "a great support" as well, he said: besides rent-free space at the elementary school, Culver's town park doesn't charge the club for swimming during the summer.

The Culver Boys & Girls Club's summer program also grew "by leaps and bounds" last year, Monnier said, thanks in part to a Marshall County Community Foundation grant which facilitated expanded programming and more field trips. Attendance grew from 25 children per day, on average, in the summer of 2011, to 50 per day in 2012. The club is open 12 hours per day in the summertime, he noted.

"It's hard to teach passion," Monnier said of garnering ongoing volunteer support for the program, particularly in light of his own childhood experiences in the Boys & Girls Club, "but once you've experienced it, you share it."

The Culver Kiwanis Club presented Monnier with a $2,500 check towards the club.

Also during the meeting, Kiwanis president Trent Bennett shared news with members that Culver's Lake Fest will have increased visibility in the 2013 Indiana Festival Guide, copies of which he distributed to members. The guides are available at various locations around Culver.