Expanding Kuna’s Boys and Girls Club would help reduce juvenile crime and motivate Kuna youths to be upstanding residents in the community. Law enforcement and local youth testified to this during the Oct. 24 annual Kuna Boys and Girls Club fundraising breakfast.

Boys and Girls Club administrators hope that success stories shared at the fundraising breakfast inspire the Kuna community to help raise funds to continue programs, and, possibly, for an eventual Boys and Girls Club building.

Kuna’s Boys and Girls Club, a nonprofit, after-school and summer program organization, currently has around 130 first- to sixth-grade students enrolled the program. Every day after school, these children walk to or get dropped of at Ross Elementary School, which hosts the after-school program.

The children receive a snack, participate in structured activities — from sports to art projects — are offered homework help and get to play and socialize. The cost per family is $50 for the school year and for the summer program.

The Boys and Girls Club has been in Kuna for about 10 years. Its eventual goal is to construct its own building, which would provide more room to offer program activities to more ages, administrators said. In some cities, the Boys and Girls Club offers the program to ages 6 to 18.

To do that in Kuna, board member Belinda Gordon said, a building would have to be constructed to give sufficient space to all of the age groups, and the middle and high school youths need more space.

“The junior high space is the one I really think we are missing,” Gordon said. “ … They’re not driving and they don’t have jobs typically, but they’re more likely to be creative in how they spend their time when mom and dad aren’t around and get in trouble.”

STAYING OUT OF TROUBLE

In 2017, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, which contracts Kuna police services, received 99 calls for juvenile crimes in progress, Kuna Police Chief Jon McDaniel said at the fundraising breakfast. That’s up 23 calls from 2016. McDaniel added that 82 of those calls were from parents saying their youth was beyond control. In 2016 Ada County Sheriff’s Office received 55 juvenile beyond control calls in Kuna.

“These are parents that are calling the police because they are at their wits’ end,” McDaniel said. “I’m telling you, these kids need things to do.”

While that crime increase is partially due to population growth, it is also partially due to a lack of community programs to keep children off the streets and potentially out of risky or illegal behaviors.

The children need Boys and Girls clubs, McDaniel said, which provide a place to go and things to do. The hours of 3-6 p.m., McDaniel added, are called “the danger zone” because those are the hours youths are most likely to experiment with drugs, get pregnant, commit a crime or become a victim of a crime.

“Taking the people out of empty homes and providing them with a safe place to go lessens the chance those things will happen,” McDaniel said.

The Boys and Girls Club is a proven barrier against this danger zone, he added.

“We in the community have made some progress with these kids, including the library, the skate park, the future splash pad, the Boys and Girls Club, the Kuna Police Activities League and some additional sports offerings, but we need more,” McDaniel said. “I hope to see the Boys and Girls Club of Kuna become a strong pillar in the community, and I hope they continue to expand and grow their presence.”

WHAT DOES A BUILDING OFFER? WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO DO THAT

The Boys and Girls Club Moseley Center in Garden City was the first Boys and Girls Club building in the Treasure Valley. Built in the late 1990s, It is now about 34,000 square feet and includes a computer room, art room, two kindergarten rooms, a teen center, a library, gym, cafeteria and kitchen, game room and homework (or power hour) room.

Children choose what activities they want to do from after school until about 8 p.m. when the center closes.

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“(The teen center) is what Kuna really needs,” said Jodi Gempler, director of development for the Boys and Girls Club.

Gempler also highlighted the Boys and Girls Club kindergarten programs, saying that by participating in the Boys and Girls Club, kindergartners can receive essentially a full day of kindergarten. They go to school for the half the day, then participate in activities from reading to socializing that reinforce what the students are learning in kindergarten.

The club also facilitates regular service projects. The youth are collecting hygiene supplies to package and donate to a local shelter.

Parenting classes and other community resources are also offered through the Garden City Boys and Girls Club center. Gordon said a Boys and Girls Club building could also offer courses like hunters education, something of interest to the Kuna community.

Trying to offer the programs in local schools or other buildings is challenging because of insufficient storage space and constantly having to “repurpose rooms,” meaning Boys and Girls Club personnel would constantly have to change rooms to facilitate boys and girls club programs, then put the classroom back for its original purpose.

After-school programs cost the Boys and Girls Club organization about $800 per child, no matter the age. School-year programs cost around $120,000 total for the Boys and Girls Club Moseley Center, Ada County clubs director Colleen Braga said.

To construct a building, Kuna’s Boys and Girls Club Program would need to raise about $4 million to $5 million. From previous fundraising efforts around 2006, $500,000 has been raised, and land was donated for a building site near Boise Street adjacent to Butler Park.

Memberships cost $25 per child during the school year and $25 for summer programs.

“The club is open to any kid because not every single kid comes to the club because of financial reasons,” Blitman said. “Kids come here for the socialization, for the learning, and because of that we don’t look at the parents’ finances if qualify or anything everyone is invited to participate.”

There are no plans for a capital campaign at this time. Another funding option could be to change the membership funding amount, Braga said.

“We all want to do what’s best for kids in Kuna,” Blitman said. “Because of that we’re super open to other ideas, and input from people.”

RAISING MONEY

Donations were made following Wednesday’s breakfast event. First Interstate Bank, of Kuna, presented Kuna Boys and Girls Club administrators with a $2,000 check. Others “pledged” recurring $10, $25, $50, $100 or $200 donations.

“Donor support is really important because Boys and Girls Club had a decrease in funding from United Way,” Blitman said. United Way is a federal funding program that gives money to nonprofits.

About 120 people — individuals and families, local businesses and organization representatives — attended Oct. 24. This year’s breakfast event raised about $36,000, Braga said.

Four tours of Boys and Girls Club facilities, community members can contact Blitman, Braga, Gempler or Gordon through the website: adaclubs.org.

“It’s the community that takes care of these kids,” Braga said. “It’s encouraging to see Kuna’s support from the breakfast.”

“The board has been pleased with the level of support of the Kuna community for the fundraising breakfast we had last year and the number of people that have signed up as monthly donors,” Blitman said. “We have a significant amount of monthly donors who are directing their monthly donation to Kuna club. There’s certainly a base of people in Kuna that are really supportive of the Boys and Girls Club programs.”

Alx George is the reporter for Kuna Melba News. Contact her at 208-922-3008 or editor@kunamelba.com.

Alx George is the reporter for Kuna Melba News. Contact her at 208-922-3008 or editor@kunamelba.com.

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