Three women, Mary and Alice Goodwin and Elizabeth Hammersley, started the Boys and Girls Clubs of America in the state of Connecticut in 1860. They wanted to give kids a place to go who otherwise might not have one. More than 150 years later, the Boys and Girls Clubs in San Francisco alone serves more than 1,400 youth, ages six to 18, every day. There are eight clubhouses in the City, serving Mission Creek, Western Addition, Hayes Valley, Hunters Point, Excelsior, Sunnydale, Tenderloin, and Visitacion Valley.
“The overall mission is to inspire and enable all the young people, particularly those in disadvantaged situations,” said Kelly McClain, manager of marketing and public relations, Boys and Girls Clubs in San Francisco. “The key mission with our programs, our staff and our volunteers is to help our club members achieve success in life.”
The Mission Creek clubhouse is located on the corner of 21st and Alabama streets. It’s an old structure that was modernized five years ago, with the addition of a kitchen and multimedia center equipped with computers.
“Our schedule varies Monday through Friday,” said Melissa Gibson, Mission Creek club director. Somedays club members can participate in a foosball tournament. The clubhouse offers other social recreation games, such as pool, as well as physical education courses, like a soccer academy, which is led by “a wonderful volunteer who is also a soccer coach,” Gibson said. “We also have what we call Green Club, a community garden with pots that we keep. We plant them and the kids water the plants and take care of them, and at the end of the quarter they harvest them and we made a meal together with the food.”
Kids also collaborate on art projects, such as a mural to honor community leaders. Mid-day, clubhouse staff serve the children a “free healthy snack,” followed by a half-hour of fitness activities. Towards the end of the day, each member gets one-on-one homework help with a staff member or volunteer. “We also have tutoring services during this time for those who are identified as needing more assistance,” Gibson said.
The center hosts a program called “Tinkering,” which combines art, science and math skills. Recently, the youth built their own motorized cars and decorated them.
Children enrolled in the program are able to use the computers in the multimedia center to create their own projects. Gibson said middle schoolers recently filmed and edited a video. There’s a special program for middle schoolers called “Torch Club,” a leadership-centric club which lets participants run for positions within the group.
The club has full- and part-time staff, as well as volunteers who teach programs and lead activities. For instance, in the once a week “Puppy Dog Tales” a volunteer brings a dog for the kids to read to, as part of the club’s Storyville initiative.
The Mission Creek clubhouse is open from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. daily. At 6 p.m. younger kids go home to make space for “teen-focused time;” middle and high schoolers can stay until 8 p.m.. On Fridays, the club hosts a teen event at 8 p.m.
It costs $20 to join the club for one academic year. Each family is given a club card upon enrolling, which they can use as many times a year as they like.