A Place for All Kids

The Boys and Girls Club of Noblesville builds a new home

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

Back in 1951 a group of Noblesville residents decided it was time to give the youth of Noblesville somewhere to meet that would be a safe, enriching and positive environment.  They leased a space on the 3rd floor over Kirks Hardware Building and opened shop as the Boys and Girls Club of Noblesville. 

Fast forward almost 67 years and that club is still going strong and is celebrating a move from its current location at 1448 Conner Street to a new building of its own down the street at 1700 Conner Street.  The new facility is connected to the community center already at that location, bringing the club together on one campus.

Executive Director Becky Terry says, true to its founding concept, all kids are still welcome today.  “We serve all kids.  There’s no kind of box that they have to fit into.  We’re open to all youth from every background and every setting.  And I think that’s what’s really special about the Noblesville club that it is for every kid in town,” she says.

 

Nice Clean Place 

In the beginning, it was mostly kids from the neighborhood that would walk to the club, according to Joe Arrowood who was Executive Director from 1974 to 1996.  Eventually, the club connected with schools and kids were transported for free after school.  Arrowood says there was always a need for that type of facility and program.  “It’s always been really important plus you give a lot of opportunities to kids, all types of kids, and even if they can’t afford it, it’s set up so that they have scholarships,” says Arrowood who adds that for parents that work and single parent families it is especially valuable.  Arrowood thinks that kids today have the same needs that they had years ago.  “It’s mostly good supervision and having a nice, clean place to go,” he says.

Today, the club is more popular than ever with around 2200 members, ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.  Some 300 kids attend daily and no one is turned away because they can’t pay the membership fee, which is $45 per year.  The actual cost to the club per member is $428 per year, a gap the club must bridge, according to Terry.  They do that with United Way funding, some government grants and mostly public donations.  Specific programs such as sports camp and summer programs have extra fees.

In addition to programs, the club offers dinner twice a week to members and, in some cases, they send home snack packs when there are food insecurities in the home.

Terry says most members come for the programs.  “We provide them, first and foremost, with a positive environment where they have supportive adult role models that they can go to for whatever it is they are needing support on.  On top of that we provide programming and activities that meet their need and interests,” she says adding that the club focuses on skills with STEM activities and provides homework help every day. 

Tomorrow’s Leaders

Terry says they are helping to build a strong foundation for young people and widening their perspective by providing opportunities that they might not have otherwise.  “We’ve done everything from having kids take their first airplane ride with us on a field trip to Colorado to visit the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs; trips to Disney and trying to broaden their horizon; making sure that we are building tomorrow’s leaders whether it’s here locally in Noblesville or someone who will go out and impact outside of our town and state,” she says.

Terry lists off successful people that have been members of the Boys and Girls Club.  “You can go all around town, honestly, and find many successful people throughout Noblesville or Hamilton County that have been a member of the Boys and Girls Club,” she says. 

Notably, she mentions Courtney Cole and Monica Peck of Hare Chevrolet; Brian Mills, the CEO of Community Health Network; Tom Kenley, a Noblesville Township Trustee and Derek Arrowood who is the Superintendent of Hamilton Heights School Corporation as just a few people who participated in the Boys and Girls Club program and went on to successful careers.

There are many current members with lots of potential to have successful careers too.  Salil Gupta is a senior at Noblesville High School and has been a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Noblesville since 3rd grade.  He says his parents were looking for a place for him and his two younger brothers to go after school that offered enrichment and a place to go so they didn’t get bored at home. 

“But it really became more than an after-school program,” says Gupta adding, ”there were activities in which we could do service projects through a club called Torch Club.  Then there were the friends that I had from school that I could meet there and spent time together after school.  There’s a game room, computer lab, an art room, a gym, a library.  So it was like school after school but it was more fun and kind of relaxing.  It meant a lot to me because I developed these friendships outside the school,” he says.

Gupta, who is planning to attend IU to earn an MD and an MBA in cognitive science and international affairs in order to work on health policy issues, certainly has goals.  He credits the Boys and Girls Club with helping him focus.  “It made me more responsible because the way the club is set up is the whole area is open to all members.  So imagine a 3rd or 4th grader independently choosing where to go and knowing that they have homework to do but also knowing there is a gym, an art room, a computer lab and a game room where they have entertainment.  So that forces them to decide where to spend their time, which is really significant,” says Gupta who adds, “It had a big impact on my sense of responsibility and contributed to getting things done.”

To join, volunteer or contribute, call 317-773-4372 or go to https://www.bgcni.org for more information.