Boys and Girls Club of Kamloops
Two Urban Systems staff members sit on the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Kamloops (BGCK). John Dumbrell has been on the Board since 2016, serving as vice-president since 2018, while Jamie Campone joined the Board as a director in the role of secretary in September 2017.
John began volunteering with the Club’s Power Start program in 2011.
“Power Start provides rides to selected schools in Kamloops, and breakfast for children who travel on the bus as well as those that walk themselves,” says John. “The program ensures that kids who might not otherwise get to school have a reliable means to get there, as well as something in their tummies to start their day. This is a great program that introduced me to the Boys and Girls Club, and exposed me to the breadth and depth of the valuable services that they provide. This really sparked my interest in joining the Board.”
Jamie was impressed with the Club’s scope, reach and impact on the city’s youth.
“What ultimately inspired me to join the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Kamloops was meeting with Traci Anderson for a tour of the facility,” says Jamie. “It was incredible to see the programs in action and very comforting to know there is a safe space for youth within our community. The best part about being involved with the Boys and Girls Club is the pride I have to be part of such a strong and passionate non-profit society.”
“If a young person needs it, our Clubs provide it.”
John and Jamie invited executive director, Traci Anderson, and president, Cliff Robertson, to join the Urban Systems Foundation Board for breakfast during their Annual General Meeting on April 29.
“Kamloops has one of the most diverse Boys and Girls Club programs in Canada,” says Traci. “We run 29 programs in this city.”
John Dumbrell, Jamie Campone, Cliff Robertson and Traci Anderson.
Traci says that there’s a real explosion in youth programs with a total of 11 programs running in 2019. They range from a variety of “drop-in” sessions (including wellness), to academic and career support. There is even an advisor who provides a youth housing support service.
“The space is set up to suit them, and they love it,” says Traci, alluding to the many art-based programs that youth find especially engaging. She adds that there are so many youth “aging out of care”, so they developed a life skills program.
“Day one, we had 15 to 20 kids show up with lots of enthusiasm. We covered topics like budgeting, how to change a light bulb, and how to cook a meal.”
Left: Cooking class. Right: Making cookie dough.
As an offshoot from their “after high school” life skills and employment support, a social enterprise was launched last October. “Party Place” hosts children’s parties with a variety of themed options, and the profits go back into youth programs at the Club.
“Young adults often lack confidence to apply for jobs,” says Traci. By running their own social enterprise, the youth can build employment experience, receive soft skills training and get constructive feedback from mentors. This will help them to become successful in the workplace. “We hired four youths. We aren’t making a profit yet, but we are growing the service model into parties for adults, too – for businesses and community groups – so we can offer more than just birthday parties.”
Parents and caregivers are also supported through family programs at the Club. “Connect Parent” is a program that brings together groups to discuss challenges with various age ranges, from young children to teenagers. There’s also a circle-of-friends group to help children adjust to challenges within their families, such as divorce, a move or change in schools, and the loss of a pet or a loved one.
There’s a family dinner night on Fridays, too, so that families can develop support networks and positive relationships in an inclusive environment.
The Power Start program has been a favourite initiative for the Kamloops branch’s volunteers for many years. Traci and Cliff expressed how much they valued our staff volunteers’ commitment to this breakfast program.
“It began in 2009,” says Traci. “A principal approached the Club and said, ‘we can’t get kids to school’. Urban Systems was there from the start, straight away, with 15 volunteers during the February to June pilot program.”
The Club surveyed the school, staff, and the children themselves, to learn what was needed to keep the program going on a continuing basis.
“Now, the Power Start program is in five schools, and we’re looking to expand to a sixth school soon,” says Traci.
The children, who have been identified by school staff as being ‘at risk’, are picked up from their homes at various locations and neighbourhoods by a driver on staff at the Boys and Girls Club. Often, siblings and cousins are in the program together, with up to seven children from a single address.
“There are actually two staff members on the bus. Or one staff member and one volunteer,” explains Traci. “They call every house, sometimes twice, while they are on route – ten minutes out, or five minutes from pickup time – to ensure all of the kids are ready to board when the bus arrives.” Traci is also a “backup-backup driver”.
She explains that some of the families move around a lot, but children will transfer from one bus to another, if necessary, to stay at the same school and continue to be a part of this program. The Boys and Girls Club has a fleet of buses and added a new one with the help of the Rotary Club of Kamloops Daybreak.
“There are about 120 kids in the program and 188 individuals annually – almost more than those who attend after-school programs, which is a real eye-opener,” says Traci. “Most are picked up by the bus. We have about 15 kids that meet at the school.”
This translates into 27,000 breakfasts served each year at a cost of $170,000. This is supported by various fundraisers, donations and three Rotary Clubs.
“We try to serve healthy options, like eggs and green smoothies, which can be expensive,” says Traci, adding that Starbucks and one other firm sponsors one breakfast each week.
Left: A “bottom of the bowl contest” encourages children to eat their full breakfast. Right: Making juice.
“Our relationship with the school district is pretty unique,” says Traci. They still conduct surveys regularly to provide data for grant applications and to gain insight into the impact on children.
Traci shared a story about two new boys in the program. They actually live just across the street from the Boys and Girls Club, but they weren’t getting to school. On the first day when they were picked up, they were so excited. One of them said, “I’m so happy! I get to be in school ALL DAY!”
The Club’s biggest challenges
Staffing is often the biggest challenge faced by the Club. They usually have between 46 to 52 staff members, plus about the same number of volunteers.
“There’s a critical shortage to hire for early childhood programs and childcare,” says Traci, who is doing two jobs herself – marketing and funding.
The BGCK had also been seeking a wellness professional, a fund development officer, and “just the small job of a volunteer coordinator” – a job that Traci says is often done off the side of her desk.
“I’m happy to report that these roles have now been filled. The fund development marketing communication leader is a co-op student from TRU, and the wellness worker was an internal hire.”
The BGCK directors feel that the Kamloops Club is pretty special.
“We couldn’t do it without our partners and sponsors,” says Traci. This includes the school district, United Way, grants and gaming support. The City contributes through a service agreement, facilities and a grant for programs held within the John Tod Centre Y. The Ministry of Children and Family Development supports youth programs.
“… and the Urban Systems Foundation has been there from the start,” she adds.
The Kamloops Foundation team recently received a certificate of recognition acknowledging their many years of support for the Power Start program. Meanwhile, it’s all systems go at the branch for yet another exciting service auction to raise funds for this important initiative on July 9.
Thank you, volunteers!
On behalf of the Boys and Girls Club of Kamloops, their Board of Directors, as well as the Foundation Board, we’d like to thank all of the Kamloops volunteers who have dedicated their time and enthusiasm to Power Start and other Club-related activities and fundraisers.
John Dumbrell would also like to give special shout-outs to Deb Press and Kevin Gordon.
“Deb has a gigantic heart, boundless energy and a great ability to organize people to volunteer!”
“Kevin has led our annual service auction for the Club, which is a really fun and significant fundraiser that supports the purchase of food and related items for the Power Start program.”
Cliff (the Kamloops Club’s president), adds: “Thank you for your financial support and for having our back.”