Friday, August 24 marked the last day the building at 3275 Avenue G would officially function as the White City Boys and Girls Club. Interim Executive Director, Diane Gilbertson expressed deep sadness over the Board’s unavoidable decision to close it down. “Each of our Clubs rely on community support, which unfortunately has fallen short in White City,” Gilbertson said. “We’ve given it our best shot, pursued funding, but last year we lost $500,000 on that Club alone.”
Gilbertson said that on the final day, White City’s children enjoyed an end-of-the-summer barbeque, with bounce houses, and games. She expressed gratitude and best wishes to Tom Cole, Director of Kids Unlimited, for his willingness to continue operating a White City after-school program. She says she has offered Cole whatever assistance her staff can provide through the transitioning process.
Cole, who founded and launched Kids Unlimited in 1998, has begun tackling questions to address the challenges inherent with the task. He sees his mission as more education-goal oriented. Not just a place to drop off kids after school, he says, Kids Unlimited focuses on individual children’s schooling needs, and on recruiting family involvement. He has already met with the White Mountain Middle School Principal, and plans to visit elementary schools soon. “Once school opens again,” he said, “we’ll be on playgrounds, and starting programs to go until the end of the school year.” His vision is to get kids thinking about college and future careers. The activities may also include art, music, games, field trips, sports, wholesome fun that help learning.
He says he may not even use the Boys & Girls Club building, which belongs to the school district. He said he favors using school structures that stay vacant after 2:30 p.m. most of the time. Cole plans to increase his already bilingual staff, and recruit volunteers to work with the community on achieving objectives to help kids.
He sees a similarity in the demographics of White City and parts of Medford. One staff member whose expertise he plans to utilize is Will Young, of B1 4 Kids. “The School District Leadership is supportive; the talent is there,” Cole believes. “It’s a struggle that doesn’t come with money,” but he notes a huge void that needs to be addressed in White City.
“People can donate in many ways,” Cole added. “Maybe volunteer time, or sporting equipment, or fishing poles.” He added that for starters, he’d open, whether he had the funding or not.
Cole praised the recent accomplishments of three Kids Unlimited member students in Medford’s poverty pockets. “These young ladies came from families that spoke no English at home, and had extremely low finances. They all received full scholarships to prestigious Universities in the Eastern U.S. They all credit their participation in Kids Unlimited whose staff believed in them and encouraged them to believe in themselves.”
By Flo Blake