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January 16, 2018

Partnership expands Bella Vista club's teen program

Partnership expands Bella Vista club’s teen program

BELLA VISTA — A business donated time and material to give teens a place to hang out. Thanks to a…

BELLA VISTA — A business donated time and material to give teens a place to hang out. Thanks to a partnership between Lowe’s Home Improvement store and the Benton County Boys & Girls Club, the Keystone program is in place for area teens.

The Boys & Girls Club doesn’t just serve the kids who arrive after school, unit director Josh Johnson said. The goal is to serve the entire community.

As “club kids” grow up, their interests and needs change and the club is developing programs for those needs. One thing the Bella Vista club was missing was a place that appealed to teens. The club was using a former storage room on the second floor as their teen hangout, but it wasn’t very attractive. When volunteers from Lowe’s called, looking for a project, he knew it was a good match.

The volunteers, about seven at a time, remodeled the former storage room. They painted, added a new ceiling and flooring, and even helped find nicer furniture and a refrigerator. Now, after school, club members who are 14 and older can go up to the teen room and play video games or just socialize, Johnson said.

Seth Cantrell has been a member of the Boys & Girls Club for six years. Now a freshman in Gravette, he goes directly to the teen room and plays Xbox with friends. Usually, the members bring other games along to play as well.

Gravette teens can ride a school bus to the club, Johnson said, but Bella Vista teens who attend Bentonville schools don’t have that option. There are no buses to the club from the Bentonville junior high or high schools. That means teens from the Bentonville district have to want to be there.

The new space and the Keystone program makes them want to be there, officials said.

Shawn Sawyer, club program director, said The Keystone program is a national program for teens at Boys & Girls Clubs. There are three focus areas — academic success, outreach and career readiness. The members plan and do monthly service projects and they visit college campuses. Sometimes, they work on bigger projects with other Keystone Clubs.

Last year, the biggest project was a get-together with Bella Vista police officers. The national theme was “Dialogue with Law Enforcement,” Johnson said. That inspired the group to plan the event. Even he was surprised at the number of Bella Vista police officers who attended. There was even a Benton County deputy sheriff with the group.

“It was a lot of fun,” Sawyer said.

The teens assigned a few jobs to the adults, but they did all the planning themselves and there was little for the adults to do, Johnson said.

Planning has only begun for this school year, but Johnson is hoping the Keystone Club can be involved in the new walking and biking trails being built on the west side of Bella Vista. There’s one trail close to Boys & Girls Club property, so he hopes the Keystone members can help with building the trail. If they aren’t needed for the build, they may adopt the completed trail and make sure it remains in good condition.

Keystone members are expected to do 10 hours of community service each month, but they don’t have to do it as a group, Sawyer said. They can work individually away from the club.

Sawyer also supervises the Torch Club, which is for ages 11 to 13. This summer, it was mostly Torch Club members who tended the raised-bed garden outside the club. Sawyer said they had a good crop of peppers and zucchini, which was distributed to the club families. Their next project will probably be organizing a drive for Hurricane Harvey survivors.

Torch Club members do four hours of community service a month.

By teaching their members to give back, the Boys & Girls Club will make a positive impact on the community — which is a goal, according to Johnson. He wants Bella Vistans to know that the Boys & Girls Club playground can be used by the community whenever the club is empty. He plans to add an outside basketball court.

“We want to be a destination,” he said.

NW News on 09/15/2017

Source: NWA Online Northwest Arkansas News Partnership expands Bella Vista club’s teen program

Partnership expands Bella Vista club’s teen program


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