Warren County will soon have a chapter of the Boys & Girls Club, and area organizers are excited about the opportunities it will offer children aged 5 to 17 and their families.
The local chapter will be located at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School at 40 Crescent St., Front Royal, and coordinated through a partnership between Warren County Public Schools and The Salvation Army of Front Royal.
“Our hope is definitely that we are able to attract a lot of our students,” said E. Wilson Morrison Principal Lisa Rudacille.
She said that Capt. Ann Hawk of the local Salvation Army chapter approached her about the idea, and Rudacille, in turn, spoke with Superintendent Chris Ballenger about asking the School Board about their willingness to make the program happen.
Hawk said she hopes the Boys & Girls Club chapter will open “as soon as possible,” though first they need to hire and train staff and volunteers as well as enroll children in the program.
Paid positions they’re looking to hire are a full-time branch director and several program aides. Additionally, they’ll need volunteers to help run programs.
The club is slated to be at the downtown Front Royal school from about 3:30 to 6:45 p.m. five days a week. They also plan to run a summer day camp.
Though housed at the elementary school, Hawk and Rudacille said it will welcome any school-aged children from 5 to 17. To participate, children must be enrolled in school or home school, Hawk said.
One of their big efforts is “having a safe place for kids to go after school to get homework help,” Hawk said.
Participants will have time to complete their homework, and volunteers from Front Royal Presbyterian Church have signed up to help with tutoring.
It’s also about “having a safe place for kids to go after school,” Hawk said. “There’s a lot of kids that don’t have that structure.” Through the program, they’ll “get the help that they need to grow into mature, responsible adults.”
Other activities could be limited in the beginning, Hawk said, but they plan to offer everything that other Boys & Girls clubs do.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America is a national organization with a mission of enabling “all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
Activities listed on their website, bgca.org, fall under several categories including sports and recreation, education, arts, character and leadership, health and wellness, workforce readiness and programs for young children as well as teens and young adults.
“We’re excited for all the opportunities that are available in this program,” Hawk said.
What makes this Boys & Girls Club chapter different from many others is that it will be run through The Salvation Army, Hawk said.
The only other one she knows of in Virginia is in Richmond, she said.
The Boys & Girls Club organization operates various other clubs around Virginia, but the closest ones listed on their site are in Warrenton, Harrisonburg, Timberville and Martinsburg, West Virginia.
“We just want to get it started and give children the opportunity to get involved,” Hawk said.
The program will charge a $10 yearly membership fee and a $10 weekly programming fee, Hawk said, but Rudacille stressed that there will be financial aid for families who can’t afford to pay the program fee.
They are also working out transportation for children at the other elementary schools and middle schools who aren’t close enough to walk, Rudacille said.
“We’re hoping transportation won’t be one of the things that will prevent them from participating,” she said.
“I think that we have always as a community needed after-school programs,” she said. “Programs outside of the school day that students could participate in.”
Interested families can visit The Salvation Army of Front Royal at 357 Cloud St. for an application or call them at 540-323-4095.