By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY April 17, 2007 Jennifer Lopez and Ruben Studdard count themselves as members.
Renowned baseball player Hank Aaron, Tupperware CEO Rick Goings and Taco Bell Corp. President Emil Brolick sit on the board.
Denzel Washington even does the nationally televised commercials.
And it’s coming to Sullivan County.
With help from the Boys and Girls Club of the Town of Wallkill & Pine Bush and local agencies, the Monticello and Fallsburg school districts will soon be offering a Boys and Girls Club.
Although tentatively to be called the Boys and Girls Clubs of Orange and Sullivan County, it will actually be two clubs in Sullivan and possibly more, if organizers’ dreams are realized.
“We’re not going to put two clubs in and stop,” explained Alexis Eggleton, chair of the Sullivan County Boys and Girls Clubs Steering Committee.
Liberty and other school districts in the county are targeted for further expansion of the program, but there’s a need to start small, said Eggleton.
“We’re building slowly to ensure success,” she explained.
So at a kickoff ceremony scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday) at 5:30 p.m. at the Sullivan County Government Center, Eggleton and fellow organizers will announce that the elementary students of Fallsburg and the middle-schoolers of Monticello will be the first to experience the new club when the next school year begins in September.
Designed to expand upon existing afterschool offerings, the club will feature some of the most popular programs, said Executive Director Bill Fioravanti, a six-year veteran with the Town of Wallkill & Pine Bush chapter.
“It’s not just childcare,” he explained. “It’s not just for bad kids or poor kids.”
Key among the offerings will be SMART Moves, a nationally acclaimed comprehensive prevention program focused on alcohol, tobacco, drugs and premature sexual activity.
Also to be offered: art projects, music lessons, sports, and the Torch Club a small-group leadership and service club for 11-13-year-old boys and girls.
There will even be a time for homework help.
“We’ll actually be doing some tutoring services,” said Fioravanti.
While specifics of each offering are still being worked out, organizers are also concentrating on funding not for this year, but for next.
The Monticello and Fallsburg school districts are spending $25,000 apiece to start the club (thanks to Title I monies), while Sullivan County is kicking in $50,000.
Indeed, the county has been the primary advocate for this effort, starting with retired Youth Bureau Director Ann Kowalik.
“She brought Bill in,” remarked Eggleton. “She’s now retired, and we do miss her!”
Taking up her mantle, however, are County Legislators Ron Hiatt, Sam Wohl and Leni Binder, whose legislative districts include Fallsburg and Monticello schools.
“Ann almost begged to bring in a Boys and Girls Club,” recalled Hiatt. “So we said, ‘OK, let’s pursue it!’”
He pointed out that the most vulnerable time for children the period when they’re most likely to be victims or perpetrators of crime is after school and before parents return home from work.
That’s exactly the gap the Boys and Girls Club routinely fills around the country.
Wohl added that local schools already have facilities available for such programs, and they’ve eagerly signed on.
“The Boys and Girls Club has a huge record of success in this area,” commented Monticello Schools Superintendent Patrick Michel, who helped establish one while principal at Pine Bush. “I am very excited about it!”
“We’re all very excited about this,” agreed Fallsburg Superintendent Ivan Katz. “It’s going to provide opportunities that just aren’t available at this point.”
But to ensure that can continue to happen, organizers are seeking to rally public support for the program and financial support for a planned $2 million endowment that would completely fund the club in future years.
To that end, a dinner/dance will be held on June 9 at the Lodge in Rock Hill, and more events are in the offing.
“We’re certainly going to need volunteers,” added Eggleton from adult supervisors to skilled teachers.
Fioravanti said several Sullivan County residents will soon be tapped to serve on the corporate board to ensure local interests are represented, and Eggleton added that any money raised in Sullivan County will stay in Sullivan County. (There will also be advisory boards for each club in Monticello and Fallsburg.)
Eggleton thanked the county and the Legislature for its support in getting the club off the ground, and she urged everyone to join the effort starting with tomorrow’s kickoff ceremony.
“This is an opportunity for the residents of Sullivan County to see the program and learn about its particulars,” she said.
“The time is very ripe in Sullivan County for a real change that’s going to make a real difference,” added Fioravanti.
“This is really something to look forward to,” agreed Katz.
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For more information, contact Alexis Eggleton at 794-3000, ext. 3305, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Boys and Girls Clubs in general, log on to www.bgca.org.