SEQUIM — It is an organization that turns no child away and serves everyone from families of lawyers and doctors to a homeless single mother who lived with her son in a car.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula helps children from all walks of life, with annual dues of $30 and no one turned away for inability to pay.
It is part of the national Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s legacy that has helped bring up such celebrity actors as Denzel Washington and Jennifer Lopez.
“Everyone is welcome,” said club Executive Director Mary Budke, addressing more than 40 people attending Tuesday’s Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the SunLand Golf & Country Club conference center.
Budke has heard a lot of stories from the children she has met.
Some make her laugh, some make her cry, she said.
Video promoting clubs
Before she spoke, Budke presented a video promoting the clubs.
It was narrated by Washington and directed by actor-director Ron Howard, also a former Boys & Girls Clubs child member now giving back to the organization.
The Carroll C. Kendall Unit, 400 W. Fir St. in Sequim, has about 300 members, while the Port Angeles unit at 2620 S. Francis St. has 60.
“We try to provide for our community with our partners,” Budke said.
The club is now looking to achieve an $80,000 Campaign for Kids goal with former Port Angeles Mayor Karen Rogers heading up the fundraising effort.
“The Boys & Girls Club, I think, is a unique organization in this community,” Len Lewicki, club board president, told the audience before he introduced Budke.
“It focuses on children and builds a better community over time,” said Lewicki, a prominent financial adviser in Puget Sound who has been involved with the Sequim club for about 15 years.
“Some kids here are worried about having food on the table. And in our community, we do have additional economic challenges.”
Lead ‘on the path’
The idea of helping children as they grow up, he said, is to lead them “on the path to building a more productive community.
“We need high school graduates and kids who are going to stay here and are going to be good citizens.
“If these kids are not going to be in the Boys & Girls Club, they are going to be — guess what? — on your doorstep.”
During a typical summer day, Budke said, the club will take a group of children to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, an experience a less fortunate child might never see.
Budke cited the fact that the club now has Sequim High School’s 2012 class valedictorian, Hailey Estes, a “club kid” who works at the club’s desk.
Budke said her day can mean taking a teen girl charged as a minor in possession of alcohol to juvenile court “to get a judge’s permission so she could go to college in another state.”
Part of the club’s mission, Budke said, is to push high school diplomas, college degrees and healthy lifestyles.
When children show up at the club after school, she said, they are told to do their homework.
“Telling the truth” is driven into them, she said, and members can be cast out of the club for lying.
Janet Gray, club resource development director, said she “makes sure the money comes in” through fundraising, grants and individual donations.
Donations to the club can be made through United Way of Clallam County, she said.
The club must bring in $300,000 for the next quarter, and its annual budget is about $1 million.
As part of the Campaign for Kids, Gray said, an Aug. 25 “It Just Takes One” fundraising phone-a-thon is scheduled along with the usual speakers circuit, including pitches at clubs, chambers of commerce and other organizations.
The clubs will be open to the public to show potential donors around and give them a chance to donate what they can.
Rogers can be phoned at 360-417-1143 to accept Campaign for Kids donations.
________Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2390 or at [email protected]