The Anacortes Boys & Girls Club is looking for a new home as the Washington National Guard ramps up its presence at the 22nd Street facility.
Capt. Keith Kosik, public affairs officer for the Washington National Guard, said this fall they expect to have about 150 citizen soldiers stationed here. The increase from roughly 30 people now comes as the National Guard works with constrained resources.
He said the Guard has looked at strategic stationing moves over the past three years, consolidating armories elsewhere across the state.
That means it has less space to offer the Boys & Girls Club come fall.
“We care about them and value what they do in the community and we think they value what we do,” Kosik said.
Less space means it’s time for the Boys & Girls Club to move on.
David Conover, chief professional officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County, said the National Guard offered an alternative arrangement that would give the club a smaller space, but it just wasn’t a sustainable option for the club.
“We’re thankful for their commitment to try to make this work beyond Oct. 1,” he said.
He added the club is grateful for the 12-year relationship it has had with the National Guard.
“We’re facing the challenge of finding a permanent, sustainable place for the club in Anacortes,” Conover said.
Kosik said the coming change has benefits for Anacortes.
“There’s some economic benefit to the community,” he said.
It also means more people and equipment will be stationed here to respond in the case of an emergency. He recalled a time when there was a small armory in about every community around the state.
“We have citizen soldiers and airmen who live, work and serve in communities around the state,” Kosik said.
He said the Guard hasn’t ruled out some sort of arrangement with the club now — or in the future.
“We’re continuing to dialogue with the Boys & Girls Club,” he said.
The club currently pays less than $3 a square foot for the roughly 8,000-square foot space — about $24,000 a year
Though there is no specific plan yet, Conover said the club is committed to continue offering services in the community.
“We’ve had a lot of support and brainstorming coming from the community,” said Angela Freeberg, Anacortes unit director. “People are out there looking for us.”
News of the move comes as the club celebrates a successful fundraiser. The fifth annual breakfast last week had more than 200 attendees and raised $22,000-plus, an all-time high for the event. Funds support the club’s operations.
Last year the club served 330 kids. Visits for the year totaled more than 20,000, with an average of about 100 kids every day.
Kids take part in things like the Power Hour homework program, Tales for Tails therapy dog reading, SMART Girls, arts and crafts and sports, fitness and recreation. Monthly family nights offer free dinner and activities with anywhere from 70-95 people attending each month.
“We’re focused on teaching academic success, healthy lifestyles and citizenship,” Conover said.
Club leaders have met with the Anacortes School District Superintendent Chris Borgen and Anacortes Mayor Dean Maxwell as they work to find a new space. Conover said one option is to offer site-based programs next year by having multiple clubs at the elementary schools.
The biggest hurdle for a new space is transportation. Right now, a lot of students can walk to the club or take School District buses.
Conover said they’re open to a bridge solution until a permanent space is found or a place the club could move into immediately.
“We need about 8,000 square feet of space,” he said.
The club needs a quiet space for kids to study and for a computer lab, room for its art program, a game room/play space for physical activity and a kitchen area for its cooking programs and healthy snack preparation.
“The armory was a perfect location because it had all those things for us,” he said.
Conover said leaders love the idea of a shared facility or a partnership, especially with other nonprofits. Community members are encouraged to reach out to him with ideas by calling (360) 419-3723.
The county organization rolled out a new Web site recently (www.skagitraisesgreatkids.org) and earlier this launched a “Four Years, Four Clubs” initiative to have all the county clubs open five days a week all year by 2015.
Conover, who started in the county position in November, said he has been overwhelmed by the support for the kids and the club.
Especially in Anacortes.
“The community rallies and works together,” he said.
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