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Boys & Girls Club gets $1M donation

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LAKE COUNTY – Several things are happening for the the Boys and Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County including funding for a new building, a new playground, and swimming lessons. 

The club recently received a grant for $1 million to use for the construction of a new clubhouse in Polson from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. “This was a great gift,” said Aric Cooksley, executive director for the club.

Cooksley said the building project will cost a total of $6 million. He said the building will be “built from scratch” on 1.8-acres on the corner of 2nd Street W. and 17th Avenue, adjacent to Polson Middle School and Polson High School. St. Joseph Medical Center donated a 99-year lease for the property to the club. The new club is projected to be 19-thousand square feet in size and will include a gymnasium. 

Cooksley projects that construction could start in 2019, which is dependent on fundraising efforts. “We still have a lot of work left to do,” he said. 

Judy Preston, Capital Campaign Committee Chairperson said the donation will have a significant impact on the youth of the Flathead Reservation for generations. “This gift demonstrates the visionary leadership of the Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation and especially Kevin Washington, empowering community organizations to create positive change at the local level,” she said.  

Mike Halligan, Executive Director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation said, “The Foundation’s Board of Directors was impressed with the way the communities of Polson and Ronan and the Salish and Kootenai Tribe joined together to construct facilities that would benefit youth for generations to come and would also provide them with programs that would tap their creativity and inspire them to be the best they can be academically and as future leaders of our state and nation.” 

Board Vice Chair Mick Holien said the new building will allow children to participate in positive activities and get nutritious snacks.  “Without food in those tummies, learning is a challenge,” Holien said. “It’s hard to learn to read when food is on your mind. For a nominal fee, $120 per year, these clubs provide a safe, friendly, and educational environment. The Boys and Girls Club accepts the challenge of being the difference in a child’s life.” 

The club is also received a subdivision lot, valued around $35,000, to sell. The funds will help make the new Polson club a reality. The lot is located on Eagle Drive in the Mission Bay Subdivision. Mission Bay Real Estate is listing the property.   

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and the national non-profit KaBOOM! Awarded the Ronan club a Let’s Play Community Construction Grant to enhance the outside play space at the new clubhouse, which will open in the fall of 2018. The community build date is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 12. The grant is providing the base funding for the structure and community partnerships are providing additional funding.  

“The addition of the play structure is a critical part of promoting healthy lifestyles, one of the key outcomes for the Boys and Girls Club,” Cooksley said. “In our mind, play is a required piece of childhood, not just a luxury. Especially as we move into this new facility, this play structure will be used by many kids for many years to come.”

The new Ronan club is currently under construction and could be open in late fall. Cooksley is working on raising the remaining $65,000 for the project. The entire project costs a total of $2.5 million. 

“I am amazed at how generous and really kid focused so many people in our community are,” Cooksley said. “We couldn’t do this without community support.”

The Ronan Swimming Foundation donated $16,000 to the club for the purpose of providing lessons. The children at the club will continue to participate in swim lessons in the next few years at the Polson Aquatic Center. “Thanks to the donation, we will be able to continue this program,” Cooksley said. 

For more information about the club, contact Cooksley at 406-493-2312 or 


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