Boys and Girls Club improves community
FLATHEAD RESERVATION — The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Flathead Reservation held its first Great Futures luncheon since 2019, last week, updating the community on the club, its work, and its impacts.
The clubs have come a long way in the community in the last few years, Executive Director Aric Cooksley explained.
“The last time we had one of these, we went from a barely opened Ronan Boys and Girls Club with no gymnasium, still trying to put the pieces together, to today we have three clubs in three different area that are in relatively brand-new buildings,” Cooksley stated. “Five years ago, we were serving 110, maybe 120 kids per day total, organization-wide, and now on any given day it could be somewhere between 180-230 during the school year and 260-280 during the summer.”
The impact the clubs have had not only for the kids participating but also for both families and the local economy has grown in significance as well. Local business owner, parent, and volunteer, Carol Lynn Lapotka, spoke during the luncheon and explained that the club gives parents the opportunity to take a breath. Whether parents have a long day at work, have errands to run, or whatever else might come up, parents can take a bit of time to be ready to be good and involved parents before picking the kids up, knowing the children are not just safe but being engaged with and getting opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have had.
Additionally, the club allows parents who may otherwise not be able to maintain a full-time job, do so by working at the clubs. The clubs also give vocational and workforce readiness opportunities to older students that better prepares them for a job and bolsters the local workforce.
The “Youth of the Year” spoke as well, a young man who competed in Helena along with other Boys and Girls Club kids throughout Montana. Cooksley described the young man, a high school freshman, as a good example of how the club is working. When this young student started coming to the club a few years ago, he was extremely reserved. Now he’s part of the junior staff program and able to give speeches in front of rooms full of attendees. He has been encouraged and mentored and given opportunities to move out of his shell.
There were also exhibits of club activities shown at the luncheon including gardening classes, STEM classes, cultural enrichment experiences, woodworking and pottery, and even a VR driving curriculum that helps prepare kids to be good drivers. All these things have come about, Cooksley explained, thanks to the support and partnerships offered to the Boys and Girls Club.
“There’s just all kinds of those kinds of things that allow us to be able to do a better job of serving kids where they need it most,” Cooksley said. “There is (an) ongoing need for community support, because without that we will not be able to continue what we’ve been doing.”
Though a significant staple of the community, the Boys and Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation is not in any government budget, meaning they have no guaranteed public funding. All of the clubs’ funding comes from fundraising efforts, competitive grants and participation fees. The biggest chunk of their annual funding, approximately 73%, typically comes from individual donors and private foundations. It takes a lot of money to run an organization like this year-round, with annual operating costs around $1.5 million. However, according to a study conducted by Boys and Girls Club of America, that investment more than returns itself to the community. The study shows that in Montana specifically, when looking at the reduced crime rate, additional public resources created by additional people in the workforce, and improvements in school performances, every $1 invested into the Boys and Girls Club returns over $9 to the community.
“In Boys and Girls Clubs we need good programming, but how you end up with good programming is you have the right people standing in front of the kids being able to do good programming,” Cooksley explained. “We have this because we’ve been given a gift by the community, and we have this tremendous resource. But the other side is it’s more than just we have this resource, we now need the community in very tangible ways as volunteers, as people who can step into a child’s life and be a mentor … we need all those kinds of people to be able to keep growing that impact.”
Those interested in volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club can learn more by calling 406- 676-5437 or going online to: www.flatheadbgc.org/volunteer
Donations to the local clubs can be submitted either via check sent to, PO Box 334, Ronan, MT 59864, or by visiting: www.flatheadbgc.org/invest