Boys & Girls Club partners with Community Covenant Church

By Mary M. Rall
Community Covenant Church

Worship Arts Pastor Tyler Shaw will be teaching ukulele lessons at the Boys & Girls Club of Eagle River this summer. Tyler is one of several volunteers from CCC who’ll be volunteering in support of the club and its youth.

Worship Arts Pastor Tyler Shaw will be teaching ukulele lessons at the Boys & Girls Club of Eagle River this summer. Tyler is one of several volunteers from CCC who’ll be volunteering in support of the club and its youth.

School’s out, and the Boys & Girls Club of Eagle River is turning to members of the local community to help offset the club’s volunteer needs and to keep youth engaged throughout the summer.

The club is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and provides a wide variety of programming for those ages 7 to 18, said Tracey Hupe, the Eagle River Boys & Girls Club manager. Featured programs include art, photography, reading and science, as well as active and educational field trips to locations throughout the Anchorage Bowl.

Packing the summer with so many events and activities isn’t effortless, though, and Tracey said the club relies on area volunteers to come alongside the staff to ensure they can offer the best-possible experience for the 80-90 young people who frequent the club daily.

“Without volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to run a quality program that the youth will learn from and enjoy,” Tracey said. “Many times, paid staff is pulled away for so many reasons—phone calls, to answer questions and to settle disputes with the youth.”

Tracey said the club is open to entering into relationships with local partners, such as Community Covenant Church, to create an environment in which the youth and the volunteer pool will continue to develop.

“This is the time to create a solid foundation for our youth and to build an understanding that without compassion, understanding, the ability to forgive and love…we can’t have a positive influence on others and society,” she said. “This is the perfect time to lead by example. The Boys & Girls Club isn’t perfect, but we are trying to make a difference that benefits everyone. We need our community partners to help.”

Tyler Shaw, Community Covenant’s worship arts pastor, will be teaching ukulele classes at the club and is one of several members of the church’s congregation who’ve made the decision to invest in area youth through volunteerism.

“It could be an ongoing thing. I’m just taking it one step at a time, and I have a couple of people who have expressed interest in helping me,” Tyler said, explaining that some of CCC’s teens have offered to assist him with the classes. “It’s a cool way to bring some of our youth in to help participate too.”

Community Covenant has helped with a variety of projects at the club in the past, to include serving a Thanksgiving meal to its youth and parents, but Tyler said routine support of ongoing programming may have a more meaningful influence on the community.

“Part of the impact we want to have really requires a long-term relationship. Otherwise, when you start something and you just do it for one season, really all you’ve been able to do is initiate relationship,” he said. “As we continue to do a program, we’ll have those long-term relationships with some of the kids that we’ll continue to see, even if they’re not continuing to do what we’re [offering].”

Routine support of the club will also prevent volunteers from having to continually work to reestablish connections with the club’s youth and employees, Tyler said.

“It’s the long-term relationships that we’re developing with the staff and the people who are there too,” he said. “There’s a trust that builds up, and the opportunity to work together for a bigger impact increases over time because of that trust and relationship that we have.”

Tyler added he has a unique perspective of the Boys & Girls Club of Eagle River, as he personally benefited from just such a club when he was young.

“Growing up in Salem, Oregon, I realized there was a Boys & Girls Club close by. For me, it just became a great place,” Tyler said, adding he discovered his local club when he was in the sixth or seventh grade. “I love sports and activities, so I was over there constantly and building relationships with other kids and involved in all kinds of games and sports and stuff.”

He said the relationships he developed with the club’s staff were valuable ones that he still appreciates today.

“I had good friendships with those people, and I think they rubbed off on me in good ways,” Tyler said. “Those were very positive influences on me, and then because of my involvement there, I got to the point where I was elected the Youth of the Year.”

According to www.bgca.org, the Youth of the Year recognition began in 1947 and has been Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier acknowledgment program, celebrating the extraordinary achievements of club teens. Club members who earn the Youth of the Year title embody the values of leadership, service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles. They exemplify the critical impact the Boys & Girls Clubs have on the lives of young people.

Although Tyler said he had the support of his friends, family, church and his local Boys & Girls Club as a young person, he recognizes that not all youth have the opportunity to benefit from so many positive relationships.

“They’re open to any kids, but some of the kids they draw and some of the kids they continue to want to help are the kids who are on the margins for one reason or another,” Tyler said of the Boys & Girls Club of Eagle River. “They might be kids who would be left to themselves because both parents work or are part of a single-parent family or a blended family.”

The open nature of the club and its staff helps create an environment that allows volunteers to genuinely invest in area youth, he said.

“They’re kids who need something—good kids from my experience. But for that very reason, that’s the place we want to be partnering with as a church,” Tyler said. “There’s opportunity there to make a difference and make an impact.”

Tyler said he’s volunteered at the club in the past, and has witnessed the genuine commitment of its staff to youth, as well as volunteers.

“I get the impression that they have great relationships with the kids,” he said. “They’re there because they want to be there. They like to be there, and they’ve been really open to us coming in there. It’s been a good atmosphere.”

Above all else, Tyler said parents can have some peace of mind knowing the Boys & Girls Club is open throughout the summer and is offering good programs by people who care about their children.

“They’re not just in the business of entertaining kids—that’s not what they’re about. They’re really about trying to build and instill values and help them with a hand up so they’re successful in life,” Tyler said, explaining Community Covenant hopes to impact the local community in the same way. “We want to help people be successful in life and be good citizens, and so there’s no reason we can’t form a deep partnership in that regard.”

The prospect of involving more volunteers with a heart for serving youth is something Tracey said she looks forward to and can only benefit the club as a whole.

“I love it,” Tracey said. “The more volunteers, the better our programs will be, and there will be even more exciting and fresh ideas.”

For more information on the Boys & Girls Club of Eagle River, contact Tracey at 694-5437 or thupe@bgcalaska.org.

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