A place to go: Local Boys and Girls Club to host fundraiser

ISHPEMING —“Name one ‘thing’ children ages 6-18 need more of in the Ishpeming-West End area,” the Boys and Girls Club of Marquette County Facebook page asks.

It might be easier for any resident, especially parents, to answer that question in the thick of a winter storm when there seems to be nothing to do but stare at electronic screens for hours at a time.

That’s what motivated Rose Chivens and other concerned local residents to work toward opening a Boys and Girls Club of America location in Marquette County in the hopes of serving a need in rural communities here.

The organization’s mission to “enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens,” is one that fits with the goal of local organizers, Chivens said.

Much like the club’s original founders, Alice Goodwin, Mary Goodwin and Elizabeth Hammersly, who believed that boys roaming the streets of Hartford, Connecticut, should have a positive alternative to roaming the streets, Chivens believes youth in Marquette County should be afforded similar alternatives as those children in more populated areas.

Chivens said she first became aware of the problem when her daughter owned a business in downtown Ishpeming.

“When you have a shop, you hear things about kids, and knowing there was nothing for the kids in the west end of Marquette (County) for them to be involved in in the summertime. The kids are roaming the streets, you know, and hearing about the drug problem that the kids are having and just a lot of things happening,” Chivens said. “I have a grandson that lives in California and he had told me a while back about how he had enjoyed going to the Boys and Girls Club after school, you know. And I thought, ‘That would be great, they could use something like that here.'”

The national Boys and Girls Club serves nearly 4 million children annually, the website states. Clubs are important in that mission, the site states, because “research shows that what happens during out-of-school time can have a significant impact on reversing negative trends facing youth, including dropout rates, obesity and violence.”

Clubs are generally located where “youth need them most,” the site states, “including rural and urban areas, public housing communities, public and private schools, and Native lands.”

Chivens said concerns about poverty, which tends to be prevalent in rural communities across the nation, also motivated her to start the club.

According to the 2018 U.S. Census, 16.9% of the population in Ishpeming lives in poverty as compared to the statewide average of 15% and the national average of 11.8%.

The 2019 Kids Count Data Book released by the Michigan League for Public Policy, Marquette County ranked 20th for child well-being out of the 83 counties in the state.

“We know that these rural areas deal with poverty, maybe more than any other,” Chivens said. “We just want these kids to have a safe place to go and activities to take part in.”

The Marquette County Boys and Girls Club Steering Committee will host an event at the Elks Lodge in Ishpeming on Saturday to raise money for the effort, Chivens said.

The event, titled Professional Networking for a Cause, will feature live music, dancing, appetizers and drinks from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The entry fee is $20 per person.

The fundraiser is an excellent opportunity to get more information about the local Boys and Girls Club effort and meet those involved in the campaign, Chivens said.

“We’ve got just a lot of wonderful people in the community that are part of making sure this happens,” Chivens said. “And the proceeds will raise money for the expenses we have in putting all this together.”

The steering committee has been working with Boys and Girls Club officials from Chicago to try to get the final approval for the local organization, which is expected to be coming in March, she said.

“I started investigating and finally got the interest of the Boys and Girls Club and they came out here in August and interviewed 30 individuals to find out if they would be willing to back it, with their support, what were their ideas and so on and so forth. It went very well,” Chivens said. “It looks very positive that we will be approved.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.