St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Salida has been the home to the Salida Boys and Girls club since 2004. But a recent lease agreement appears to be no longer an option, leaving the organization in a potentially homeless situation. Brian Beaulieu, executive director for the Boys and Girls Club, attended the 6 p.m. Monday, June 17 Salida City Council work session to present the need for collaboration and support from the city to find a new home and resources for the club.
“We are very grateful to St. Joseph for providing a home and for the school district, but that has been a temporary fix,” said Beaulieu during his meeting with the Salida City Council. “We have tried to buy the building at St. Joseph’s for years, but that is just not happening …we can’t grow without a physical space…we are in our third strategic plan… our facility needs rose to the top of our strategic plan.”
Beaulieu indicated that the club is under contract on the vacant building at the corner of First Street and E Street (previously occupied by Spirit Mountain). But it has not yet assembled the funds to buy and renovate the building at this time.
The Boys and Girls Club has been in Chaffee County for 14 years. It is just one of 17 communities in Colorado with the organization filling an important community role. In Salida, where the school district runs on four-day weeks, it fills a critical role on Fridays during the school year.
In fact, Salida Councilman Dan Shore called the Boys and Girls Club of Salida the “most vital youth organization in the county.”
That impression is founded in fact. The Boys & Girls Club is the home to club members with limited resources to pay for child care or educational children’s programming.
In fact, more than half of the kids in the program pay little or nothing to participate in the program. The kids range from home-schooled environments, elementary schools, middle schools and high schools across the county. For 11 weeks during the summer, the Boys and Girls Club in Salida is also home to kids from Howard, Cotopaxi and Leadville.
“We need to get moving and find a home,” said Beaulieu. “The person who charged us to move faster was David Blackburn…he’s echoed to me for years that in order for the school to be successful, the Boys and Girls Club needs to be successful…and it’s reciprocated.”
In 2018, The Boys and Girls Club served 826 kids for a total of 235 days out of the year. This includes Fridays, as Salida School District kids count on it as a place to go while their parents work.
Local Salida Boys & Girls Club member Athena Kintgen, who was named 2019 Southwest Regional Youth of the Year is a product of the club programs. She attended the meeting with the Salida City Council, drawing attention to the fact that working families depend on the club for support.
“My call to arms is to determine how we can work together, in particular with working families… so [Athena’s family] and hundreds of other families can afford to live in Salida,” said Beaulieu. “We need working families in this community.”
A permanent space for the Salida branch of the Boys and Girls Club will help them better serve more families in the future and they are looking to the support of the city, said Beaulieu. “We hope you will continue to help us with our operating budget from year to year… keeping an eye on space, land and facilities…we are looking for someone who wants to leave a legacy gift.”
“I do applaud you and Athena, thank you for supporting the Boys and Girls Club and showing the country what happens…Our country is our youth and it takes a community to raise a child. If there is anything I can do as a council member or past city law official, we are behind your efforts 100 percent,” said Salida City Council Member Mike Bowers.