February 4, 2013
For the past 20 years, the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal has been serving children throughout the community. The dedicated staff works with children after school and hosts programs throughout the summer to ensure that club members are able to grow in five core areas: arts; education, career, and development; character and leadership; sports, fitness, and recreation; and health and life skills.
“Our goal is to find kids who need us most,” said Nick Sanchez, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal. “It doesn’t matter what the child’s socioeconomic background is, who their parents are, or where they live. To us what is important is that when the doors close at the end of the day, the children and teens are left with enough knowledge to make tough decisions on their own.”
Sanchez and his staff of six see more than 60 individuals each day ranging from 5-year-olds to high schools students. Overall club membership is approximately 450. Despite the large number of visitors they receive, the staff is able to focus on what has become the distinguishing characteristic of the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal—building relationships.
“It’s not uncommon for us to be the first ones to get big calls from kids on issues such as pregnancy, suicide, prom, and selecting colleges,” Sanchez said. “We are not experts on everything, but the kids trust us enough to know that we will put them in front of someone who can give them the information they need.”
After Sanchez started at the club, he reached out to parents to better understand the needs of the community and found that Internet access wasn’t readily available. In response, he began offering free Wi-Fi at the club for parents of members—and the result was impressive.
“The perception of the facility is changing,” Sanchez said. “Parents are now coming in with laptops, iPads, and phones. They are attending practices more, and we are able to have greater communication with them.”
The club’s ability to offer free Wi-fi to visitors is a major draw as it offers parents of members an opportunity to check email, focus on work, or simply enjoy themselves. Many of the kids also come because they have no other way to access the Internet. Sanchez anticipates that he will be able to facilitate even more access once the building is connected to CIRBN.
“It is turning out to be a good thing that we will be getting even better Internet service here,” Sanchez said. “Top-of-the-line Internet service can help market the club, parents are able to be productive, and we can have more communication. It’s a win-win.”
Learn more about the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal. (http://www.bgcb-n.org/)