Mary Ellis

The News-Record

The Ottawa County Boys & Girls Club will celebrate National Boys & Girls Club Week with an open house from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday.

The Miami unit of the club is located at 114 1st St. SE.

The Ottawa County Boys & Girls Club was established in 1997 by some of the same people who started what was the teen center at Allusions.

In addition to the Miami unit, the Ottawa County Boys & Girls Club has a unit at Alexander Elementary School in Commerce and another at the Fairland Elementary School.

“I think we’re doing great,” said Melissa Wade, executive director. “I just wish we could help more kids, but that would require more funding.”

During the school year the Miami unit has an average attendance of approximately 50 children, the Commerce unit of approximately 30 and the Fairland unit of approximately 20.

“Our goal is to give kids healthy choices and to help teach them how to make healthy decisions,” she said.

The Miami unit is the only unit open during the summer. It accepts 100 children, with first opportunity given to those already participating with the Ottawa County Boys & Girls Club.

This year’s summer open enrollment is currently scheduled for May 1.

“I advise anyone interested in registering their children be here early that day,” Wade said. “We usually fill up that day and then we have a waiting list.

“I’m happy that the City of Miami has started a summer program. We refer the children we don’t have room for to that program.”

Wade has been with the Ottawa County Boys & Girls Club for nine years including the last four when she has served as director.

“I really like helping the kids,” Wade said. “Boys & Girls Club is a youth development organization, very different from day care.

“Kids who were at the club my first summer come back now to see how things have changed. It’s great to see how they have grown up and how they’ve used the stuff we’ve taught them.”

The club has nine staff members and approximately 10 volunteers. An additional 20 volunteers participate in the club’s mentoring program.

“All staff members and volunteers have back ground checks,” Wade said. “We can always use more volunteers to mentor the children.”

Top priority at the Ottawa County Boys & Girls Club is for the children to do their homework.

“Children learn while they’re having fun and we try to help them do both,” Wade said.

Volunteers from Phi Theta Kappa sorority at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and Key Club at Miami High School help tutor the students with their homework.

Other activities held at the club include a drug and alcohol abuse prevention program, a nutrition program, bullying prevention, career development and conflict resolution.

The club has a bowling program played in 12-week sessions and sponsored by the Modoc, Peoria and Shawnee Tribes.

“One day a week the club takes participants to Playland Lanes Bowling Alley,” Wade said. “In addition to bowling, the children learn the rules of bowling and what they need to play the game. It can also help them to qualify for college scholarships sponsored by national bowling leagues.”

Wade expressed her gratitude to the community for its support of the club as well as to the county for the use of the building in Miami, to the Commerce and Fairland School Districts for the use of their buildings and to the City of Miami for its assistance and swimming passes in the summer.

"Without everyone making donations, I don’t know what we would have," Wade said.

To volunteer or for more information, call Wade or Kembi Miller at 540-1641.