TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – For members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Topeka, the learning doesn’t stop when school ends. Instead, many club members board a bus to their local club to get help with homework, eat dinner and play games with friends.
The Adams Club Director, Jerry Michael, said the club offers peace of mind to kids and parents.
“It’s just a great place for them to come and have fun and know that they’re going to be safe and well taken care of,” Michael said.
And while Michael said the kids would probably like to run wild, they also have a need for care and instruction.
“They crave structure, they crave knowing that someone’s going to watch them and protect them,” Michael said. “As well as just give them opportunities to grow and learn and change and become who they’re supposed to be.”
Krystal Wiltz, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Topeka Director of Development and Marketing, agrees the organization encourages positive development.
“Our mission statement is really to enable young people to be their best self, to be productive and caring citizens of this community,” Wiltz said.
Part of enabling the kids to grow and learn is making sure they don’t go home on an empty stomach. Wiltz said staff noticed children becoming desperate for food.
“We saw that some kids were coming in and kind of bartering and trading for snacks in backpacks,” Wiltz said. “Even some were digging through the trash for meals.”
The club started a food program in 2015 to feed hungry kids. Now most of the Topeka clubs offer snacks and dinner during their program. Adams Club Food Coordinator, Ivan Diaz, said they make nutritionally balanced meals and snacks.
“We have to make sure that there’s fruit, a vegetable, some kind of grain and protein which is a meat or meat substitute,” Diaz said.
Michael said the club strives to meet the needs of kids whose families are struggling.
“The Boys and Girls Club is about meeting the needs of kids who need us most,” he said.
Two years ago there were only three clubs in Topeka and about 600 kids. The organization has since grown to ten Topeka clubs and about 2,300 kids.
The membership prices are based off student’s lunch program qualification. Parents of students who qualify for free school lunches only have to pay three dollars for club membership each week.