Perham's Hub project, Part II: An insider's look at the new Boys and Girls Club
After much anticipation, Club Director Cori Brown said the staff and kids are settling in, and everybody's loving it.
Editor's Note: This is the second part of a special two-part feature in light of the Hub opening in Perham. This week's Part 2 takes a look at how the Boys and Girls Club of the Perham Area will utilize its portion of the new building; Part 1, published in last week's Focus , detailed Empowering Kids' use of its portion of the Hub.
After about five years of planning and preparation, the Boys and Girls Club of the Perham Area moved into its new space inside the Hub on Jan. 10.
The Hub is a newly opened facility that houses the Boys and Girls Club as well as Empowering Kids. It's on 5th Street S.E., where the old Perham High School was located before the new school opened in 2018.
After much anticipation, said Boys and Girls Club Director Cori Brown, the club's staff and kids are finally settling in, and everybody's loving it.
The club provides social and academic programming for kids in kindergarten through early middle school. It started 10 years ago as a small program inside Perham's Calvary Lutheran Church, and quickly grew.
"We started out as a summer program, and there was such a response that it became an after-school program," Brown said. "Two years in… (parents) asked if Boys and Girls Club could do a before-school option."
The club added those before-school services, a unique feature among Boys and Girls Clubs.
"We're the only (Boys and Girls Club) in the state of Minnesota that does before-school care," said Brown. "We do it because there was a need in the community… There are families who work in factories or out of town. Kids stayed home in the morning and couldn't get to school."
Due to continued growth and the need for more space to accommodate more kids, the club moved out of the church and into the former Perham Health facility (after the new hospital was built). While Brown said she was grateful for these spaces, the club kept expanding, and its home needed to grow with it.
Prior to moving into the Hub, the Boys and Girls Club had a long waiting list of about 40 kids; today, after the move, that list is no more. At the time of this writing in late January, there were about 160 kids registered in the club.
The Hub location didn't only provide a larger space for the club, though — it also created a safer, healthier environment. There are lockers and sinks in every room now, and bathrooms either right in the rooms or close by within eyesight, so staff can better supervise the kids. There are also security cameras throughout the building, including in all the hallways, the gym and cafe.
The gym is a brand-new feature for the club, one that Brown said allows the kids to remain active when the weather's bad and they can't go outside. On fairer weather days, they'll have a new outdoor green space to play on. In the cafe, they can make snacks under the supervision of adults. All these spaces help enhance the club's social and emotional educational offerings.
"Kids need to play," Brown said. "(At school) they've been doing everything they need to do throughout the day. When they come here, it's socializing. They're here to play, work through problems, do art activities. There's a lot of choice. During the summer, we do brain activities so they don't lose skills. We have a good balance."
Along with spaces that help kids socialize, there are also spaces for when they need a moment to themselves. Each area within the club has a "need a minute" room, where kids can go and sit on a couch alone for a moment before returning to their pod. These spaces are separate, but still supervised.
Brown said she already saw one child use a "need a minute" space to collect himself. She knows the spaces are benefiting the kids, and she can see that the kids love them.
Brown said one of the club's big goals for its use of the Hub facility was to create spaces that would appeal to all ages, in hopes of drawing in more kids from grades five and up. Rooms at the club are now designed with different age groups in mind, and are split up by grade: kindergarten and first grade in one room, first and second in another, third and fourth in another, and fifth and older have a specialized teen center. The teen center has its own entrance, kitchen, TV and hangout space.
Brown said she and the rest of the club staff are "incredibly grateful" for their new space in the Hub. A photo mural of smiling kids and club members greets everyone who walks in the door.
"There is no place like Perham," Brown said. "People will come in and tour and say, 'Well how did you get this in your community?' Well, you need a place like Perham that supports kids and families. The community, it's not like any other community. They see a need and, instead of saying, 'I don't know,' they say, 'How are you going to do this?' And it happens."
Brown has seen grandmothers donate their Christmas money, kids donate their money from lemonade stands, and local businesses donate to help with the expansion. When Giving Hearts Day rolls around on Thursday, Feb. 10, community members will have the opportunity to tour the Hub and make their own donations toward the project, if they wish. Tours will be available that day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 6-7:30 p.m.
Community donations and grants covered $2 million of the total $8.25 million cost of the Hub project, and another $6 million came from a State of Minnesota grant. About $700,000 is left to raise before the goal is reached. Donations can be made online at sites.google.com/view/giving-hearts-day-perham/home.
"We are very, very blessed," Brown said.
For more information about the Boys and Girls Club of the Perham Area, visit bgcdl.org or call 218-346-2526.