When a building is more than just a place for refuge from the weather and the people are more than just a replacement for boredom, you know you’ve found a special place. In Tipton County, that place is the Boys & Girls Club of Tipton County (BGCT).
What started more than 30 years ago as an after-school and out-of-school program for the youth of Tipton has grown to be a place of inspiration, education and respite for children from kindergarten through high school across the county.
“We’re not a day care, but we provide programming that supports three outlying areas that include academic success, a healthy lifestyle, and a growth in character and citizenship,” says Amanda Mendenhall, executive director for the BGCT. This is Mendenhall’s 13th year with the organization and her fourth as executive director. Since the start of her time with the group, she has seen a growth in not only the community of Tipton, but also the whole county, thus increasing the need for the club to grow.
“Since I started I have wanted us to try to be out and about more in the community, so we can grow our presence within the community and be more of a partner,” she says.
This ideal worked well for the club until the pandemic hit. The club partnered with both county school corporations to pack and provide free lunches to all the students in the county throughout the week. “It was a great partnership and a way to serve the kids in the county, even if they weren’t registered members,” Mendenhall says.
Once the club was able to reopen, the leaders continued working with the schools to assist during virtual learning days and provide educational support for students.
Mendenhall, along with her staff and board, has now put together a strategic plan through 2025 to begin to expand the club’s footprint within the county. Inspired by training provided by the Tipton County Foundation, Mendenhall believes staff members need to serve the kids in surrounding communities outside of Tipton, where transportation or cost might prohibit them from taking advantage of the services provided in Tipton.
Spring break saw the dawn of more community-based programming for the club, with staff going to Kempton, Sharpsville and Windfall for free outreach programs that involved science, fun, and a free lunch provided to anyone in those communities, club members or not. The new program and others provided by the club are funded by organizations such as the Tipton County Foundation and family foundations across the county.
“I have presented our community-based outreach program to our supporters by saying, ‘If you’ll increase funding, I’ll increase what we’re doing and where we’re going,’” Mendenhall says.
Youth of All Ages
Also new this year is an expansion of services offered to county youth beyond fourth grade. Recently the club completed expanding and remodeling a portion of the facility on Jefferson, for 3,200 square feet dedicated to teenagers. The teen center houses a music room with instruments such as guitars and pianos (provided by groups like Legends Music Academy), an art room, a recreation room with video games such as https://slot27.id/ and a bumper pool table, a snack area, and a quiet study area.
A dedicated teen coordinator is also new to the facility, and he’s been spending time with local schools looking for new ways to meet the needs of youth and teens. A new program titled Adulting 101 is for high school students who might not be members of the BGCT, but want to learn about tasks like opening a bank account, putting together a resume and filling out a job application.
“There’s always something new on the horizon for the club,” Mendenhall says. “We’re a great facility but we understand that not everyone is going to come to us, so we have to figure out how to go out to them and build the community.”
To learn more about the Boys & Girls Club of Tipton County, visit the main facility at 341 West Jefferson Street, Suite B in Tipton, or visit bgctipton.org.
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