‘Prevention’ Among Benefits of Boys and Girls Club

COURTESY BOYS & GIRLS CLUB The Boys and Girls Club's Torch Club shows off an award-winning project earlier this year.

The Boys and Girls Club’s Torch Club shows off an award-winning project earlier this year.

MASHPEE – Sixty-seven percent of Boys and Girls Club alumni across the country say the club is where they learned how to say “no” to drugs and alcohol.

That’s good news for Ruth Provost, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Cod, who said the club not only provides affordable year-round activities for children and teens but also serves as a kind of prevention program to help steer kids away from substance abuse.

“We are substance-free and offer a lot of prevention programming,” she said.

Provost said that the teen years and sometimes younger is when many people first get hooked on drugs and that can start with experimentation with alcohol and marijuana. But with the opiate crisis raging in the region, educators and others are interested in prevention efforts with youth.

In the first three months of 2015, there were 103 overdoses in the Cape’s three largest towns, Barnstable, Falmouth and Yarmouth. Twelve of those overdoses resulted in deaths.

Provost said she has attended two funerals this year for young people in their 20s who died of overdoses.

But the Boys and Girls Club can play a role in keeping young people away from drugs in the first place, Provost said. A young woman who earned a youth award at the club last year said that when she was 14 she was exposed to illegal substances but when she spent her first evening at the Boys and Girls Club, she realized that those choices were wrong and the club became “her drug,” as the girl put it.

Provost said that child is not alone.

“If they have an alternative, a place where they meet kids who are doing other things besides drugs and alcohol, they are less likely to be involved in things like that,” she said.

Provost said the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Cod serves 900 Cape Cod children and teens a year and about 155 kids per day, the equivalent of eight classrooms of students.

“Keeping our kids off the streets and safe is a vital role for a program like ours, and frankly any youth program on the Cape,” she said.

The club is open to any Cape Cod child from age 6 to 18.

With parents on Cape Cod often working two or three jobs, they don’t have the time or ability to keep their children busy with activities. About 41 percent of the parents of children that attend the Boys and Girls Club are single parents and 23 percent are living on $20,000 per year or less.

For many young families on the Cape, childcare costs more than housing, Provost said.

And those after-school hours, Provost said, are when kids are home alone or unsupervised is when they are most likely to get into trouble or to get bullied.

The nonprofit offers after-school programs and an affordable licensed summer camp, which is field trip based.

The program during the school year is a drop-in program that costs $75 annually.

Children in grade six and younger can come to the club from 2 to 6 p.m. and teens can come from 2 to 8 p.m. The summer camp hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.

Provost said she is very proud of the program the organization offers for teenagers. There are about 47 teens who come to the club every day and the club’s Friday teen nights can attract 100 to 300 teens.

The Boys and Girls Club of Cape Cod receives very little government funding, only about three percent or less of its $773,000 budget. They have a number of fundraisers coming up this year, including a fishing tournament on July 17; a golf tournament on August 3 and cocktail party on September 10.

There is also a costumed road race and kids fun run on Halloween.

To listen to Ruth Provost talk about the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Cod, click below.

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