I suspect most people have heard of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, but I wonder if they really know what goes on there.
The club is a safe, structured place for kids after school. It's located at the corner of Poplar and South Stockton streets, and opens daily at 2 p.m.
During the first hour of each day, members are required to work on homework. Tutoring is available to aid every student in every grade. Homework is a top priority at the Boys and Girls Club. The kids know it.
The second hour of the day is an enrichment time, from athletics to group clubs.
The Torch Club, for kids 9 to 12, focuses on community service. The Torch Club will soon adopt Blakely Park. Members pick up trash, and soon will do other chores so that Blakely is clean and inviting to everyone in the community. The Torch Club is all about what the kids want to do for Lodi and their the club.
The Keystone Club, for teenagers 13 to 18, has the same premise, but it's part of a national effort. Keystone clubs around the U.S. convene every year and choose a community service project which each club is challenged to complete. The Lodi Keystone Club is new this year, and didn't have a chance to attend the national conference held in Atlanta. The club is growing and members are looking forward to hearing about the 2013 project that will be announced next month. One goal for this year is to send as many members as possible to the 2014 conference.
Between 5 and 6 p.m. is leisure time — pool, ping-pong, basketball, indoor soccer and other sports. When the weather's good, we go outside.
The club closes at 6 p.m.
My point is that time spent at the Lodi Boys and Girls Club is time spent in good ways. It's time away from gangs, drugs and all rest of the temptations that await kids after school. Lodi families with working parents should know that the Lodi Boys and Girls Club is there for them.
Last year, membership was in excess of 500, but not long ago we had as few as 20 regular attendees.
Today, attendance is regularly above 70.
As we know, kids vote with their feet. I'm proud of the job my staff has done to improve our program in recent months.
Why is attendance increasing?
We have a new staff — new to our club but not new to the Boys and Girls Club organization. They know the programs, and they know that being ready for our kids means being ready to offer something new and exciting every day. We have programs that kids are interested in. They're fun. I am sure our attendance will continue to climb.
I appreciate the faith our hard-working board of directors has placed in me.
My "core promise" to Lodi's youths is to provide a safe, positive place and have a significant impact on their lives. I pledge to continue supporting and inspiring the youths of Lodi to be responsible citizens and life-long learners.
Eddie Cotton is the executive director of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. He has been a Boys and Girls Club professional since 1978 and has worked on and off at the local club since 1991.