For nearly 12 years Tracey Hupe has managed the Eagle River Boys & Girls Club with a lot of help from many community members and institutions.
“When I first came here we had old windows; we got new windows with a State grant,” and many other improvements have followed, explained Hupe. “We’re only as good as the community that supports us and this community is great!”
The radiant blue of the building on the Old Glenn Highway business strip was painted by Sherwin Williams on “Paint-the-Town” day, and the Boys & Girls Club Advisory Board held a fundraiser to paint the interior and install new ceiling tiles. Credit Union 1 provided a new mural.
“Back in October we did a fundraiser for Mac Minis for the Computer Lab,” added Hupe. “They attach to the wall and leave the counter clear for other uses.”
The building is owned by Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) and has been used by the Boys & Girls Club since November of 1989. “They are wonderful; we couldn’t do this without them. They contribute to our program, too,” adds Hupe.
A few years ago Lowes put in a new kitchen as a Hero Project. In the coming months they will be contributing flooring at-cost as part of a NEW Hero Project. The Eagle River Elks Lodge has contributed $1,000, with a grant from their national organization toward the flooring project, and Elks members will be helping Lowes employees with the installation. The current flooring has been in place since Boys & Girls Club moved into the building; the new flooring will be installed in the main area, the game room, the bathrooms and the art room.
Today Hupe had taken a group to the movies; they saw Cars III. She took 30 of them and they were summertime happy as they boiled out of the bus. “The Regal Tikahtnu movie theater is very accommodating, assigning us rows of seats and making sure all the kids can get their snacks,” said Hupe.
So how many youngsters do they accommodate at this club?
“This summer has been an all-time high, averaging 117 kids per day,” said Hupe. “Last week 70 of those were here by 9:30 in the morning.”
Have you heard the rhyme about the lady who lived in a shoe?
Activities at the Eagle River Boys & Girls Club also supplement educational programs of the public schools. “We have a Reading Club, and High-Yield Learning programs. For instance we have word search competition for prizes in which the kids ultimately help each other learn to read. The volunteer who helps with Reading Club is a retired school teacher.”
Programs for youth include a “Date Smart” healthy communication class, “Money Matters” financial management, which includes job opportunities to gain income to be managed. Some employers, including Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling (ALPAR), Chevron, MEA and Jitters provide entry level opportunities for Boys & Girls Club youth. Previously youth able to visit the Eagle River Job Center to learn about resume writing and job search techniques. Since the recent closing of that State agency in Eagle River, participants go to Anchorage for this activity.
The program age range is 7-18 years. “Usually by the time the kids are 13-14 years old they are asking to volunteer,” adds Hupe. In return for such documented efforts they can receive elective credits in the Anchorage School District. The club also offers before-and after-school transportation to and from some schools during the school year.
A membership in Boys & Girls Club is good in any club in the United States. Operation hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a special Early Bird Program for a special rate per child, including breakfast and specialized programing.
“I love working with the kids; that’s why I have been here so long. My own kids are all grown and we’re expecting my first grandchild this summer,” adds Hupe “You couldn’t do this job if you couldn’t identify with what the children are going through—and with the parents.”
Donn Liston has lived in Alaska since 1962 and in Eagle River since 2010. He was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News during pipeline construction and is now a teacher after becoming certified in Juneau after living there 20 years. He has taught Adult Basic Education for the last 10 years.