The Boys & Girls Club (BGC) occupies the largest space of any of the near dozen partner agencies at the Southeast Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC), and it aims to get bigger.
One of four clubs in the city, the Friedman, Billings, Ramsey (FBR) branch has been housed at THEARC since its opening in 2015 and offers a wide range of activities in an effort to engage students in the vulnerable community.
BGC of Greater Washington is a major metro affiliate of that national Boys & Girls Clubs of America organization with 14 sites that serve over 11,000 students each year. Over 4,000 autonomous clubs exist in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Erin Martin, the FBR club’s interim program director, said relationships the club has with the surrounding community are just as important to its survival as the relationships it builds with its members.
Martin, who has held her position since January, is responsible for the overall operation of the club and already has plans to grow the club’s community relations.
“I’m responsible for the overall development and administration of the FBR branch,” Martin said.
Her job includes handling finances and leading a staff of 10. Though the club receives most of its funding from grants, Martin is always looking for way to market it.
“[Physically] above us is the Washington School for Girls, ArtReach and Trinity at THEARC, so that should give you some perspective for our size,” Martin said. “Because we have such a large space, we do have people who come to use it for events. These opportunities are incredibly important to my vision as they increase our visibility in the community.”
The facility is equipped with a regulation gym, game room, computer lab and teen center and study lounge. It serves about 140 students a day, most them coming from elementary and middle school.
Martin says she seeks to capitalize on events with other organizations to increase rental revenue and membership.
“Some opportunities seem small, but can be really big,” Martin said, recounting a time when a volunteer service provider became a sponsor.
The club has received renovations from Best Buy, and gets frequent visits from Ward Council member Trayon Martin. Martin says rentals and partnerships are great additions to program offering which are most important to the success of the club and its members.
“We’re making sure we’re creating impactful programming,” Martin said.
The five core areas of focus at the FBR branch are education and career development; character and leadership development; health and life skills; sports, fitness and recreation; and the arts. The club offers over a dozen program activities including homework assistance, teen character building groups, ceramics, culinary arts, soccer and basketball.
“I think what makes our club different [from others in the area] is our teen center and the work that Levar Jones does with them, as well as the untraditional programs we offer to kids like yoga and lacrosse, and Saturday programming,” Martin said. “I’m going to keep doing my part to increase our visibility in the community.”