Submitted by Peggy Decker, Unit Director of the Oakhurst Boys & Girls Club
OAKHURST – The Oakhurst Boys & Girls Club (BGC) has our new Safe Place sign. Safe Place is a national outreach program that began more than 25 years ago to educate young people about the dangers of running away or trying to resolve difficult, threatening situations on their own.
Since 1998, the Economic Opportunities Commission of Fresno (EOC) Sanctuary and Youth Services has administered the local Safe Place program, maintaining a network of more than 260 community Safe Place sites.
Marked by the yellow and black diamond shaped sign, these specially designated sites provide youth in crisis immediate interventions, supportive services, and professional referrals to EOC’s Sanctuary and Youth Services, including counseling, residential assistance, and case management.
The mission of Safe Place is to provide access to immediate help and supportive resources for all young people in crisis through a network of sites sustained by qualified agencies, trained volunteers and businesses.
Though the Oakhurst BGC has actually been a Safe Place for several years, we were happy to just get our brand new sign placed for all to see, especially those youth who may be in need.
In November, we celebrated Thanksgiving for BGC members and their families with a potluck dinner at the Club. It was a fantastic event enjoyed by all. We were lucky enough to have a budget to have turkey with all the trimmings, as well as parents bringing potluck items. Many of the members here had never had a full Thanksgiving feast before, so it was wonderful to see their happy faces and full tummies.
It made me especially grateful to have cooked for and orchestrated this event for such great kids. I could not have done it without the help of my director, board, staff, fiancée and family, and am exceptionally thankful to them all. It was a huge success and we hope to do it again next year.
Through parts of November and December, the Yosemite Dance Company and BGC partnered up for four free dance classes at the Club. Classes began with ballet for our younger members and then switched to Hip Hop for older kids.
Dance classes finished up with their own small dance recital and Christmas show at the Club on December 20. The kids got to showcase the skills they have learned; this is one of the best things that could happen for the kids at BGC.
So many of the kids love to dance and perform, and are constantly making up their own little routines at the Club. To have professional help and tutoring for them, and conclude with their very own show is awesome. Their teacher, J.J., is very talented, enthusiastic and caring. She works exceptionally well with the Club members here.
We are very thankful for Yosemite Dance Company and what they have been doing for us. It’s quite a treat for the kids and we hope they will continue their dance lessons with the Company now that they have been exposed to the art of dance.
Mid-December, with the snow from the storm mostly melted and our facility back open after plumbing issues resulted from freezing weather, everyone at the BGC was excited and full of anticipation for a visit by the “Zoo Mobile” from the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
The Zoo sent up their big, brightly colored van full of bones, skulls and skins that led to a “lively” encounter in our Club with their renowned staff biologist, Burleigh “The Bat Lady” Lockwood. Burleigh is famous for her presentations on any natural history topic. The one here at the Boys and Girls Club was mainly focused on reptiles.
Burleigh held 35 members’ rapt attention as she enthusiastically showed them a vast assortment of natural history and reptile exhibits she brought with her up the hill. The kids were especially thrilled at the end of the hour long presentation, when they were able to meet and touch a legless lizard from Russia called a Sheltopusik, more than two feet long.
This was such an incredible experience for our members, and we are especially thankful to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo for coming so far up here to present to our kids. It was a great exhibit full of many facts and hands-on learning opportunities, and the kids all took something special away from it. An amazing day and new knowledge was had by all the BGC members who attended, and they look forward greatly to the next time the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and the “Zoo Mobile” pay us a visit.
Please note that the BGC is closed for two weeks from Dec. 21 through Jan 5, 2014. We will open again on January 6, 2014.
From Terri Ziegler, Brendan Drew and me, Peggy Decker, have a wonderful break and see you next year!