Above: Oregon Sen. Arnie Roblan tours the Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County’s new Nan Osbon Teen Center with Johnny Garcia, of A-Action Mobile Home Moving in Veneta, which orchestrated the move.
April 11, 2018 — The Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County (BGC) celebrated National Boys and Girls Club Week on Monday night with an open house to show off new improvements to the facilities, including the completion of the project to move the Nan Osbon Teen Center (formerly the Quality Child Care of Florence building) from the junior high school grounds to the main BGC campus, 1501 Airport Road.
“This is a momentous occasion for our club,” BGC Board President Larry Martindale said to a packed room at the main BGC facility. “We are doubling our capacity for kids with this new building addition. It’s been a long process in coming — we’ve worked on this for 18 months — so we’re excited about it.”
Beyond the Teen Center, a full basketball court has been added to the grounds, as well as a bark-covered outdoor area housing picnic benches and garden beds. The grounds surrounding the buildings have also been newly landscaped, with a wide variety of flowers and shrubs lining bark pathways.
Inside the main building, a new kitchen has been completed, replete with a full pantry and a robust selection of cooking appliances.
“I remember when the Teen Center had no windows and was completely dark,” BGC teen member Sunshine Armer said. “It was all flat, no basketball court. It’s come a long way since then. Now we have TVs and volleyball courts and basketball courts. It’s just a safe place for kids to go. All the staff are helpful and when you have a problem you can go talk to them.”
Guest speakers at the event included Oregon Sen. Arnie Roblan and Florence Mayor Joe Henry, who declared April 9 to 13 as Boys and Girls Club week in Florence.
“People in our community, our teachers and our schools, can only do so much,” Henry said. “And the Boys and Girls Club does as much for kids in our community as anybody does. They can pick up the slack where schools leave off. I’m extremely proud of the Boys and Girls Club for everything you do.”
In Henry’s proclamation, he mentioned that BGC serves more than 500 young people annually and “instills young people with the confidence that they can succeed in anything they put their mind to.”
When Roblan addressed the people in attendance, he said, “It takes a whole community to make a Boys and Girls Club. It can’t be just one person. It has to be a lot of people working diligently to make it work.”
Roblan stated that building such community centers, like BGC, can be easier in larger cities because they can be bankrolled by large corporations or celebrities.
“But they don’t exist like this in rural Oregon,” he said. “So you have to figure out how to make the community see this as a thing that has to happen to make a change in the life of kids. That’s why I love being in rural Oregon.”
Roblan, who previously worked a decade in education, spoke to why programs like BGC are important in encouraging youth to succeed.
“I’m a dyslexic, ADHD human being,” Roblan said. “Elementary school was not fun for me. I couldn’t learn to read, and I can’t spell to this day. When I finally figured out how important education was, I became an avid reader and believed education was the most important thing. Those experiences led me to become a teacher, in large part, because I didn’t want other kids to go through what I went through.”
Roblan became a math teacher, a subject that he gravitated toward because it was a universal language that could bridge divides.
“Kids succeed not because they love math, but because they have a relationship with someone teaching them,” Roblan said. “It doesn’t matter if the relationship is in the school district, or other places. The responsibility of a community is to find that caring adult wherever they are and connect them to that child. Once you do that, magic happens, and every child can be successful and get out of all the other problems that kids face. There are opportunities for them to do the wrong thing every time. Caring adults make a difference.”
In Roblan’s estimation, the Siuslaw region holds a vast resource of caring adults that can make a difference.
“You have some amazing people in Florence,” he said. “You’ve got scientists who have their own moon rock collection. People who have done things all over the world come here to retire. And when you ask them to spend a little time with kids, those are experiences that can make a difference in people’s lives and give them the reason to go on. And it gives them the belief in themselves.”
That pool of experiences, along with dedicated staff, is what makes the program work, BGC Executive Director Chuck Trent said.
“We have the future leaders of America sitting in the room with us and coming to this club every day,” he said. “We have (staff) to thank, because they spend the time with these kids every day. But because of you, every person in this room that have given so generously of your time and resources, none of this would have been possible without you all.
“Our kids are the club. Our staff is the club. You’re the club. You guys are the Boys and Girls Club, because without you, none of this would be possible.”
For more information about the Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County, visit bgcwlc.org.