Feb. 2, 2022 — On Jan. 31, Chuck Trent, Boys & Girls Club of Western Lane County (BGCWLC) Board Member and former CEO and Board President Laurie Green announced the hiring of lifetime Florence resident Vanessa Buss as CEO of the local youth program.
“We’re really just tickled pink,” said Trent. “It’s been a real challenge to find the right person.”
Buss comes to the BGCWLC with many qualifications that indicate she is that right person.
First is Buss’ connection to our area. Her deep sense of community is one of her most important qualifications.
Buss was born in Florence and grew up here. She also currently serves as the vice president of both the Western Lane Ambulance District and Habitat for Humanity boards of directors. She is also on the administrative committee for this year’s Rhododendron Festival Court.
Another important role Buss serves as is the team mom for Siuslaw High’s wrestling team —
“a position I thoroughly love and enjoy,” she said.
Buss comes to BGCWLC from PeaceHealth Peace Harbor Medical Group, where she served as Quality Program Lead for about 10 years.
She also comes with important certifications earned from years of previous training. Buss holds both a yellow and green belt in Lean Management, an approach to managing an organization that supports the concept of continuous improvement, a long-term approach to work that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality.
Trent related the Lean management style to what they do at BGCWLC.
“About 20% of our kids are special needs kids. That ranges from Autism and Asperger’s to Down syndrome and ADHD, which creates a wide variety of challenges,” said Trent. “A lot of them could go, in terms of temperament, from zero to 60 in a heartbeat. What we are trying to figure out is what's causing that to ramp up so quickly. We’re not going to change the kids. What can we do to better manage that?
“When we started going through this root cause analysis as part of the whole process, what we discovered is where kids are having a hard time is during transition time. We discovered if we give them a little more time to transition from one activity to the other, it makes it easier on them. There’s an example where you look at the process to find a solution.”
Buss is impressed by what the BGCWLC does already but knows she’ll need time to get her feet under her.
“Chuck, the staff and the board have been doing an amazing job,” said Buss. “My hope is to pick up the ball and keep rolling with it. I’ll bring my own style to table but need to get a firm grasp on all the great work that has been occurring already.”
The BGCWLC fills the gap between school and home. The club provides safe, welcoming, positive environments in which kids and teens can have fun, participate in life-changing programs, and build supportive relationships with peers and caring adults.
The club offers many exciting programs for youth in the area in both its elementary and teen programs. Though homework is important and is typically the first thing children do upon arrival at the club most of the time youth are at the they are having fun and learning along the way.
Youth can learn financial literacy by working in the club store. There’s even a program, developed by Charles Schwab, that teaches kids to live within their means and the value of a dollar.
Kids can help plant a garden and then learn how to cook the fruits and vegetables they grow. There’s even talk of a grant in the works for a technology lab with computers and 3D printers and a girl’s youth coding program in the future.
As board president, Green brings a science and technology background to BGCWLC. Kids love when she brings in her digital microscope or the program she teaches about rocketry that allows kids to launch a real rocket at Miller Park. She’s even brought in volcanic ore from Eastern Oregon and allowed kids to dig for their own gems.
“The whole idea of Boys and Girls Club is we do a lot of fun projects and give the kids a chance to build their skill set,” said Trent.
As a matter of fact, participation is required at BGCWLC.
“It’s part of the parental contract,” said Trent. “We’re not babysitters. Kids don’t have a choice whether they participate or not. Luckily, the thing we do really well is disguise learning as fun.”
Buss’ first day as CEO of BGCWLC was Jan. 17, but she is already a very familiar face around town.
Her roots run deep in Florence. She was the first baby born in the year 1971 at the old Western Lane Hospital that was once on 12th Street. She grew up in town and raised her three children, Hailey, 30, Hayden, 27, and Mason, 17, in Florence with her husband of 20 years, Stecher.
“I have spent my entire life right here in Florence — boy aren’t I a lucky girl?” Buss asked. “Some might say I’ve missed out on a lot, but I’d say I’ve been pretty blessed to have been able to stay. One of my favorite things is when I’m out and about in town and run into someone I know. There’s something pretty special about being able to give a friend a big hug and ask how their day is going. It’s always a bright spot in my day. It’s probably one of the reasons my kids hate going anywhere with me.”
Her mother Donna lives in town, along with several aunts, uncles, nieces and a nephew.
Buss’ focus over the last few years has revolved around supporting her children in sports, which she says she’s “enjoyed so much.”
In addition to her children’s sports, she takes advantage of all the chances Florence has to offer for outdoor recreation.
“Living in Florence has awarded us the opportunity to do so many outdoors activities, such as scuba diving, body boarding, jet skiing, rock hounding and hiking,” Buss said. “The activity that I’m most excited about this spring is getting to spend more time on my new Enduro motorcycle, as riding motorcycles was one of my most favorite activities as a youth growing up in this area.”
For more information about the club, visit bgcwlc.org or call 541-902-0304.