The Boys and Girls Club has changed the lives of young people in Hawaii for 40 years. This year alone, it has 2,000 members between the ages of 7 and 17 at its 14 club sites, says Tim Motts, president and CEO.
“The Boys and Girls Club has been around for over 100 years nationally,” says Motts. “We’re the largest youth service agency in the world, serving over 4 million young people at 4,000 clubhouses.
“We work in all communities throughout Hawaii, especially in those communities that need us the most. And we’ve seen tremendously positive results from our kids who stay involved with the Boys and Girls Club. Our high-school graduation rates are huge. Statewide, the rate is somewhere around 80 percent, but our kids graduate at a rate in the mid-90 percent.”
The Ewa Beach Clubhouse – named Hale Pono, with a gym, multipurpose building and teen center – was built in 2002, thanks to funding from the Campbell Estate, community grants and the public.
Motts said the clubs become second homes to the children. “Some of these kids, we see them more than their parents do,” he says. “The parents are working two and three jobs, doing their best, and our clubhouse has become a safe haven for the kids. You hear the kids say, ‘This is my second home,’ and call the staff Auntie and Uncle. They feel that kinship to them.”
Lori Respicio, program director of the Ewa Beach club, is both mentor and mom, and universally known as “Auntie Lori” to the 125 to 140 young people who inhabit this welcoming space each week.
“The secret sauce is quality adult relationships that help these kids be the best they can be,” says Motts. “We serve kids who need positive mentors and role models in their lives and adults who they know will be there for them. Our goal is to provide self-esteem and assist in making them successful adults.”
The program offers a wide range of classes and includes homework help, tutoring, leadership training, sports, cooking skills and far more.
“Every time you come here it’s like coming home,” says Angela Gabriel, who spent several years at the club after school, and who, now that she’s 19 and in college, plans to volunteer there over the summer.