Boys & Girls Club still going strong
Despite end of busing

       Transportation from schools is no longer being provided, but in no way does that mean after-school programs at the Westside Boys & Girls Club have been curtailed.
       The facility at 1135 W. Platte Ave., known as the “El Pomar Unit,” is still fully staffed, offering children ages 6 to 18 late-model (donated) computers to use, a recently rebuilt 3-acre sports field, hot meals, homework incentives, an art room, games and other activities between 2:30 and 7 p.m. weekdays - all for just $5 a year, according to James Sullivan, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region.
       Traditionally, the club would send a bus around to the Westside elementaries, picking them up when school ended and taking them to the club. But before school started last August, Sullivan sent a letter to parents/guardians, explaining that fulfilling the club mission for developing young people could not be achieved unless the transportation service was dropped.
       Sullivan apologized in the letter and again in an interview with the Westside Pioneer. “Some people took it well, some did not,” he said. “It was a tough decision.”
       Money was a factor, but not the whole reason. Safety issues were starting to crop up with the aging 15-passenger vans being used to transport the kids. Also, the insurance liability costs on the seven-to-nine-year-old vehicles were getting “pretty doggone high,” Sullivan said - $500 a month to operate each of nine vans, even with drivers that had good records.
       “We were one of the few Boys & Girls Clubs in the nation still operating the vans,” he pointed out.
       In the end, administrators decided the most responsible course was to focus on the safety and quality of the club itself, and leave getting there to the parents and kids.
       The decision has hurt club attendance somewhat. Daily attendance is in the upper 40s this year, compared with 70 to 75 a day last year, Sullivan said. He has no figures on how many used to bus in, but among those who are coming now, “some parents are carpooling, and some kids are having to walk,” he reported.
       Attendance is still well above about 15 years ago, when the low 30s was the average.
       Also, Sullivan observed, “the bottom line hasn't changed. We're still working to keep kids off the streets and develop positive role models.”
       The club in Colorado Springs originally started as the Boys Club in 1888, which makes it the eighth oldest club in the nation (out of 3,300), Sullivan said. The El Pomar Unit, named after benefactors Spencer and Julie Penrose, was opened in 1970. The local operation became the Boys & Girls Club in 1987, with a girls locker room (funded by the El Pomar Foundation) added to the Westside facility that same year.
       For more information about the El Pomar Unit of the Boys & Girls Cub, call 473-3490. The club's main number is 570-7077.

Westside Pioneer article