For the first time in about a year, the former Total Home Store in Ronan was once again filled, but not with furniture.
Between 400 and 500 people showed up to support the Boys & Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County on Tuesday, Nov. 27 for a ribbon cutting event, Executive Director Aric Cooksley said afterward.
Kicking off the evening, Cooksley thanked a list of people who helped with the clubhouse project, stressing his appreciation for one group in particular.
“First of all, I want to thank the community… Without you and what you have done and given and helped and all those kinds of things, none of this would have happened,” Cooksley said as he addressed the crowd. “Here’s the gift you gave yourselves.”
Gratitude to the youth was also extended from Cooksley, as he explained that they are the inspiration for the community to make the world better.
“You inspire us to make amazing experiences, or what I hope to be amazing experiences, that give you the opportunity to be anything you want to be.”
Also speaking were club officials including Jason Adams, Brenda Dennis and Judy Preston, along with Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Council Chairman Ron Trahan and Ronan Mayor Kim Aipperspach.
THE CLUB purchased the former store in 2017 from owners Gordon and Audrey Granley to open a new, bigger clubhouse.
To Cooksley, the community support of the club’s vision for the new clubhouse is a reflection of the project, which cost around $2.5 million.
“It turned out better than any of us had dreamed and hoped,” he said of the facility and the event.
Located at 62579 U.S. Highway 93 in Ronan, the new clubhouse covers approximatebly 19,000 square feet, compared to the 3,500 square feet that the former clubhouse had, which sits not too far away on U.S. Highway 93.
Children ages 6-18 years will be able to utilize the new space, which will include areas for an art center, learning centers for youths and teens, and a kitchen area and cafe setting, among other disciplines.
More than 200 children are anticipated to utilize the facility, with an expected 50,000 to 60,000 meals and snacks being served a year.
About 45 volutneers helped the night of the ribbon cutting, from parking attendants to tour guides.
A lot of community involvement went into the clubhouse in the days leading up the event, too, Cooksley said.
For instance, Cooksley said students from Ronan High School Family and Consumer Sciences classes helped decorate the day before, while Sue Klein, a local interior designer, helped.
“I’ll tell you, every bit of this project has volunteer finger prints all over it, so thank you to everyone in the community,” Judy Preston, chairperson of the club’s capital campaign, said at the gathering.
Cooksley said that going forward, the club is hopeful that volunteers continue sharing their time with various activities, “making it an amazing place for kids.”
While a lot of construction is completed, Cooksley said that a vocational shop area is still being worked on.
That shop area will include a woodshop, an auto/small engine and wielding area, and a pottery studio.
Down the road, Cooksley said that a gymnasium will be added to the building as well.
While the club celebrates the kickoff of the new Ronan clubhouse, the organization is also developing plans for the Polson location, which will go at the corner of 17th Avenue and Second Street.
Cooksley previously told The Leader that he anticipates groundbreaking for that location tentatively in 2019.
Brenda Dennis, chairperson of the club’s board, shared with the crowd that an endowment fund has been set up for both the Ronan and Polson locations.
That fund, she said, is pledged by Glacier Bank, Eagle Bank and Valley Bank for five years.
“It’s really quite incredible for our small communities and speaks volumes” to how much the community cares, Dennis remarked.
Dennis also said that funds in the ballpark of $5 million have been raised for the Ronan and Polson locations.
During her time with the microphone last week, Preston discussed the Back a Kid campaign, in which a person can ‘sponsor’ a child in the club for $20 per month or $240 per year.
THE BOYS & GIRLS Club was established on the Flathead Reservation and Lake County in 1999.
It serves children ages 6-18 year between the Ronan and Polson clubhouses, servicing 600 club members in 2017.
Programs promote academic success, character and leadership, and healthy lifestyles, helping to build positive futures for children.
Anyone interested in the Back a Kid campaign, volunteering or donation opportunities can contact the Boys & Girls Club Ronan office at 406-676-5437.
For more information on the Boys & Girls Club and the Back a Child campaign, visit www.flatheadbgc.org.