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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cloverdale Comments - January 2012

It’s been many decades since I was an unsupervised kid with long, often lonely, hours to fill after school and during summers. Yet, touring our welcoming, activity-rich Club, the passage of all those years couldn’t stop me from feeling a sharp pang of regret that so many of us growing up on tough, tempting city streets never got to enjoy and benefit from a similarly safe, uplifting and affordable refuge from the often life-altering troubles streets can bring to the young. 

Thankfully, our small city is very different from my first hometown. Still, even Cloverdale’s youth can get into everything from simple mischief to drugs and worse--especially during the “Danger Hours“, from 3p.m. to 7p.m., before hard-working parents or guardians get home. 

Founded in 1860 by three women concerned about the lack of a haven for what we call “at risk” boys, by 1990 their “Boys Club” was a nation-wide organization that had grown to include “Girls” so no kid would have to miss out. Today, approximately 4.1 million youngsters belong to Clubs available through high school.

No Grim “Stats” Here! 
One of 6 “Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma County”, Cloverdale has an outstanding team of dedicated professionals, including on-site at the Jefferson and Washington schools. Cloverdale Clubs Director, Dr. Bethany Bilyeu, is a Clinical Psychologist whose inspired decision led her to transition from the treatment of youth to work in prevention.  

Bethany and Central Sonoma’s Co-CEO, Jason Weiss, graciously accepted my short-notice invitation to show me around the facility and give details of the Club’s 5 core program areas: 

Academics/Career (Workforce development is my profession and, given the dismal high school dropout rate of 25% nationwide, I was thrilled to find practical resources in place, such as the “Power Hour” homework assistance with computer access and liaison with parents, some cool lessons in money/financial concepts and opportunities for career exploration.); 

Fine Arts, Visual and Performing (I loved the wall display of ersatz Warhols and Picassos plus hearing about the theatrical activities and group projects that build vital teamwork skills.); Sports/ Fitness/Recreation (Activities for all levels of ability including a nice gym and unique programs, like the Marathon Club in which the runners simulate making progress to the Golden Gate Bridge!);

Character/Leadership (“Leaders In Training” and “Youth of the Month/Year”, which identify members who go above and beyond, are just two examples of the many ways the Club works to achieve a goal that seems to be fundamental at every Club: developing responsible, active members of our democracy capable of making good life choices.); 

Healthy Life Styles (The on-site garden, built by our local Kiwanis, helps provide for classes on nutrition, cooking basics and advanced culinary arts. You can even try Yoga here!)          

 Learn. Have fun. Make friends. Get healthier. Explore wholesome new ideas and activities. Do better in school. Develop maturity, self-confidence and life skills. Be encouraged to be your best. No wonder, in contrast to the dismal statistics we get elsewhere, a national Harris Survey found an outstanding 90% of Club alums report earning at least a H.S. diploma or equivalent. 

So, do it for a young person you care about. Do it for yourself. Check out the Cloverdale Boys and Girls Club! Contact Club Program Director Diane Mora: 894-5063; Location: 686 South Cloverdale Blvd. Or visit to learn about a Club near you.
(Free Income Tax Preparation Program For All Who Qualify.)

Last year, our Vice-Mayor Bob Cox (he’s Mayor for 2012!) and Rich Cowart, of the Cloverdale Alliance for Financial Education (CAFÉ), took many hours of “taxing” training (I dropped out after one lesson!) to become one of United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program volunteers who help prepare returns for folks meeting income level qualifications. In their 1st tax season (though they had to start late) Bob and Rich identified a lot of refund $$$!

These two wonderful volunteers begin again on Jan. 3rd. Schedule: Tues.-Thurs., 6pm-8pm; Sat., 10am- 3pm at Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce. For your appointment (or nearest VITA location) call 211, the free “Community Resource Directory.” 

Here’s wishing you Many Happy Returns!