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Boys & Girls Club of Permian Basin takes growing demand for its services in Stride

Boys & Girls Club of Permian Basin takes growing demand for its services in Stride

Raised by a single mom who juggled multiple jobs, Tim Jakel fondly recalls his visits as a young child to the Boys & Girls Club in Midland, where he enjoyed playing dodgeball and snacking on Goldfish crackers.

From a child’s perspective, Jakel viewed the Club as a massive, fun space to hang out with other kids; a place where he could stay out of trouble while his mom worked to pay the bills. Now as an adult, the 6-foot-4 Jakel no longer views the Club’s headquarters as massive in its size, but rather in its impact on local families.

More than a safe haven, the Club, which serves about 900 children daily and about 4,800 annually at locations in Midland and Odessa, has evolved into a critical resource that ensures local kids aren’t just active and properly fed, but also prepared for the rigors of school.

“There was no computer lab when I was there,” said Jakel, who now serves as director of development for the nonprofit organization that is known today as the Boys & Girls Club of the Permian Basin.

The Club has long been known to offer various sports programs, and it partners with the West Texas Food Bank to offer kids a daily source of nutrition. What has perhaps evolved most rapidly at the Club, however, are its educational support services.

One such service is the Stride Academy, a partnership with Chevron Permian that aims to help prevent children from falling behind in their reading.

Dozens of computers are provided at the Boys & Girls Club locations for kids to use. Each of the computers offers the Stride Academy, a game-based learning system for grades Pre-K to 8 that aims to make learning fun.

For many kids from economically struggling families, schoolwork isn’t the top priority, said Jakel. But the impacts of falling behind academically are dire for their futures.

“For some kids, their biggest battle is not, ‘Am I getting my homework done,’ it’s about, ‘Where am I going to sleep tonight, where will I get food.'”

“For some kids, their biggest battle is not, ‘Am I getting my homework done,’ it’s about, ‘Where am I going to sleep tonight, where will I get food,’” Jakel said.

The best part about the Stride Academy is that kids actually make it a priority because they want to participate.

“They’re coming in and saying, ‘Can I do Stride? Can I do Stride?,’” Jakel said.

Last year, roughly 431,000 questions were answered on Stride by Club kids. About 77 percent of those enrolled in the program are reportedly reading at or above their grade level.

At the end of the year around Christmas-time, kids who rack up the most points on Stride are given gifts and prizes, Jakel said. Past prizes have included oculus virtual reality headsets, he added.

The Stride Academy complements a homework assistance program at the Club where recently graduated high school students help children with their homework.

“If they have homework, we send them to the computer lab first,” Jakel said. “We are able to help them get that homework done and ready to turn in the next day.”

The Club has additionally received grants to take children, some of whom have never left their communities, on field trips to state parks. Even with these evolving resources, Club kids by no means have it easy.

“Some of the kids that I’ve known for the last couple of years, you can just tell they’re going through stuff,” Jakel said.

“With help from organizations like Chevron, we are able to offer Stride and so much more.”

But the Boys & Girls Club of the Permian Basin has managed to establish a safe and productive home away from home that enables bright futures, much in the same way it did for Jakel, who has had a successful career serving nonprofit organizations.

As they say, it takes a village to raise a child.

The Boys & Girls Club of the Permian Basin relies on funding from local individuals and corporations (31 percent), private foundations (25 percent), United Way (8 percent), government (4 percent) and user fees (30 percent).

“With help from organizations like Chevron, we are able to offer Stride and so much more,” Jakel said.

Chevron Permian, in turn, invests in the Boys & Girls Club because of the value it provides to local families in need. In addition to donating roughly $30,000 per year, which is “huge for us,” said Jakel, Chevron Permian is integrally connected to the Club. Matt Konieczka, a Chevron Permian employee, serves on the Club’s Board of Directors.

“They are not only giving us money,” Jakel said. “They are connected. They are plugged in and caring for our mission.”

And that’s why, during the pandemic, when demand for services were up but donations were down, Chevron Permian did not waiver in its support, enabling the Boys & Girls Club to keep its doors open. During the pandemic, the Club was closed for only one and a half weeks.

“Having a corporation like Chevron continuing to give that to us, we wouldn’t still be here,” Jakel said. “We would have had to shut down a lot longer.”

The Boys & Girls Club is not a day care. Those can cost families about $700 per month. Thanks to the generous donations, the Club offers its services for just $20 per month. Scholarships are provided to those who cannot afford that amount.

“As the cost of living in the area increases, the demand for the Club’s services keep going up.”

As the cost of living in the area increases, the demand for the Club’s services keep going up, Jakel said.

The Club’s goal is to expand to meet the demand, which includes adding staff and resources.

Jakel says the last thing his colleagues want to do is turn kids away. Donations are always needed, whether from individuals, businesses or nonprofits. Also needed are people in the community willing to share their time and expertise. Those who play musical instruments or do woodworking, for example, are encouraged to volunteer their time to provide lessons.

“I’m trying to get coding taught in here,” Jakel said.

Interested in supporting the Club’s mission? For more information, including how one can donate or volunteer, visit the Club’s website at www.basinkids.org. You can also call (432) 683-0050 (Midland) and (432) 337-8389 (Odessa).