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Residents rally to save Indy Kids Club

July 23, 2012

Citizens in Independence met earlier this week to brainstorm fundraising ideas to save the local Kids Club, where youngsters have an opportunity to play, do homework and socialize in a safe, supervised environment while their parents are at work. Photo courtesy Healthy Communities

Citizens in Independence are rallying to save what they’re calling one of the best – and only – summer youth programs in their community.
On Tuesday evening at the Kids Club in Independence, a dozen local, concerned parents and community members met with Healthy Communities Board President Jaque Hickman and Vice President Lis Mazzu to discuss fundraising efforts to keep the club, which is located on the campus of the Owen Valley School, open for local youth.
The Kids Club offers afterschool homework assistance, supervised play and healthy snacks for local, school-aged youth.
Despite support of the program by the Owens Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, recent cutbacks and the uncertainty of future funding from the state to schools forced the board to discontinue its annual funding for the Kids Club.
While the yearly funding was cut, the board granted a one-time payment of $4,500 to the Kids Club to keep it open for the summer, giving parents and grandparents more time to put together fundraising efforts to keep it open year-round.
“With concerns over the possibility of yet further reductions in the number of days schools will operate and other cutbacks, parents are increasingly more concerned about what to do with their children while they are at work and their children are not in school,” explained Healthy Communities Director Charles James. “Many of the youth attending the Kids Club are from single-parent homes, while others have both parents working but no one at home after the school day is over or during school holiday breaks.”
It has been the mission of the Healthy Communities of Southern Inyo County program at the Kids Club to provide a safe, supervised setting for local youth. Activities include table games such as ping pong, air hockey and foosball, along with board and electronic games, arts and crafts and sports equipment to play outside. The Kids Club costs are $15,000 to $18,000 a year depending on the number of activities and programs offered, including food and maintenance supplies.
As explained by Healthy Communities, which operates the youth center, there was increased concern over its own budget as expenses, which have been well over and above the funding provided by the school district in the past, adversely affect its other programs in Independence and Lone Pine.
“It is no secret that funding for our youth, whether for education or other youth activities, is being severely impacted by budget cuts and a sluggish economy. Healthy Communities’funding, along with many other organizations, has been greatly impacted as well,” said Hickman. She went on to ask those at the meeting for their ideas and ask for volunteers to provide specific assistance to get the ball rolling.
Most of the discussion centered on Friends of the Kids Club sponsoring a gun raffle, which generally brings in substantial funds and can be done quickly. Some concern was expressed that a gun raffle to support youth might be viewed by some as inappropriate, but the general consensus was that, in a rural area such as Inyo County, there is strong support for gun rights and a tradition of hunting as a perfectly valid sport. It was felt that, with the naval base in Ridgecrest, local law enforcement agencies and hunting and target shooting enthusiasts in Inyo County and adjacent counties, it is almost a certainty that a gun raffle would do well.
Specific concerns addressed were venues to be used in selling the tickets, the level of involvement and commitment of the community in Independence, and other strategies proposed to fund the Kids Club fundraising effort besides the raffle.
As Hickman noted, “Healthy Communities has served Southern Inyo County for more than 12 years, providing activities for youth and families, but we cannot fix all the problems faced by our communities by ourselves – we need the communities to step up and solve their own problems, but know that we are here to help them.”
Carma Roper, whose daughter Naiya often attends the Kids Club, said, “The Kids Club is one of the best … and only programs we have here in Independence. It is open to local youth as well as those that visit Independence. It is a safe place to send your child when you or someone you trust cannot always be with them. Our community needs this program and we need to support it.”
For further information on Healthy Communities or for ways to help with its efforts to provide youth programs such as the Kids Club, call (760) 876-1011 or visit its website at www.HCSIC.org.

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