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‘Big step’ ahead for club

Boys and Girls Club Director Mark Gurtler (center) is flanked by Rotarians Charlie Frame and Brent Olsen as plans for a new center are unveiled Monday morning. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
Boys and Girls Club Director Mark Gurtler (center) is flanked by Rotarians Charlie Frame and Brent Olsen as plans for a new center are unveiled Monday morning.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

Plans are already afoot to put an addition on the new Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center.

The Boys and Girls Club this week announced a fast-track fund drive to add a 3,000-square-foot activity room on the north side of the building, giving the club a fixed address for the first time in its five years on the island.

The organization hopes to raise private pledges totaling $400,000 for construction cost, soon enough that the facility can be done for next school year.

“I don’t think I’m completely off my rocker to say it’ll be late April or early May when we have that money in hand,” said Mark Gurtler, Bainbridge Boys and Girls Club director.

The island Boys and Girls Club chapter is one of 17 in the Seattle area, and boasts a local membership of 320 youths, according to organization literature.

A $15 annual membership entitles youths to an array of after-school programs and activities, including gymnasium games and a homework club.

Special events have included youth music nights, a Ping Pong Club and volunteer training, reaching hundreds more kids who aren’t members.

But without space of its own, the club has had to split programs between several facilities.

At Bethany Lutheran Church, about 20 kids grades K-4 participate in the club’s daily after-school program. At Sakai Intermediate School, as many as 90 kids turn out each day.

Club officials have long sought their own space, and are enthusiastic about setting up in the middle of the public school campus.

“They’ve been very beneficial to our survival,” Gurtler said of those who have provided space for the group, “but this is a very big step for us.”

The activity space was actually planned as part of the new pool, but was pared out to cut costs. The Boys and Girls Club recently reached a long-term lease agreement with the Bainbridge Island Park District, by which the club will pay for construction and have primary use. Because the space was included in the pool design, parking and other permit hurdles are largely out of the way.

Gurtler said contractors are lined up and ready to break ground. As soon as the pledges are in, he said, construction begins.

The drive was kicked off this week, with Bainbridge Rotary pledging $125,000 as seed money.

“We felt there was a niche they serve,” said Brent Olson, Bainbridge Rotary president. “‘Latchkey’ isn’t a very elegant term, but there are kids who don’t have somebody at home for them in the afternoon.”

Said Gurtler: “They can come in and know there’s a safe place, and there are people there for them.”

For information on the fund drive, call 855-0507.

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