Boys & Girl Club unveils new Berard Center
The Boys & Girls Club of Portage County held a grand opening ceremony and open house Saturday, Feb. 6, to celebrate the completion of its newly-constructed Berard Center, the Club’s Stevens Point headquarters, located between P.J. Jacobs Junior High School and the former Mid-State Technical College.
The open house featured demonstrations in all of its new rooms, ranging from emergency services of Portage County CPR tutorials to judo exercises by the Stevens Point Judo Club, all to illustrate the newly-opened opportunities the Berard Center can offer the children of Stevens Point.
The Berard Center features several rooms for holding educational and entertainment programs as well as a computer and tech lab, a gymnasium, a rec room with air hockey, pool and foosball and a commercial kitchen complete with dining room and food bar.
Last year, the Boys & Girls Club announced its desire to expand and build a new Stevens Point headquarters with the launching of a capital campaign. The goal was to raise an ambitious $4.2 million.
The capital campaign’s two pacesetter donors – Bob and Mary Berard and Delta Dental of Wisconsin – supported the campaign by contributing $1 million each in 2014.
“We are sure proud of the place, it turned out just beautiful. It couldn’t be better,” Bob said.
“It was an easy decision for Bob to put the family name on it and leave a legacy that will continue giving and giving,” Mary said.
The Berards said they were offered many chances to see it during construction but they wanted to wait until it was complete and when they did take the tour, their “jaws hit the floor.”
”It was easy to get behind this project in terms of Delta Dental supporting it simply because we thought right from the beginning it was the right thing to do,” said recently-retired CEO of Delta Dental, Dennis Brown. “Now that we look around at all the kids here and think of how many there will be in the years to come, it isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s for all the right reasons to do it.”
The Berard Center’s long journey to completion began with Boy & Girls Club officials recognizing the Club’s growth in members was constraining the old Stevens Point location’s ability to offer new programs, not to mention sustain future growth.
“This last summer was our highest attendance ever, and it turned out perfect that we could experience such a high number of kids. But at the same time we were getting ready to be able to handle even more with this building. Our growth has been continuous since 2002. And with this building, we can continue that growth because we were getting to the point where we were getting limited to what we could offer. We were getting to max capacity,” said Kevin Quevillon, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Portage County.
When Boys & Girls Club operations started in 2002, it was located in the former mail room of Travel Guard on Ellis Street in Stevens Point, courtesy of John and Patti Noel.
“It was always meant to be temporary,” said Quevillon. “In fact, after we opened – and we opened in Junction City at the same time – we filled up pretty quick with kids. It wasn’t long after that we opened up at Jefferson Elementary, because we had too many kids coming to Ellis Street.”
After the Club moved it operations to Jefferson Elementary, it opened a teen center in the Ellis Street location. But both the teen center and the Jefferson locations filled up rapidly as the club’s membership continued to grow.
For an added bonus to members, the Berard Center is conjoined with the Stevens Point Recreation Center and within a stone’s throw from the Municipal Swimming Pool.
The central location amid so many youth-oriented facilities and schools, as well as being directly on the Stevens Point city bus line, makes the location perfect for the Berard Center to thrive, said Brittany Melby, director of communications and marketing.
“It was probably five or six years ago where we had the idea to try and locate in this particular area,” Quevillon said. “We looked at some alternative locations, but none of them seemed perfect. But this location came up, and we all felt it was the perfect spot. And not necessarily where we are sitting now, but this area. Being next to Goerke Park, being next to P.J.’s, being not far from (the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point) campus and being centrally located in Stevens Point.”
The Boys & Girls Club relies on a large number of volunteers from the university to staff its centers, so being close to campus was important.
In the weeks leading up to the grand opening, the Berard Center “quietly” opened to members and operations slowly began to take off.
“We moved in mid-December and we’ve been open kind of quietly since then,” said Quevillon. “We communicated to our current members and told them to start coming here. The school district worked with us on bussing, so we had, from the very first day, we had 60 to 70 kids that first day when we opened quietly. And that number has continued to go up, as word of mouth got around a bit.
“We wanted to open quietly because we had a number of new staff being hired, we’re in a new space and we wanted to work out the kinks,” he said. “We wanted to get familiar with the building.”
Now that the Berard Center is officially open, attendance continues to climb even higher.
“As of today, we’ve been averaging up to 80 kids a day,” Quevillon said.
That number includes the Club members and the teen center, which has also seen an increase.
The former teen center would draw in 20 to 30 teens daily, the Berard Center has seen an increase to 40 to 60 teens per day, including the homework center. The homework center is a program for Club members to get tutoring aid from volunteers with their homework.
Quevillon said the teen center downtown was getting very crowded.
“If you’d get 10 to 20 teens in there, it was feeling pretty cramped,” he said.
With the new space comes the opportunity to expand the Club’s food services to members.
“Food service is probably the biggest thing that comes to mind. We have hired a part-time cook and we are now, as of last Monday, we are in our second week of serving dinner every night and a snack. So, we are doing more food service than we were ever able to do before.
“The (Berard Center’s) commercial kitchen is fabulous. It’s beautiful. It’s one of the things I feel very happy and proud about. Just the way it has turned out already. I mean, it’s large enough so that we can serve literally hundreds of meals per day, but it’s also big enough to get kids in there for cooking classes. It’s been awesome,” he said.
So, every night we serve a hot and healthy meal, and that’s been really popular already. There was a Friday – I think it was a week ago – where we served 88 kids. That was our record so far and that was during the quiet period. We weren’t even open yet,” Quevillon said.
Another new program the Berard Center expansion opens the door for is the Delta Dental Smile Club, a unique program for Boys & Girls Clubs in Wisconsin to promote health and educate youth on staying healthy.
“The Smile Club will allow us to work with kids to improve their whole health and we’re going to work with volunteer hygienists and dentists on the county’s ‘Seal a Smile’ program, which happens in the schools,” Quevillon said. “We will be another location, besides the schools, where that can happen.”
Also, the Club’s staff will implement incentives for children to brush their teeth daily, at least once.
“We’ll track that and incentivize it so it truly becomes part of our culture here and hopefully gets incorporated into the daily routine of each child too,” he said.
To learn more about the Boys & Girls Club, visit www.bgclubpc.org. To learn about how to get involved with the Club, contact Melby at 715-341-4386.