SAN JUAN, RGV – Hidalgo County Commissioner Eduardo “Eddie” Cantu, together with the Hidalgo County Urban County Program, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for a new Boys & Girls Club in San Juan.
Cantu, San Juan Mayor Mario Garza, and Alfredo Mata Jr., executive director and chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Pharr, gave remarks about the organization and invited guests to tour the new facility.
Located at 509 E. Earling Road, the Boys & Girls Club of San Juan will serve an estimated 150 youth daily. Although the facility isn’t officially open, Mata says they have already registered enough children to fill about a third of the open slots. As they begin advertising this month, he encourages parents and kids from all backgrounds to take advantage of the free services the Boys & Girls Club offer.
“This is not a place for poor kids. This is not a place only for the middle class or the rich kids. It’s a place for everyone to come in and interact with each other,” said Mata.
The facility will be open year-round, accommodating children Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. during the school year, and from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the summer and spring break. The Boys & Girls Club curriculum includes a “Power Hour,” where kids complete their homework under the supervision of staff, and technology lab lessons, where elementary-aged children will learn typing and become familiarized with software programs like those in the Microsoft Office Suite. Mata says this will help them be “steps ahead” as the move on to junior high and high school.
Once they are finished with their homework, children will be allowed to use the facility’s amenities. The game room is equipped with two video gaming systems – a PlayStation and an Xbox – a foosball table and a billiards table. Children can also choose to do arts and crafts or participate in outdoor sports activities.
Parents of teens can also benefit. The facility is split into a teen wing and youth wing so that kids can interact with their peers and participate in age-appropriate activities. Teens can also volunteer as junior staff where they will learn job skills and receive a stipend after completing the program. Those looking for community service hours can also sign up to help with the younger children.
Mata says that parents should be at ease when their kids are at the facility, noting that there are cameras in every room and only children are allowed beyond the lobby area. Like Cantu, Mata says the Boys and Girls Clubs provide a safe space for children to receive a hot meal and stay out of trouble.
“We’re not thinking about boundaries. We’re not thinking about what cities are here or not here. We’re not thinking if we’re red or blue. We’re just thinking [about] taking kids off the streets and into a safe building,” said Mata “I’d rather children be here at our Boys & Girls Clubs than home alone or on the streets doing whatever they’re doing.”
As Boys & Girls Club board members and alumni, both men understand firsthand the positive impact the organization can have on a child’s life. They ask that the community continue to support their local Boys & Girls Club financially and through volunteering. The new facility costs about $300,000 a year to run, and its completion was only made possible by generous grants and donations from groups like the Pharr Sunrise Kiwanis Club and the United Way. For Cantu, there’s no better cause for the Valley’s families.
“When you see the NFL, Major League Baseball, LeBron James, Denzel Washington believing in the Boys & Girls Club, it helps solidify the fact that it’s one of the best organizations for kids,” said Cantu. “So, we’re trying to do as much as we can for the kids, but it also helps the parents when they’re at work. They don’t have to worry about where their kids are at if they’re at Boys & Girls Club. So, it’s a tremendous thing for the community.”
Plans for a youth facility serving the Valley View and Hidalgo area are currently underway.