ILWACO — Since opening its doors at a new location inside the old Ilwaco High School last week, the Boys and Girls Club of the Long Beach Peninsula received a well-deserved housewarming when approximately 130 kids streamed through the doors in a four-day period.

Eleven-year-old Elizabeth Johnson was one of the kids excited for the reopening and said Thursday, “This place is awesome! [Before] it was really hard to get checked in, to go to the bathroom, and to get down the hallway without getting stepped on! … We have to take a bus up here and it’s crammed, but it was worthwhile!”

Having attended Boys and Girls Club since the day it opened, Johnson liked the more organized setting, the pre-teen corner, and the arts and crafts room that provides adequate space for working on and storing projects. And while Power Hour, a homework assistance program, seems to be picking up speed, you probably won’t find Johnson there anytime soon. 

“Homework is called that for a reason — at home. I like the freedom!” she quipped.

And she’s got a point — there are quite a few fun activities for play, as well as learning. What was once the high school library is now a compartmentalized facility offering ping-pong, pool, foosball, board games, arts and crafts, a media room with video games, cooking classes and a pre-teen corner to hang out and chat. 

Nine-year-old Arianna Bell likes the fact that there’s now a TV to use, as well as ping-pong and more board games to enjoy.

Ten-year-old Keefer Blakeslee, who was in the midst of building tall towers out of Jenga blocks, said, “It’s so far better than any other club — so much room!”

“I really like it, we just found out that we get to go on committees, we can use Redbox [movies] and a Wii, it’s awesome,” 11-year-old Nautica Caron explained. “Everyone’s running all over the place, there’s more places to go than when we were in the cafeteria [at Long Beach Elementary].”

The committees Caron is talking about are groups of kids who get to choose movies that will be shown at the club each week, organize birthday parties for their fellow club members, and tackle other fun tasks.

Taylor Kemmer, 11, enjoys the Tuesday cooking activities led by Barbara Carmel, who has shown kids how to make cranberry sauce, homemade noodles and blinis [Russian pancakes].

Ben Brownlee, 11, says the more spacious location gives clubgoers more freedom. His favorite part about club is using the media room to play Xbox and Wii games.

“It is great!” he gushed. “It has many kids, many ages, things for pretty much everyone, and it’s super fun.”

Eleven-year-old Abigail Miller took a brief break from her ping-pong game to express her gratitude to the community and those who made the new club a reality.

“We have more room so more people can come. And I like the volunteers; the work they do is really nice.”

The staff and 80 other children at the club that day obviously felt the same way — chattering, giggling and bounding from one activity to another, with smiling faces as far as the eye could see. A stuffy, old library has never looked so lively.


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