SAN ANTONIO – The Boys & Girls Club of San Antonio’s East Side branch is seeing a higher number of members since the start of the school year.
Angie Mock, CEO of the club, thinks it has a lot to do with what’s happening in the community.
“There's been a series of violent acts and they’re impacting our families on the East Side and our kids,” she said. “I think people are realizing that their kids need to be in a positive safe environment.”
According to statistics from the San Antonio Police Department, there have been at least 16 murders in the East Side this year. The large majority appear to be gang-related.
“We are here to provide that support and be that safe haven for the kids who are in really some difficult situations,” Mock said.
Kevin Shandy, branch director, has been a part of the club for about 20 years, first as a child in the program and now as the person in charge of about 300 children.
“It’s always been a place where people feel really safe, more safe here than at homes sometimes,” he said about the club and the communities they serve.
Some of the violent acts against children have been people and families the staff and kids know.
“They're asking questions and we're trying to make sure that everything that happens outside of The Boys & Girls Club stays outside,” Shandy said. “We want to make sure we're positive and having a good time and keeping their mind off all the negative.”
The East Side community has a large number of single-family homes, and many children are being raised by their grandparents, according to Mock. The after-school program offers rides from school, a meal, a safe play space and homework time. The club offers longer care hours during the summer.
“Juvenile crime rate between the hours of 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. skyrockets,” Mock said. “That's when kids experiment with drugs, alcohol, premature sex and you do not want them home alone.”
Mock thinks just a few hours around positive role models can make a positive impact.
Shandy said children learn to build friendships and build character development.
“They are in an environment where sometimes kids don’t have basic necessities at home, whether it be lights or water, so they get that here,” he said.
Annual membership for the program is $50 per child. The club will work with families that have multiple children. People can also help sponsor a child by donating to the club.
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