At Rio Grande Valley Moms Blog, we are passionate about kids and families in the RGV! We’d like to invite you in on a little chat we had with Dalinda Alcantar, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen, where we learned so much about how the local non-profit impacts children in the Rio Grande Valley.
Q: Who does your organization serve?
A: The Boys & Girls Club of McAllen serves kids in the after-school & summer camp programs from ages 6-13! Our sports program begins with little ones as young as 4 and goes all the way up to 18! We namely serve kids that live in McAllen, but you don’t have to live in McAllen to be part of our club. We currently have about 6,000 kids (Yikes, every time I see that number I get anxious that I’m entrusted with the care of so many children!) Three thousand of those children attend our after-school programming & the other 3,000 children are part of our athletic programs.
Q: What is most rewarding about what your organization does?
A: Oh my gosh, I can go on & on with this one! Admittedly, I’ve been an educator for 13 years in the public education space, and I had no idea the research and data behind the impact that quality after-school programming can have on a child in need. Many (but not all) of our youngest members are seemingly born already one lap behind the rest. They come from an unstable living situation with food insecurity or have parents who need to work around the clock just to make ends meet, etc. I see our club help close the gap in the race between our kids and those who seem to have a head start thanks to a stable home life and higher parental education levels. While we feed them and give homework help after school, we also provide our member kids with life skills such as character development, financial literacy and digital literacy. We also take them on field trips–experiences and opportunities that will keep them in pace with their peers, and maybe even lap them!
I’ve cried so many times just thinking about the impact we have. We have children that are struggling in reading & are placed in our Texas AIM program where they are vigorously taught & then end the year reading at grade level! We are a place where kids positively move towards a better future through programming & athletics.
Q: Can you tell us about the History of the Boys and Girls Club of McAllen?
A: Our local club has been around for 52 years! We have a legacy of serving several generations of McAllen citizens. It is evident that we have impacted almost every family in McAllen. For instance, when I publicly speak about the club, I’ll always have several people come up afterwards & share their personal experiences from when they were young or with their own children or grandchildren. Once I was pumping gas while wearing a Boys & Girls Club polo and someone had me there for 20 minutes reliving their days at our Brand Center. It’s incredible the impact our local club has had. On the sports side, I can’t think of one athlete from McAllen who has gone on to play collegiate athletics who also did not start their career as a four-year-old in our gym!
Q: How many locations do you have and where are they located?
A: We have eight clubhouses! Our two main clubhouses are the Othal E. Brand Center (located on Galveston in South McAllen), and the Glen E. & Rita K. Roney Center (located in North McAllen on Buddy Owens near De Leon Sports Park). Our school clubhouses are located at Seguin Elementary, Jackson Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary, Travis Middle, Lincoln Middle, & Brown Middle.
Q: What events do you organize for the community throughout the year?
A: Just thinking about our calendar gets me super excited! Each month, we offer one special event hosted at our main clubhouses. Our latest event open to the public was Women History Month’s Living Museum where our 10-year-old club members researched a historic female change-maker, dressed up in character, and memorized a speech in a museum-like setting! Our Unit Directors, Brenda Guerrero & James Arredondo, know how to throw an event! Just like teachers, James & Brenda, as well as our Director of Operations, Jessica Soliz, go all out for holidays & programming! Follow our Facebook page (@likebgcmcallen) for more about events that are free to the public.
Our summer camp program registration just opened online on April 10. We offer online registration at www.bgcmcallen.net. Those slots fill up super fast! Summer camp is everyday for 11 weeks in the summer. Kids can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Breakfast & lunch are included (shout out to McAllen ISD’s food service program), and we offer a rotation of classes such as drama, computers, library, music, art and more. It’s seriously like a day school!
Our next season of sports registration begins April 28th & is also found online. We run year round sports and offer flag football, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball!
Q: How do donations help your organization?
A: Many clubs across the region are country are technically city departments, but The Boys and Girls Club of McAllen is not. We are a stand-alone non-profit that relies heavily on donors such as individual givers, sponsors for events like gala, Tamale Fest and sports tournaments. We are grant- and donor-driven, but we also have strong partnerships with McAllen ISD & the City of McAllen that allow us to successfully serve our club members. Honestly, our club could not function properly without those two key partnerships.
Q: How can volunteers help your organization?
A: First off, we have a Jr. Staff program, which I liken to an internship program for kids in high school. After applying and being interviewed, they take on an unpaid internship for the summer. It’s great for their resume & they also learn a ton! All our coaches are volunteers, and let me tell you, we always need coaches. That’s a great way to get engaged and spend time with your son/daughter. Of course we also have our program volunteers who range from high school students to senior citizens that can come in & help in the front office, assist in a classroom, or simply act as a shadow. There is always something to be done at the Boys & Girls Club!