The Club for Boys has been a Rapid City institution for 55 years. Generations of boys have taken advantage of the club’s amenities, a fact that pleases Executive Director Doug Herrman to no end.
“We provide a safe, fun, and caring environment,” he explains. “Our goal is to build young boys into productive adult citizens who contribute to their community.”
The Club for Boys is available to all boys in the community aged 6 to 17 (they’ll make exceptions for 18-year-olds who are still attending high school). For only $12 a year, kids receive access to all services, including transportation to and from middle/elementary school and meals. The low cost is a draw to families in need, and even that is negotiable; scholarships are available for families who can’t afford the fee, as long as their son pitches in to help out with chores around the club. “We want them to see that membership has value,” Doug explains.
The club attracts a pretty diverse group of kids. 50 percent are economically disadvantaged, and 10 percent have been homeless at some point during the year. In the summer, when they are open daily from 7:30 to 5:30, about 400 boys from 20 different schools are there. “We’re a melting pot,” he says. “Kids form friendships from different parts of the city.”
Doug’s goal is to get boys to start coming to the club when they’re 6 and keep them until they’re 18. Some current staff members attended when they were boys, and at least once a month, an older gentleman in the community will run into Doug and share his experiences attending the club when he was younger. These interactions please him to no end. Doug has only been at the club for four years, but spent three decades in juvenile corrections prior to accepting a position as Executive Director. He worked as a youth counselor in a variety of residential settings and institutions and served as the South Dakota State Juvenile Justice Director for 15 years. “Working with youth was always my passion,” he shares. “But I was ready to work with them in a different capacity, and this position was a good match.” It’s certainly less stressful, he admits.
Recently, the Club for Boys was able to embark upon a new $2 million capital campaign after being awarded $810,000 from the Rapid City Vision Funds and a $400,000 grant from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation—money that supplements $1.9 million raised over the summer and fall through public and private donations. The funds represent a huge investment for the next couple of generations, according to Doug. The money will be used to expand programming space for the boys; remodel the lobby and office space to improve safety; and renovate the Erickson Building, site of the former thrift store that was relocated to Cambell Street. The new space will be geared toward middle and high school students and will involve converting the parking lot to a covered outdoor sports court. Classes focusing on independent living skills, such as cooking and laundry, will be taught in an effort to attract older boys to the club. Another portion of the funds will go toward investing in staff, providing them with health insurance and a retirement plan. This underscores the importance of finding talented individuals who will commit to long-term employment.
Doug’s long-term vision for the Club for Boys is clear. “We want to continue to be valuable to the community,” he says. “We want to build young boys into productive young men and be that go-to resource for families.”
Members of the community who wish to contribute can send checks to the Club for Boys, visit their website or follow them on Facebook. Or stop by their annual Christmas tree lot and choose from over 1,500 trees, including ponderosa pine and Black Hills spruce. All proceeds go toward the club’s operations. It’s a great and festive way to support the excellent work of this dedicated staff.
words by Mark Petruska