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Boys and Girls Clubs of the Mid Central Coast starts program in Creston thanks to investor

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Until recently, Creston had no after-school programs for youth. But that just changed for the rural community east of Atascadero.

Thanks to a $284,000 investment from MUST! Charities, the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Mid Central Coast started up a new program for the youth of Creston on Jan. 4. The program provides Creston Elementary School kids with homework help, science and art activities, and a place to hang out after school while their parents or guardians are at work.

ANOTHER SUCCESS After starting up a successful program in Shandon, MUST! Charities will provide funds for a new Boys and Girls Club in Creston. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB OF THE MID CENTRAL COAST
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Boys And Girls Club Of The Mid Central Coast
  • ANOTHER SUCCESS After starting up a successful program in Shandon, MUST! Charities will provide funds for a new Boys and Girls Club in Creston.

MUST! Charities fundraises for and invests in organizations that are addressing critical community needs, like youth mentorship or hunger, to help them carry out their missions. Its partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs is longstanding: The first gift the organization ever made was in 2012 to the Paso Robles club.

"There was one clubhouse in North County, and they were on the brink of closing their doors every month," MUST! Executive Director Becky Gray said. "Yet they had over 100 kids in that clubhouse, and a huge waitlist."

The organization invested in the Paso Boys and Girls Club, helping the club get back on its feet and continue providing affordable after-school programs to Paso Robles youth.

Alanna Andruszkiewicz, chief philanthropy officer of the Mid Central Coast Boys and Girls Clubs, said it only costs $50 to enroll in the organization's services for the school year—and even at that low price point, if someone can't afford it, they don't turn anyone away.

A couple of years ago, MUST! helped to fund a new program in Shandon, another rural North County community.

"That project went so well that they wanted to do it again," Andruszkiewicz said. "During the pandemic we were hearing a lot that kids or families were not returning to school in Creston as rapidly as they were in Atascadero or Paso. ... It became obvious that there was a lot of need for care out there."

The new program will be held on-site at Creston Elementary School.

"It will be basically coming in, and we'll provide funding for the staffing and the supplies and everything year one, and then slowly drip off in funding as they then take on more of the responsibility," Gray said. "They just need that little kick-start, and then from there they're able to leverage dollars and build donors and things like that to continue providing the service."

Creston's Boys and Girls Club will start with an after-school program for elementary aged students. Then, MUST! and the club will assess whether further additions, such as a summer program, are needed in the community. While MUST! provides financial and structural support, the organization leaves most decision making up to the Boys and Girls Clubs.

"We try not to get in their business, since they know their business best," Gray said. "We basically provide the funding, and have the relationship, and they show us along the way the accountability."

Gray calls it evocative giving.

"There is an antiquated system when it comes to philanthropy as far as grants go, where people come in and say, 'We have x number of dollars and we want you to do this,'" Gray said. "It doesn't make sense for us to do that: We're looking at long-term investment in our community. For us it's [about] building a relationship with these nonprofits, and letting them do their work. That is truly where they shine."

Andruszkiewicz from the Boys and Girls Clubs said this represents a huge step forward for the Creston community.

"This is definitely a dream for us to do this kind of expansion," she said. "It's always exciting to see communities come to life when they have after-school care and there's programming for children."

Fast fact

Idler's Home gave more than $75,000 of merchandise and monetary donations to Central Coast organizations in 2021, including appliances, furniture, and more, according to a statement from the company. Organizations from Santa Maria to San Miguel benefitted from Idler's giving this year. The company focused its efforts on food insecurity by providing appliances to the SLO Food Bank. "Thanks to donated equipment from Idler's Home, nonprofits throughout San Luis Obispo County are able to keep food at a safe temperature for their hungry clients," SLO Food Bank CEO Garret Olson said in the statement. Δ

Staff Writer Malea Martin wrote this week's Strokes. Reach her at mmartin@newtimesslo.com.

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