The Boys and Girls Club has been quickly expanding its locations within Merced County, and students and volunteers alike are hoping for a more permanent foundation in Los Banos.

Being funded and staffed by volunteers from the community, the club has a long-standing history of providing young students with the same sense of education and security as a school with all the fun and communication of a social club.

Sue Emanivong, the acting program director and long-time community activist, embodies these ideals in her efforts to provide young community members with a safe space to play and learn.

“The direct impact on the community is going to show both in the current moment and in the long run,” Emanivong said, “we want to reach the areas that don’t get a lot of attention, like the west side of the county.”

The Boys and Girls Club is, first and foremost, a safe space for kids to play and interact, and the facility staff maintains this standard by remaining available for young students when they need it. “When the school’s closed, we’re open,” Emanivong, said. “We want to make sure that there is a safe place for kids to go after class.”

True to this vision, the club offers various camp programs in the spring, summer and winter to keep students staying home for the holiday breaks engaged with their studies and peers.

Currently, the club is hosting a winter camp program that offers kindergarten through sixth-grade students the opportunity to hone their creativity and problem-solving skills through crafts and activities.

Being hosted in the Germino Building at the Los Banos campgrounds, the club’s winter camp aims to provide idle students with a cooperative environment where they can thrive.

The club takes the security of its participants very seriously. Because the staff works directly with children, each volunteer (and full-time employee) is subject to a background check, tuberculosis test and work history screening.

Because it lies between the unique intersection of a social group and an educational hub, the club’s volunteers are treated very similarly to the employees of a school or daycare. The personnel who run the programs do not even allow parents to attend field trips to minimize kids’ exposure to unfamiliar individuals.

Due to its lack of a permanent foundation in Los Banos and its status as a nonprofit entity, the Boys and Girls Club needs volunteers. The existing staff urges community-minded volunteers to apply, as despite the rigorous background process, anyone of high school age or older is considered for employment.

The club works closely with Workforce Development, so potential volunteers preparing to leave high school can and will receive much support in their first steps into the workforce. Potential applicants can visit the club’s website or call its members to begin the application process.