Like clockwork, workers at the Boys and Girls Club of Craig know what to expect every weekday when 3:05 p.m. rolls around.
That's when buses brimming with students from Moffat County schools arrive, and some of the magic that local organizers have been working toward for the past six months comes to life.
"They come streaming off the bus and run in here," said the club's director Jonathon Godes. "You should see it."
Indeed, the interior of the Boys and Girls Club on U.S. Highway 40 is barely recognizable from its former uses as a youth detention center and an armory.
Colorful paint invigorates the walls and new carpet lines the hallways as paint dries on a recently installed gymnasium floor. Donated materials of furniture, air hockey and foosball tables mix with pool and billiards games that seem to permanently be flanked by children. An art room keeps children busy with crafts while others type on keyboards behind computer monitors.
It's a scene that club organizers want to see well into the future, and they launched a fund-raising campaign Monday to try to make that a reality.
"We are trying to instill that this is the community's facility and to get them to take ownership of it," said Pres Askew, one of the club's founders, during a Monday night meeting. "My goal is to the have the Boys and Girls Club only second in value to the (Moffat County) school district."
Club organizers want the community to help front costs to fund a yearly budget of at least $283,000. However, a larger figure of $377,000 a year could help the club expand its programs and hire staff to accommodate an increasing number of members.
The club reports 370 members, but organizers expect that number to climb to 500 by the summer. Ultimately, organizers want 1,000 after-school students in the club's ranks.
Members pay a $10-a-year membership fee. If funds allow, the club may open its doors from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. this summer, charging an extra fee for members who arrive before noon.
Money is needed, Godes said, to help with operational costs of the facility that intermittently provides free meeting space for 28 other organizations. Utility costs run about $25,000 a year.
Capital costs usually can be covered with grants, he said. The club leases the building almost for free from the city of Craig after it bought the building with Department of Local Affairs grant.
But the club needs to be supported by the community to get state funds and grants, Godes said.
"For every dollar we get here, we can probably get two elsewhere," he said. "The first question (that grantors) always ask is, 'Does your community want you here?'"
According to some parents, the extra help has been a long-awaited godsend to help juggle work and childcare.
Gena Hinkemeyer said her 7-year-old son, Colton, can't wait to play dodge ball in the newly renovated gym. She also appreciates the cooperation from the Moffat County School district for busing students directly from school to the center.
"It's been such a great help for me workwise," she said. "The bus can take him and I can continue and work at my job. You don't have to figure out day care, which is difficult to find someone you can trust."
Marlena O'Leary told those at Monday's meeting that the afterschool program kept her 7-year-old son Riley from becoming a latchkey child.
"I wish we would have had the Boys and Girls Club sooner," she said. "It's been such an asset to the community. There's been a lot of involvement now, but there could be a lot more."
Club worker Ellen Johnson said the facility helps children of various ages interact and build self-esteem.
The longtime former teacher also said she wished the facility had been available when she raised her two children.
"It was meant to be," Johnson said. "It'll build a community."
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com