On Tuesday, Boys & Girls Club of Craig reached a record summer of 104 children enrolled. Forty-three of them are pictured above. Last summer, an average of 57 children came to the club

Photo by Hans Hallgren

On Tuesday, Boys & Girls Club of Craig reached a record summer of 104 children enrolled. Forty-three of them are pictured above. Last summer, an average of 57 children came to the club

'Happily surprised'

Summer attendance swells at Boys & Girls Club of Craig

By the numbers

Boys & Girls Club of Craig attendance

Summer 2007

• 57: Average child count

• 71: Highest number of children at the club

• $35,000: Average monthly operating cost during the summer

Summer 2008

• 104: Highest child count at the club this summer

• 26 percent: Increase in children at the club from summer 2007

• 13 percent: Increase in operating and staffing expenses from summer 2007

— At the Boys & Girls Club of Craig this summer, more is better, administrators said.

The club is operating at full capacity this summer, increasing the club's need for staff and resources.

Although increasing enrollment numbers have brought a similar increase in the organization's operating expenses, club administrators said more children at the club is a good sign.

On Tuesday, the number of children at the club topped out at 104, exceeding last year's record summer enrollment by 33 children. Attendance at the club has increased by 26 percent this year from summer 2007, Program Coordinator Michele Santagata said.

"We're just operating at maximum capacity," Executive Director Dana Duran said. "All programs are full."

To compensate for the growing number of children, the club hired two more high school-age junior staff members and added two regular staff members to its staff for the summer.

Most of the club's cost can be traced back to staffing costs, Santagata said, adding that longer staffing hours during the summer increase those expenses.

During the school year, the club is open to children from 3 to 7 p.m.

But, during the summer, the club opens its doors to children for more than 11 hours - from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Food Bank of the Rockies provides food for the club through a grant, Santagata said. In the summer months, supplies from the Food Bank help staff members maintain a daily breakfast, lunch and snack menu.

Other summer costs come into the equation, she said, including program supplies.

On an average summer, the club spends $35,000 a month to keep its doors open, Duran said.

This year, however, those expenses increased by about 13 percent, Santagata said.

Added enrollment helps offset those costs. In addition to their $10 annual membership fee, parents or guardians pay an additional $10 every day their children stay at the club during its extended hours from 1 to 6 p.m.

Public support is "critical" for the club to maintain extended operation hours during the summer, Duran said.

"To have 104 kids that are here at the club and not out on the streets - I think it's really important because they have a positive place to be," she said.

Increasing attendance begs the question about where the additional children are coming from. The Moffat County School District hasn't seen a similar trend in its student enrollment.

The School District's student population didn't noticeably increase last year, Superintendent Pete Bergmann said, adding that student enrollment in the school district likely will remain stable during the 2008-09 school year.

Duran attributed swelling summer numbers to the club itself.

"I think that the word is getting out about the club," she said. "I think that more people are finding out about it."

Duran said rising fuel and food costs could be prompting parents to find affordable child care sources.

Duran and Santagata said they embrace the change.

"I'm surprised a little tiny bit (by higher child numbers) but happily surprised," Duran said, "and willing to take on this challenge of accommodating more and more kids."

"It also makes us feel that we're doing something right," Santagata said. "If there's more kids coming : something good is happening."

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