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Boys & Girls Club - Buena Park

A warm turkey dinner with all of the trimmings is a lovely tradition that most people look forward to on Thanksgiving. For most of the kids who attend the after-school programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Buena Park, that special holiday dinner is not a given.

60% of the kids are way below the poverty level, many are homeless, live in motels, cars, foster care, or if they are lucky, at a grandparents’ house.

For the first time ever, 225 kids and 65 families were treated to a Thanksgiving dinner from Bracken’s Kitchen at the Boys & Girls Club last week. The meals were generously sponsored thanks to the Rooster’s Foundation.

Luz Trout, Program Director at the Boys & Girls Club of Buena Park has worked at the facility for the past 16 years. “I really fell in love with it,” said Luz.

She oversees all of the programs offered at the facility and there are many.

They offer mentorship, gardening, woodshop, arts and craft, health and fitness, a tech club, a media club where the kids create content for their social media accounts, even Tik Tok, and they blog on YouTube. They learn the safe and correct way to use social media.

The Adulting 101 program includes financial literacy, how to take care of a car, how to cook, and even how to do laundry. “Kids learn how to save money, budget, and balance a checking account. We’ll take the kids to a car dealership and they’ll learn how to change the oil, replace windshield wipers, and more. We’ll also go to a laundromat and teach the kids the proper way how to wash clothes and use a washer and dryer,” said Luz.

During the height of the pandemic, the Boys & Girls Club served as a distance learning center for students who had no school to go to, and home wasn’t an option either. “Every day we had to help each child with their online schooling, we were trying to get better internet speeds, it was a crazy time, but we had to get through it,” said Luz.

The Boys & Girls Club of Buena Park was founded in 1948, today there are former members in their thirties to seventies who will stop by to visit the center. Some parents who went through the program now have their kids attending. It’s nostalgic, and a place of good memories.

The kids who are members of the after-school program from Buena Park and Centralia School Districts are picked up daily from their nine different schools. It’s the only youth facility in Buena Park.

“Knott’s is a huge partner for us. The beautification project funded by Knott’s includes a new play area, landscape, a garden area where the kids grow produce, and much more,” said Luz. “The playground is where the kids partake in non-competitive FITS, meaning ‘friends, interact through sports.’”

Luz said the kids were getting excited about the dinner (Roasted Chicken, Steamed

Rice, Fresh Vegetables, Tossed Salads, and some delicious Beignets for Dessert) all week and seeing Babs roll-in. It’s all they could talk about, and the smiles on their faces warmed everyone’s heart who served the meals.

The next day, Luz was able to get some feedback from the kids and parents about the dinner.

A single mom of four said, "I don't know how to express my gratitude, I am so thankful that my kids are surrounded by so much love."

A mom of five said (after she received the take-home meals), "You guys are too good to us...I wish I could say more, but I am trying really hard not to cry."

A six-year-old girl said, "Yesterday was the best day ever!"

A 12 year-old-boy said, "It’s really cool to see that a lot of people actually care."

A 17-year old girl said, "I have been at the Club since I was 6 and I've seen a lot of events like this, and even after all this time I'm still like 'Dang! people are really nice!' they don't even know us and they want to give back."

A seven-year-old boy said, "The round donuts (beignets) were the best part, are they gonna come back next week?"

We are honored and grateful to be able to serve the kids and their families a memorable dinner. We look forward to serving them again.



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