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Club aims to keep kids away from gangs
Madalynn Bates checks to see how her face paint looks in the mirror during the Day of Kids conducted by the Boys & Girls Club at Giles Park on Saturday. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Make no mistake about it.

Providing kids with a fun time wasn’t the main objective of Saturday’s Day of Kids conducted at Giles Park by the Boys & Girls Club of Manteca/Lathrop.

It was about showing them a way to keep out of trouble and staying away from gangs.

Some 300 kids took advantage of the day of free food, fun, and entertainment. Among those attending a healthy sprinkling have decided to become club members or are renewing their membership.

That is just what Charlie Halford wants to hear.

Halford is chief executive officer of the non-profit that is already struggling to keep programs in place for 1,500 youth. Like all non-profits, giving to the club is down.

But as a former Manteca Police officer Halford learned firsthand that the club really does work effectively to keep kids away from gangs. It is why now - retired as Manteca’s police chief - that Halford stepped up to take over the top position at the club and is doing so at half the salary of the previous elective director.

That is how strong he believes in the effectiveness of the club in making a difference in kids’ lives.

“Right now I can point to kids in the club that are being kept away from situations where they’d be (in gangs) today,” Halford said.

Attendance this past summer soared 26 percent with the club activities sometimes spilling into the park because the club was at capacity. The club has initiated new programs ranging from music lessons to bringing back the teen room.

The music lessons - provided free by GK Music - was made possible by the donation of funds to purchase guitars from the Police Chief’s Foundation.

Police Chief Dave Bricker said he was thrilled to see the club add the music program pointing out that not all kids want to play sports by noting “what kid doesn’t dream of being a rock star?”

Bricker believes the club has played a major role in reducing juvenile crime that is most likely to occur after school ends and before parents get home.

Club Program Director Cardoza added that the club has stepped up its homework assistance and tutoring by securing volunteers with specific expertise in various subjects. Kids hit the computer lab to tackle school work before joining in other club activities that run the gamut from sports and arts to table games or just hanging around with friends.

The club works closely with members’ teachers and parents. They often have a representative at parent-teacher conferences so they can dial in on exactly what help a student needs. And in cases where there are single parent households and the parent can’t get off work, club volunteers will step in to meet with teachers.

The club’s biggest fundraiser is coming up Nov. 25-26 in the form of the telethon. The goal is to raise $125,000.

Halford noted the club is in need of donations as well as volunteers to make the event a success.

“It is critical for us,” Halford said. “It is our biggest fundraiser. How the telethon goes is how the club goes.”

For more information contact the club at 239-KIDS.