Evanston Youth Club keeps on growing

Pictured is an artist’s rendering of the kitchen area planned for the Evanston Youth Club expansion on 6th Street. This expansion comes just three years after the club held a grand opening for its current facility near the Overthrust Ballfields.

EVANSTON — In the spring of 2018, the Evanston Youth Club celebrated the grand opening of its new facility on 6th Street, the culmination of a dream and years of hard work. At the time, Youth Club Director Holly Slade-West thought the new building would serve club needs for years to come. Now, less than three years later, the Youth Club is again looking to expand due to overwhelming popularity with local teens.

“My philosophy has become ‘if you build it, they will come,’” said Slade-West when discussing the need to expand again. She described it as “fortunate” the club has had both the 6th Street building and the old facility on 4th Street next to the Evanston Child Development Center. However, with the number of kids utilizing the club on a regular basis, there simply isn’t room to serve everyone with the high-quality programs the club provides.

Thankfully, said Slade-West, an expansion is already in the works. The plan is to break ground this spring on a new building on the same 6th Street property as “The Dana” — the name of the previous expansion, after Dana Larson Boote of the Larson Family Foundation, one of the principal donors for that expansion project.

The new building will contain classroom spaces for homework and activities, a gathering area, a recreation area, a garage/shop area and, perhaps most importantly, a large kitchen area for home economics/cooking classes, which Slade-West said are the most popular classes offered at the club. Currently, cooking classes take place in the old 4th Street building, which has extremely limited space in the kitchen.

Not only will the new expansion contain the cooking areas, but the plan is to also include a garage/shop area to house the club’s mountain bike program where kids can work on and repair bicycles for another one of the club’s most popular features.

Thanks to multiple donors, including some of the same people and organizations who helped sponsor the last expansion, approximately 70% of the estimated $550,000 price tag has already been raised and the club is in the process of raising the remaining funds.

Slade-West said it’s important to begin work on the project as soon as possible to lock in prices on building materials, which she said have already increased by about $80,000 in the past year since staff and the club board began discussing the need for an expansion.

Like many nonprofit organizations, the past year has been challenging for the club. Slade-West said she knew similar facilities in other locations simply closed their doors. However, the Evanston Youth Club has remained open since last summer and has only grown in popularity. She and Club Resource Development Director Jenn Barker said there are frequently days when the club is at capacity of about 80 kids at one time and over the past year more than 300 local youth have been served.

Community support for the club is critical, said Slade-West. Not only is that support necessary for the new expansion but it’s crucial for keeping the doors open to serve the hundreds of youth walking through the doors. In 2020, all of the club’s regular fundraising activities had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said CARES Act relief funding the club received through Uinta County allocations has been a lifesaver.

As of now, one of the club’s perennially popular fundraisers is scheduled to take place next month, when casino night is scheduled to return. The event is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, April 16, at the 6th Street facility. Tickets are $50 for a single and $75 for a couple and include dinner, one drink and $200 of casino chips. Slade-West said tickets will be limited due to COVID restrictions on gathering sizes and tables will be more spaced out than usual.

Slade-West said the support from the Evanston community has always been incredible. “It’s humbling to get donations from people who just give and give and give,” she said.

Another organization involved in some of that giving is the Daniels Fund, which is providing funding for another exciting club project. Slade-West said the Daniels Fund has funded the purchase of a food truck, which should be arriving in the next month or so, as part of a youth-operated project.

According to Slade-West, cooking classes at the club are so popular the decision was made to also start teaching the kids about business planning and operation. Some of the kids’ business ideas will be coming to life through the food truck, including a business logo, product testing, recipe planning and more. “We want to give the kids the tools to help them be successful now and in the future,” she said.

Another event that had to be canceled last year was the club’s annual awards dinner, which is scheduled to take place this year on May 7, which hopefully will take place in conjunction with the groundbreaking for the new expansion.

“This community is amazing and should be super proud of the support for youth,” said Slade-West. “You, unfortunately, don’t have to look far for examples of what happens when kids lose direction. Our programs are helping to teach them to be part of the solution.”

Additional information on the expansion, along with links to donate to the project or purchase tickets for casino night, is available online at theclubofevanston.org.

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