Major Donor Seeds Big Impact in Indian Country
Every day, hundreds of thousands of Native youth enter or log on to their Club, where they access the same life-enhancing programs and support found at Clubs nationwide. But Native youth get even more: Native Clubs also help strengthen their youth’s cultural identity with culturally relevant programming and services, providing opportunity and hope. Though many of these Clubs and communities face challenges from food insecurity to health and income disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Club youth are empowered to succeed and know that they are more than the statistics. In fact, 88% of Native youth who regularly attend a Club expect to graduate from high school and 92% abstain from alcohol.
That impact Clubs have for Native youth and communities is what prompted Dale Larson, president of the Larson Family Foundation and former CEO of Larson Manufacturing, to make a $30 million contribution to Boys & Girls Clubs of America. And when several Native Clubs learned they were the recipients of a portion of that funding, they knew it would be transformational. As Patrick Breen, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Missouri River, put it, “the Larson Family Foundation gift will have lasting impact on our organization. This gift provides the resources to combat learning loss and other issues so many children have experienced during the pandemic.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lower Brule plans to use the additional funding to hire more staff, remodel two existing structures to reach more than the 422 youth they currently serve and build a new technology lab that will greatly increase their distance learning capacity – improvements that will have a powerful impact for the rural community.
Located in the grasslands of South Dakota, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe lacks a grocery store and faces high unemployment rates – challenges the Club often addresses in creative, culturally significant ways. In 2019, the Club organized a buffalo hunt that fed not only Club kids, but the entire community, allowing youth to learn the deep cultural ties between the buffalo and their tribe. With these improvements, Boys & Girls Clubs of Lower Brule will continue to build on the strength of their community, increasing their on-site capacity by 50% and reaching even more young people with expanded distance learning opportunities.
In nearby Rosebud, the Boys & Girls Club of Rosebud is working to revitalize the tribal language and foster their communities’ cultural connections. While unemployment in this rural community often reaches over 80% and many Rosebud Sicangu must leave the area for employment, the Club actively works to strengthen community and cultural ties. The Club will use the additional funding from the Larson gift to not only support their language revitalization efforts, but to also reach more youth, upgrade their transportation and technology, improve their baseball field and build a running path to establish a youth running club.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Missouri River Area serves over 700 young people in Charles Mix County, where COVID-19 has impacted both the Yankton Sioux Tribe and the Club. Funds that were ear-marked for Club renovations and repairs were reallocated during the COVID-19 pandemic to essentials like meals, virtual programming and childcare for essential workers. The additional funding from the Larson gift will not only allow the Club to make these long overdue improvements, it will jumpstart their plan to expand programming, increase access to technology and the internet for the youth they serve, hire staff and provide a full transportation program.
Even prior to COVID-19, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Standing Rock was collaborating with their local school districts and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to meet community needs. During the ongoing pandemic, the partnership has become invaluable as they address food insecurity, learning loss, and the lack of technology and access to the internet their young people are experiencing. But with only one Clubhouse and one transportation van to reach the nearly 300 Native youth they serve, the Club faced challenges. “Every year, our Club struggles with funding for operating expenses for utilities, insurances, audits, supplies, repairs and maintenance,” said Marcella Yellow Hammer, Executive Director, “this year, 2021, with the generosity from the Dale Larson Family Foundation donation to our Club, we will not have to struggle.”
The Club plans to hire staff, expand programming to include a STEM program, purchase computers to support virtual learning and construct new facilities to more than triple youth participation. The long-term impact? A sustainable organization with robust programming that bolsters Standing Rock Sioux youth’s pride in their cultural identity and prepares them to be the next generation of tribal leaders and cultural stewards.
Dale Larson is committing this gift with the goal to have his investment matched by other donors, investors and partners to ensure that Boys & Girls Clubs on Native lands have the resources they need to continue building great futures for Native kids and teens.
To learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs in Indian Country, visit https://naclubs.org/.
For more information on Dale Larson’s contribution, view the press release here.