It Takes a Village

Help the local Boys & Girls Club support local youth at their annual Gingerbread Village fundraiser, December 3-16

“In January, when it’s really nasty out, we usually run Sportsorama, where we are in a gym and give kids the opportunity to try out different kinds of sports, such as volleyball, basketball and indoor soccer. The leaders get together with the kids and talk about what they want to do so that they can try a little bit of everything,” explains Nieuwejaar.

“The great thing about this program is that kids who are not so focused on exercise and activity will get a chance to figure out that, ‘Hey, I really like badminton or floor hockey.’ And they will see where they fit in and from being in this non-competitive environment then they go on to doing the sport in the community.”

And for parents, the Club runs a couple of education programs, which have been very well received. Parenting Without Power Struggles is for those facing issues with their 10 to 13-year-olds. The program focuses on preteen issues, adolescent development and developing the skills that can develop a supportive family relationship. The other program, Parents Together, covers some of the same ground but is directed to parents of teenagers aged 13 to 19 years, and looks more at communication skills and conflict resolution, as well as boundaries, expectations and empowerment.

Even with all the different programs offered through the CVBGC, they have a hard time keeping up with the needs of the community, which seem to be ever-increasing. Whether it is because of more people coming to the Valley, increasingly difficult times financially, higher numbers of single parents or families where both parents need to work, there does seem to be a growing need for youth programs, says Nieuwejaar.

“We do see an increase in the amount of kids with more challenges in their lives, such as having a safe place to go or even meeting daily activity levels,” she says, adding that according to Canada’s Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth 2008, physical health and well-being for kids is decreasing. Ninety per cent of children aren’t meeting daily activity requirements due to lack of unstructured play opportunities because of parents’ fears that their kids are not safe.

Obviously, providing quality, supervised programs requires a certain amount of money. Nieuwejaar admits that the costs of the programs, like the need for them, are also increasing.

“There are fees for the programs but we try to keep them as minimal as possible. That said, no child is ever excluded based on their inability to pay, so we have sponsorships and we don’t turn kids away because they can’t pay—ever,” she emphasizes. “While it’s hard to do that, because it isn’t exactly great for the revenue, we feel that we have to because we believe that all kids deserve it and that all kids have potential.”

Some of their funding comes from the province’s BC Access Grants and the parent services programs are funded by the Ministry for Children and Families. They also get some funding from the national club from time to time. But a big part of their funds come from sponsorships and donations from individuals or businesses in the community.
“The community is wonderful at supporting us, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need more support, because we certainly do. We are not a big organization in terms of non-profits in the Valley—we are just a little star in the universe—but the community has been wonderful about supporting us, particularly with our annual fundraisers.”
The Club hosts two big events every year, a golf tournament in May and the Gingerbread Village in December.
The Gingerbread Village consists of various-sized “building lots”—for example, business, residential or heritage—that have been purchased and decorated. The viewing of the houses occurs for two weeks and people can vote for their favorites, as well as put in bids through a silent auction.

As well as the houses, there are theme teddy bears, which have been purchased and decorated and are also up for auction. “What people do is buy a bear from us for $25 and then decorate them… and these bears are truly collector’s items,” says Nieuwejaar. “They are beautifully done, such as gardening bears, cooking bears or knights in shining armour. People do really wonderful artistry.”

Even though it is too late to purchase bears or lots this year, the public is invited to bid for items and vote for their favorites during the viewing dates of December 3 to 16 at the Filberg Heritage Lodge in Comox. The Lodge will be open weekdays from 10 am to 5 pm and weekends from 11-4 pm during this time. Admission is by donation to the Filberg Lodge and large groups should phone ahead.

“The Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park Association is really excited to host the Gingerbread Village display this year,” says Roni Larsen, administrator of the Association. “It is nice to have the Lodge being used at Christmastime and to see it all decorated, as well as help support a great cause like the Boys and Girls Club.
“We encourage people to come out and see the gingerbread diplay and enjoy the park at the same time—it’s a wonderful family outing and the perfect way to celebrate the season,” Larsen adds.

In addition to the fundraising, the Club depends on the community for volunteers and they truly appreciate any and all support that they receive.

“Like all non-profits we need that community involvement,” says Nieuwejaar. “We have a pool of about 40 volunteers that aren’t all always available to us—some are there for a one-off event like the gingerbread event or for different sessions of programs—but they are the backbone of the Boys and Girls Club. And it’s because of them that we can deliver all our programs.”

For anyone interested in volunteering their time, they will have to undergo a criminal record check, fill out a volunteer information form and go through an interview and screening process. And once a volunteer gets involved, he or she is bound to get hooked.

“Everyone who works at the Club has a great belief in it, and we see that through the kids who keep coming back,” Nieuwejaar says. “Many come back as junior leaders in summer day camps and that kind of continuity is really important and speaks to the success of the programs. We truly believe that every kid has potential and we just walk that walk every day.”

The Gingerbread Village can be viewed December 3 to 16 at the Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park, 61 Filberg Road in Comox.

For directions visit

For more information about the Gingerbread Village call Marianne Cottingham at 250-218-7653.

To find out more about the CVBGC programs or volunteering, call 250-338-7582 or check out their website at

2 Responses to It Takes a Village

  1. Do you send out electronic versions of your magazine? I would love to receive it regularily if possible. Rosemary Cook 604-986-4845

  2. Hi Rosemary,

    We’re still working on our email version — signup at the top right of the page. You can also grab the RSS feed.

    Thanks for reading!