Tue, July 23

Boys & Girls Club gets helping hand<br>Community pulls together to help

Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club Branch Director Elizabeth Heaney is elated at the generosity of the community to help the club out of a tough spot. The Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club was burglarized on Dec. 3 and donations were made in the form of video games and snacks for the club's store. "This community is passionate about the welfare of these kids," Heaney said. "And thanks to those who made donations, no matter how small, these kids have a safe place to go. It's really wonderful."

The theft severely impaired the club's operations and shut down the Torch Club Store, operated by club kids, that supplied hungry members with after-school snacks.

Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club Branch Directory Elizabeth Heaney said donations came in from citizens who were both angry with burglars and eager to help.

"The phone rang from morning ‘til night with people wanting to help the kids," she said. "It's really amazing how much this community cares."

She said the Central Arizona Food Bank in Cottonwood donated hundreds of pounds of high-quality snacks to the club.

Thanks to people who care, the Boys & Girls Club was able to restock its Torch Club store better than it was prior to the break-in.

"Individual donations came in and some of the messages were really touching," she said. "Notes like, 'I can't give much but I hope this helps, Merry Christmas.'"

Heaney added that the donations were more than she had expected, putting the club back on its feet after thieves made off with games and goodies.

"We got everything back and more," she said. "The kids were so grateful that they ran up and hugged the people who came in to donate."

She said that people who weren't able to donate much still stopped by to lend their support or to give what they could, "Like a bag of oranges or a bag of cookies," Heaney added. "Even if they didn't have much they still wanted to help the kids."

Heaney said that people called and said that they were fuming mad at the thieves and were on the lookout for anyone who looked like they were up to no good.

The sadness and outrage that resulted from the burglary turned to joy as a compassionate community pitched in to help. "We even got another X Box," Heaney added.

Dawn Kolb, operations manager Boys and Girls Club of Northern Arizona, said that she was surprised at how the community stepped up to the plate.

"They really helped us out and we were surprised at how generous and helpful everyone was," Kolb said. "It makes us glad, and the kids are really happy. That's what really matters."

Heaney said that the Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club is in need of security equipment, like an alarm system and a floor safe. She said that it is important to prevent future theft to protect donations, "And assure that the club continues to provide a positive and safe place for the children to go," she said.

The Boys & Girls Club of Cottonwood provides a positive environment for children after school and offers educational services, counseling, games and study time. The burglary set the club back financially, and club administrators saw no relief, despite only losing a small amount of cash and a few games.

Heaney said that people even came from as far away as Prescott to help.

"It was way more that I expected," Heaney said. "Even those who weren't able to help stopped by and offered some support. We got everything back and more."

The burglary was discovered when Heaney opened the club on the morning of Dec. 3.

Thieves had forced entry through a basement door and absconded with video games and $240 in cash in the form of scholarship, program fees and donation monies in addition to students' store funds and several sports video games.

Heaney said that what really hurt was losing the store funds.

"It shut down the Torch Club store," she said. "The kids were fuming."

To add insult to injury, thieves absconded with an award that a group of three club members from Cottonwood had won in a statewide competition in Phoenix called the Techathalon, a computer-orientated competition for young minds.

"We had kids compete in the statewide battle of the brains and they won an X Box video game," she said. "They trained a long time and did really well against the competition."

She added that the three Cottonwood students, ages 11 through 12, beat kids ages 17 to 18.

Heaney said that the Torch Club Store is stocked, managed and run by club members ages 9 through 12 and supplied members with after school snacks like fruit, chips, popcorn and soda.

Heaney said that the Torch Club has donated its proceeds to worthy causes in the past. She said that they were saving their money for a trip to Disneyland recently, but they voted instead to donate some $350 to the disaster relief fund for victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

She said that the Boys & Girls Club was financially unable to replace the things that were stolen, but thanks to a few generous citizens, the club is back in business.

Currently, the Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club has 199 members and averages 88 attendees per day.

Heaney said that the club is an important aspect of the educational process after school.

"Kids have a place to go from 2:30 to 6 until their parents get home from work," Heaney said.

Club members have access to a technology center offering several computer courses including Web-site design, Internet safety and computer animation in addition to physical education, arts and crafts, social building skills and counseling.

"Eighty-two percent of our kits are at-risk kids," Heaney said. "And our former members, who have grown up and are working come back and say 'this place saved my life. I'd either be dead or in jail if it weren't for this club.'"

Heaney said that she is proud of the community for helping the club stay open.

"Kids could never afford these things in their homes," Heaney said. "They looked forward to finishing their homework and doing these activities."

Cottonwood police are investigation this case. If you have information regarding this case, please contact Cottonwood Police Department at (928) 634-4246. If you wish to remain anonymous, call Yavapai Silent Witness at (800) 932-3232.

Anyone interested in making donations to the Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club may call the club's Branch Directory, Elizabeth Heaney at (928) 639-3057.