By Jackie Fender
The Boys and Girls Club of America’s vision has deep roots, founded in 1860 with three women in Hartford, Conn. striving to provide a positive alternative for boys who roamed the streets, starting the first club. Since then, the organization’s vision “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens,” has thrived and set the mission into motion across the nation. The organization finally settled in the South Sound region in 1940. Today, the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound serves about 6,400 children and teens throughout Pierce, Kitsap and Mason Counties.
On Oct. 1, Darren Zemanek, vice president at Columbia Bank and chair of the Board of Governors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, announced that Carrie Prudente Holden has been appointed as the new president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound. Though Holden has been serving as president since January of this year, she is the first woman to hold the president and CEO position in the organization’s 77-year history.
The South Sound resident and mother herself was born and raised in the Spanaway area, attending school in the Franklin Pierce District. She has dedicated nearly 22 years to the Boys and Girls Club, but it all started, she recalls, at her first day. During the usual volunteer orientation with the Club taking a tour with an employee, a child of about 8 or 9 years old approached and was really excited that he had seen “the bridge.” She was thinking about all the traditional bridges a child would be excited to go across when it was revealed that the student was talking about the Narrows Bridge. A bridge that is only a few miles away from the Hilltop neighborhood filled a child with glee. “I was hooked,” Holden said.
Holden said she was “beyond honored” to accept the leadership role at the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound. “I’ve dedicated my career to serving youth who need us most,” she said. “With our strong board, exceptional staff and steadfast donors, we will continue to provide a safe and engaging experience for our Club members within a positive culture for our incredible team of employees.”
In an effort to provide a positive environment where youth could flourish, the Boys and Girls Clubs have cultivated a variety of activities and services through youth development programs focusing in three content areas: academic success, character and leadership, and healthy lifestyles. These core topics include services from sports and recreation, leadership development, health and wellness education and opportunities to participate in the arts including dance, visual arts, drama and more.
Beyond that capacity, Holden said the organization is privileged to work with youth but also focuses on family stability and even goes so far as to provide a family support worker on staff, available to guide parents who may suffer from physical and mental illness or addiction, to much needed resources better enabling them to parent successfully.
“We provide a space for youth to try on different futures in a safe space to both succeed and fail,” she said. The Club also serves 460,000 meals and snacks annually, a vital aspect of the safe space they provide, especially given the fact that 75 percent of the youth who fill their space receive free or reduced lunch. “We want to help families have that amazing quality time,” Holden said. “Even if it’s only 30 minutes to an hour, that time is so valuable. Our mission is to help kids grow up and help families with that responsibility.”
Among Holden’s duties, she will manage a $6.5 million annual operating budget that continues to serve more than 1,450 youth in our community each day ranging from 6 to 18 years of age with the organization’s after-school and summer programs. Given Holden’s passion for the work she does, it’s safe to assume that the organization is in good hands.
For more information on the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, call (253) 502-4600 or visit the website at www.bgcsps.org.