Community, Creswell

A ‘smart’ presentation

Creswell Clubhouse’s Sign Language Club signs during the variety show at the Clubhouse’s 10th anniversary dinner. From left, top: Ariel Major-Thomas, Ava Foote, Aliana Legorreta and Sophie Bilyeu; lower: Lauren Clemmons, Dezmynd Rosales and Karson Colombo. Gini Davis

CRESWELL – Ten years of supporting K-5 students and families with affordable after-school care were celebrated in charming style last Saturday, as Creswell Clubhouse hosted a spaghetti dinner and eclectic show featuring cheerleading, hip-hop dance, Spanish, American Sign Language (ASL) and the Clubhouse Choir.
The Performance Club hosted ”Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” with parents challenging fifth- graders and winning; a silent auction of desserts and flowers, coloring contest and 50/50 raffle were held; and Clubhouse’s Community Helpers Club planned, decorated, emceed and served dinner at the event.
But delightful as dinner and show were, the best testament to Clubhouse’s fun, enriching environment were the bustling, smiling, bright-eyed children themselves; to a one, they seemed happy to belong – not only content to spend time there but eager to do so:
”I met all my friends at Clubhouse. We have a place to hang out after school and have fun,” said fifth-grader Abigail Arnold.
”I like the leaders,” added fifth-grader Logan Tripp.
”I get to do fun clubs and be a server for Spaghetti Dinner,” said second-grader Erik Branam.
”I love Clubhouse because you can make friends here,” said third-grader Evelyn Harris.
Although Creswell Clubhouse started 14 years ago, the March 7 celebration in the high school commons marked their 10 years as a nonprofit.
”We started as a school program, with a UO intern and help from United Way; we served 12 third- and fourth-graders, two days a week,” said executive director Laura Rariden.
When Rariden took the helm, the growing program sought nonprofit status ”so we could write grants and take in more donations than we could as a school program,” she said.
The nonprofit now serves about 70 students, with 50 attending every weekday. Along with homework help, Clubhouse offers specialty clubs drawn from the interests and talents of staff and a steady stream of UO interns working toward child-centered careers.
”I feel passionate about training the next generation of teachers, counselors, and family and human service workers,” Rariden said. ”They’re able to gain valuable work experience while helping to support the kiddos in Creswell.”
Many clubs contributed to Saturday’s show; Rariden herself taught and choreographed the new Hip-Hop Dance Club’s performance to ”Thunder,” by Imagine Dragons.
”To my great surprise, (Dance Club) was a huge hit,” said Rariden, who also leads Space Club and Test-Taking for Fun. ”I went to a performing arts high school and studied dance for four years. It was really great getting to dust off and utilize those skills and see these children work together to accomplish quite an awesome dance performance.”
Between acts, Rariden presented Legacy Sponsor Awards to major contributors to Clubhouse’s success, including founding board president Aaron Madzik; founding board member and current president Audra Ramirez; founding board member and program graduate Reina Ramirez; and founding board member and current secretary Kayla Ramirez – a program graduate, middle/high school volunteer and staff member.
Eugene Elks Club #357 was also recognized: ”We have a lot of donors and business sponsors and grants, but they’re the only one who’s supported us all 10 years,” Rariden said.
Kayla and mom Audra then surprised Rariden with flowers and a trophy.
”She’s been up here giving out lots of thank yous, but she’s the one who deserves the biggest thank you,” Kayla said in presenting the award, which read: ”Clubhouse would not be celebrating 10 years as a nonprofit without you. Your dedication to this program made an invaluable difference to the community. Thank you for your commitment to Clubhouse.”
”It was very touching and means the world to me,” Rariden said.
So, obviously, does Creswell Clubhouse.
”This community needs our program, and I am privileged to do meaningful work which greatly impacts the lives of so many children,” Rariden said. ”The children of Creswell have limited or no opportunity to participate in classes and activities after school, so I made a conscious decision to focus my work locally, where I felt it was needed most.
”Working in Creswell and serving these children and families has been an honor,” she said. ”I really love the small-town feel and happy, grateful children.”



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