Permanent Sultan Boys & Girls Club to open more than 4 years after fire

SULTAN — A new Boys &Girls Club is nearly ready to open after a Christmas Eve fire more than four years ago destroyed the building that previously housed the nonprofit.

The new $2 million building at 605 First St. on May 26 is to be home to programs that expose young people to education, art, sports and community service.

The Sultan Boys &Girls Club hasn’t had a permanent home since Dec. 24, 2010, when a blaze gutted the two-story building at 705 First St. and a day-care center next door.

After the fire, people in the community stepped up to make sure the club would continue serving Sultan children and teens without interruption, said Boys &Girls Club of Snohomish County Director Bill Tsoukalas.

“They’re the heroes,” he said.

Within hours, Volunteers of America Western Washington offered space at the nearby Sky Valley Family and Community Resource Center. The club has been operating there ever since.

Now, the nonprofit is getting ready to move into new digs on the VOA campus. The 6,000-square-foot building includes a game room, a computer lab, a kitchen and the VOA early childhood center. Tsoukalas said the location is close to schools.

Eventually, the Boys &Girls Club is to be expanded to include a 7,000-square-foot gymnasium.

“Hopefully, we’ll get enough funding from Olympia to build the gym,” Tsoukalas said. “We’re pretty confident it’ll be there.”

The nonprofit is waiting to see if the Legislature approves $340,000 that could be put toward building the gym. The VOA was awarded a $203,000 grant to reimburse the Boys &Girls Club for the early childhood center.

After the fire, the club received money to rebuild from private donors, the city of Sultan, Snohomish County and the state.

The city, which owned the burned buildings, decided to release about $1.2 million in insurance money to the nonprofit to build a new club. The Legislature in 2011 awarded the club an additional $500,000 in state money. The nonprofit also received $340,000 in Snohomish County community development grants.

The Sultan Boys &Girls Club will be led by Cherise Crawford. It will open with a full-time staff of four. Tsoukalas said he expects to hire more staff as attendance increases.

Before the fire, the Sultan club had about 525 members. That number has declined to about 300, with some children going to other clubs nearby, Tsoukalas said.

The new building is expected to serve about 1,000 members and also children who occasionally come in.

“It’ll be a safe place where they can hang out with their friends,” Tsoukalas said.

With the computer lab, the club will be able to offer more science, technology, engineering and math programs.

Tsoukalas said the nonprofit, which has 15 clubs across the county, works closely with school districts.

In the Arlington School District, the Boys &Girls Club compared standardized test scores of members with other students in 2013. Tsoukalas said the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students who attended a club earned better marks in reading, math and science than their peers.

“That’s what’s supposed to happen when kids are engaged in after-school activities,” he said. “We want to help kids succeed, whether it’s in the classroom or in the community.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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