The Boys and Girls Club started out in 1971 in the basement of the Western Heritage Center. Today, 37 years later, the program has 5 locations in Yellowstone County, including the central Bair Family Clubhouse at 505 Orchard Lane.
Serving thousands of kids a year, the BGC offers after-school programs and summer programs to enrich the lives of kids who need a safe, healthy place to go outside of school hours.
More than child care, the BGC provides healthy snacks and hearty meals so no kid goes hungry. After school activities are designed to enhance and support school learning with homework help, an art room, a full-size indoor gym, health and life skills education, leadership development and technology training.
Tour of the Bair Family Clubhouse
When I visited the clubhouse, I was impressed by the facilities vibrant colors, rich wood tones, and cleanliness. It’s an inviting, brightly lit building with spaces designed for kids. Pool tables, air hockey, and foosball are great for the older kids to unwind after a long day at school. Kids needing to burn off steam from sitting all day can do so in the colorful gym protected from the cold weather, while warmer days could be spent running around the outdoor playground.
A cozy library and study room sits adjacent to the art room full of all the supplies and materials a creative mind could want and lots of natural light streaming in. The tech room offers computers AND even a robotics lab! How cool is that?
The recent remodel included a redesign of the bathrooms which previously were tucked in a back hallway with only a few toilets for the hundreds of kids. Now, the bathrooms have multiple stalls each and an open hand-wash area ensuring that kids use their hygiene and that leaders can monitor kids in a safe way.
The remodel also made space for a teen lounge that serves as a dedicated space for teens since hanging out with their younger siblings isn’t as much fun as with their peers. A teen-run coffee shop was installed to help kids understand what it takes to run a business. And they do very well as you can imagine!
How it all started
Back in 1969 when the idea of a Boys and Girls Club came to prominent members of the Billings community, some doubted the possibility of a club being feasible in Billings, MT.
Tim Healey, the manager of Midland National Bank’s trust department, sat in the initial meeting, and recalls, “I didn’t think a club was possible here”.
As with any non-profit, funding was the issue, but it seemed destined that a BGC would establish in Billings because money came in from all over the country to help get it started. Then prominent members of the Billings community also got involved—people like Alberta Bair, Archie Cochrane, Ward Swanser and Joseph Sample who have contributed to the fabric of Billings itself.
The dream back then became the successful organization BGC is today, serving Billings youth, not just from the south side, but all over town.
What most impressed me was that many of their staff were once kids who attended BGS. Now they serve as leaders and advocates for the organization. What a testament to how effective a positive place and people can have on kids during times when they could be led astray. Kids who attend BGC programs across the country miss 87% less school days than non-club members. BGC truly does make an impact on the success of kids who attend!
How you can help
The BGC thrives on local donations and volunteers. If you are called to this mission, you can get involved in a number of ways:
Or contribute financially through the Endowment Foundation.
Contact for more information
Boys and Girls Club of Yellowstone County
505 Orchard Lane
Billings, MT 59101