South Haven Club turns 30
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent June 21, 2012 3:10PM
Mia Adams, 7, of South Haven, (foreground, far right) watches as program aide Dawn Williams moves the cake to be cut during a 30th anniversary party for the South Haven Boys & Girls Club in South Haven, Ind. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
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South Haven Club, go to
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:13AM
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County, South Haven Club first opened its doors in 1979 in a garage on a Little League field, serving around 100 kids.
The club has grown exponentially since that humble beginning and, on June 14, celebrated 30 years at its facility at 723 Long Run Road, which officially opened on June 6, 1982.
The club had 852 members during the last school year, director Ron Ranta said.
“Last year alone, we served over 96,000 hours of kids here,” he said, split between 37,000 visits.
The club serves children ages 5 to 18 from the Portage Township, Valparaiso, Duneland and Union Township school systems, Ranta said, with fitness and technology offerings, drug and alcohol resistance education, and tutoring and mentoring programs.
“I believe this community would be in a lot of trouble” without the club, Ranta said. “Boys and Girls Clubs statistics show crime rises when there is no Boys and Girls Club in a community like this.”
The Valparaiso club was the first one to open in Porter County, and the South Haven location followed 10 years later, Chuck Leer, the nonprofit’s president, said.
The organization started with about 200 members and a $70,000 budget. The clubs, which also include locations in Portage and Chesterton, now have almost 5,000 members countywide and a total budget of almost $1.3 million, Leer said. In total, the units serve 960 children a day.
“Where would those 900-some kids be if we weren’t open?” Leer said, adding some would be with family or friends, but not all. “There are an awful lot of kids who wouldn’t have the options they have because we’re here.”
Sgt. Larry LaFlower, public information officer with the Porter County Sheriff’s Department, was a member of the club when he was growing up in South Haven, and was a two-time recipient of the club’s Youth of the Year honor.
He started coming to the club around 1984 because both his parents worked, “so I had nothing to do but come here.”
Through the club, he developed leadership skills that he uses in his career.
“Take advantage now,” he told dozens of club members who gathered for the facility’s birthday celebration, “because I know you have a really good program.”