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Boys & Girls Club offers safe haven, instills confidence in Valley youth

Miguel Lopez is confident.

He believes in himself.

And, now at age at 19, he's become the first in his family to go to college as he starts classes at Modesto Junior College this fall where he also hopes to play basketball for the Pirates.

There was a time, though, that Lopez was anything but confident.

He rarely talked in groups and when he did his voice would tremble or trail off. He was bullied in elementary school and was reeling from being in a broken home.

But then things changed. He joined the Manteca-Lathrop Boys and Girls Club at age 7.

It was there he discovered basketball. And it was there that he was able to develop his personality and strength.

"Everyone there had similar situations," Lopez said. "There were kids that were foster children. There were people whose parents verbally and physically abused them. We accepted each other because we knew what we were going through."

Lopez is one of 1,500 active members of the Manteca-Lathrop Boys & Girls Club. The 35-year-old non-profit has a clubhouse at 545 W. Alameda St. in Manteca that's open year round. A site at Lathrop School in Lathrop is open during the school year.

Membership is $12 a year for those ages 6 through 17 with scholarships available for those whose families can't afford the fee.

Unlike many other Boys & Girls Clubs, the fee is all inclusive. There is no extra charge for programs such as karate lessons, basketball, flag football, and such.

The membership is across all social-economic classes.

The club offers a teen program, games room, gym, tutoring, computer lab, art classes, Food for Thought program that awards kids completing homework bags of groceries for their families, a youth service club, Smart Moves designed to instill smart choices, and more. But perhaps most importantly it offers a safe haven for kids to hang out and make friends.

It also keep kids out of trouble.

The first year the club opened, juvenile crime in many Manteca neighborhoods plunged by 35 percent.

Now that school is back in session, club hours are 3 to 9 p.m. after school.

The club is supported primarily by fundraisers to cover most of its $450,000 operating budget. The biggest fundraiser is the two-day telethon that generates $110,000 a year on average, The telethon, which takes place the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving in Comcast Channel 97, is now in its 34th year.

For more information go to

or call (209) 239-KIDS.