Chip Lovell, whose daughters attend Ripon schools, spoke up at a town hall meeting Tuesday in Ripon High School’s community room. “I don’t think there’s a question that Ripon needs or wants it,” he said, of a prospective Ripon Boys & Girls Club. “We want it. I think, as a parent, I just came to find out, ‘OK, when does it open?’ ... What can we do to help open it, to get it going, to get it rolling, so that this happens?”        Maic D’Agostino photo
Chip Lovell, whose daughters attend Ripon schools, spoke up at a town hall meeting Tuesday in Ripon High School’s community room. “I don’t think there’s a question that Ripon needs or wants it,” he said, of a prospective Ripon Boys & Girls Club. “We want it. I think, as a parent, I just came to find out, ‘OK, when does it open?’ ... What can we do to help open it, to get it going, to get it rolling, so that this happens?” Maic D’Agostino photo

     Editor’s note: Below is an abridged version of a talk Publisher Tim Lyke gave Tuesday at a town hall meeting at Ripon High School to discuss the prospect of Ripon hosting a Boys & Girls Club. He serves on a planning committee exploring the possibility.  

    Remember the classic scene from “I Love Lucy,” when Lucy and Ethel are wrapping candy on an assembly line? As the conveyor goes faster, the women are unable to keep up and so start sticking candies in their mouths, down their shirts, under their hats and on the floor.

     That conveyer belt seems like a metaphor for our society and its children, a growing number of whom we seem unable to “wrap” in a protective layer of love. More children in Ripon are at risk than ever before. We can’t keep up as the toll taken on each succeeding generation elevates and escalates with higher poverty and its related issues: neglect, mental cruelty, family drug abuse, mobility and emotional frailty.

     Ripon’s incidence of free-and-reduced lunch — a most objective indicator of low-income — has doubled during the past decade. The 17 percent who ate subsidized lunches in 2005 ballooned to 34 percent in 2015. That’s 586 students. And no, criteria haven’t changed.

     Meanwhile, community trends are dramatic and unabated. When the Ripon Community Food Pantry opened downtown in 2006, it served 168 people in one month. Almost 10 years later, in October 2015, it helped 654 folks. ...

     And so our food pantry and our schools help manage hunger, but this doesn’t address the other by-products of poverty: Hygiene, behavior, health, safety, abuse, crime.    

     ... Our publicly financed institutions are left having to stretch dollars to feed, clothe, treat, rehabilitate and incarcerate children from broken homes.

     Pay now or pay later, it seems. But there’s another way, and it’s proven effective and economic.

     ... Boys & Girls Clubs provide our children with a safe place to gather where, with adult supervision and guidance, they can learn, play and grow; develop supportive relationships with caring mentors; and participate in enrichment programs, experiences and activities.

     Two and a half years ago a group of Ripon residents — including local business people Lee Baird and Drew Diedrich — began meeting to explore opening a Boys & Girls Club in Ripon.

     We have agreed that our schools, food pantries and county social services heroically care for our youngsters from a number of vantage points. But unless we help set a foundation for healthy beginnings with loving guidance, the symptoms of poverty, neglect and abuse will continue to grow, perpetuating a society where the least, the lost, the last are treated with Band-aids but given little hope for promising futures. ...                

— Tim Lyke

     To read the entire editorial see the Oct. 19, 2017 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.