It's a winter wonderland for some and a respite for others.
Hundreds of local youth have streamed into the Lake Elsinore Boys & Girl's Club daily this winter, finding fun activities and helpful staff to fill the cold mornings and afternoons.
Kids and teens come together at the Alberhill Ranch Clubhouse to play sports, engage in the arts, watch educational videos, learn leadership and prep for college classes.
The activities are part of the organization's Winter Break Camp, which invites parents to drop off their youngsters for playtime and relaxation while they handle errands or work.
Chris Lara, director at Alberhill, said he knows many of the kids and has been motivating them for nearly five years.
Youngsters who visit the club benefit from peer-to-peer interaction with kids their age, Lara said. That back-and-forth promotes leadership skills and helps keep them busy.
“We’re all about servicing the youth from ages six to seventeen,” Lara said. “We have programs for all different ages, everything from sports to collage prep.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Riverside County, Alberhill's parent organization, was founded in 1990 at Margarita Middle School in Temecula. The clubs are one of the fastest growing youth development agencies in Riverside County, with more than 400 youngsters participating in activities each day, according to their website.
Alberhill, a 5,500-square-foot clubhouse, is the group's newest facility. It features pool tables, computers, games, dancing and other indoor activities. Outside are open, grassy fields, lunch tables, slides and more.
It's also the only clubhouse with a state-run snack program, according to Lara.
The clubs offer scholarship programs to parents who can’t afford or have difficulty paying membership fees. Struggling parents can save anywhere from 20 to 50 percent off of club pricing, according to Lara.
On average, the Lake Elsinore club plays host to about 100 kids and youth every day, with roughly 20 kids assigned to each staff member. The clubs will never turn the kids away from participating in activities, regardless of economic standing or class sizes, Lara said.
“We never turn anyone away,” Lara said. “We try to stick with a twenty to one, but if we absolutely have we can extend that ratio depending on the program.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs are all about building a positive environment for the staff, kids and parents, organizers said.
“We’re very helpful to the community, parents and the kids,” said Lara.
“The experience of coming here, the people you’ll meet, and building relationships with the staff,” is incredible, he said.