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County offers hand to start Boys and Girls Club in Hibbing

The St. Louis County Board gave initial approval Tuesday to provide $250,000 in funding to help launch the program.

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GNESEN TOWNSHIP — The St. Louis County Board is providing a lift to start a new Boys and Girls Club in Hibbing.

The board gave its unanimous approval at its meeting Tuesday to use $250,000 of its $54 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to start the initiative.

“We all know that when we invest in our youth it pays dividends,” said Commissioner Mike Jugovich, of Chisholm. “I’m proud to be a part of this.”

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Commissioner Mike Jugovich

The move comes after the board agreed in April to spend $250,000 to help complete construction of a skate park in Gary-New Duluth. Commissioners last year vowed to spend $1 million in recovery funds on initiatives throughout the county aimed at young people.

The Hibbing Boys and Girls Club is expected to launch later this year as an affiliate branch of the Duluth-based Boys and Girls Club of the Northland. It will provide after-school and summer programming for up to 125 children from kindergarten through 12th grade.

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Commissioners have expressed repeated concern about rising truancy rates during the two-year COVID-19 pandemic. They previously approved $5.2 million in recovery funds on a three-year program that puts mentors in county schools.

“We have a serious need,” said Hibbing School Board member Kim McLaughlin, who applauded “seeing Duluth and the Iron Range coming together … It’s just amazing.”

The Boys and Girls Club of the Northland has had repeated success opening new branches in Coleraine and Grand Rapids, and with the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, which now operates independently.

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At a County Board meeting Tuesday in Proctor, commissioners voted enthusiastic support for a program to put three dozen mentors into county schools for the next three years.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity," said Chief Executive Officer Todd Johnson, of the Boys and Girls Club of the Northland, explaining the Duluth office wanted to see the Hibbing branch pledge to raise two years worth of operating funds. The county’s contribution will supply half of that, while organizers continue to work to drum up the rest.

“We wanted to make sure this was going to be around for a long time,” Johnson added.

Commissioners praised the work. Board Chair Paul McDonald, of Ely, cited “a definite need,” and lauded organizers for being “100% involved.” Duluth-based Commissioner Frank Jewell added that the ability of the Boys and Girls Club of the Northland to expand outward into other communities made it “a powerful organization.”

Commissioner Ashley Grimm, who first proposed the idea in 2021 to use $1 million on impacting children, said involving caring adults can save children’s lives.

“It helps them become the adults they want to be,” she added.

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The board will vote on final approval for the funding at its meeting May 24 at Northland Town Hall in Canyon.

Brady Slater covers St. Louis County and transportation for the Duluth News Tribune. He's a veteran journalist, and a University of Pittsburgh graduate who was born and raised in the Northland. He can be reached by emailing bslater@duluthnews.com or by calling or texting 218-721-2724.
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