When the last school bell of the day rings, a steady stream of local youths trek to the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence.
Once there, some youngsters lace up their football cleats before rushing to practice. Some get special tutoring from volunteers, while others grab some snacks and recall the day's events.
They dive into a variety of sports and recreational activities while learning the importance of citizenship, leadership and education.
John Alesch, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, 1520 Haskell, said about 90 youths, ranging in ages from 6 to 17, fill the club each day.
``It's even busier during the summer months,'' he said.
Alesch said the club caters to all youths in the area. A $5 annual membership fee is all that's required, and scholarships are available for those who cannot afford that.
``FOR $5, a kid can get everything from football practice to drama,'' Alesch said.
The club's mission is to provide opportunities to boys and girls which will help them become contributing members of society, said Alesch, who has been with the Boys and Girls Club since 1983.
``We try to teach these kids to be the best they can be,'' he said. ``We want them to have esteem and self-assurance qualities that will help them as they grow older.''
He said the agency receives 65 percent of its funds from the United Way of Douglas County. The remaining funds come from individual or business contributions.
``Anyone can contribute and all contributions are tax-deductible,'' he said.
THE CLUB offers many programs that focus on educational development and good citizenship.
Respect for self and others is taught through flag ceremonies, ``Just Say No'' programs, civic beautification programs and a teen parenthood class. Skill-building activities include photography, piano, weightlifting and arts and crafts.
A game room is complete with pool tables, pingpong and foosball. There also is a library with typewriters where students can polish their homework assignments, Alesch said.
``The staff tries to keep these kids busy,'' Alesch said. ``We also offer special trips to the Topeka Zoo, bowling, miniature golf, movies or the video arcade.''
About 35 volunteers help with the organization, and a special transportation system has been established to transport youths from the schools to the club.
During the school year, the Boys and Girls Club is open from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.