Inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.
Concerned citizens and professionals founded the Club in 2003 to create a safe and engaging environment for Bemidji area youth. One of their goals was to provide opportunities for youth to build relationships with caring adults. They wanted to increase the odds that youth would achieve academic success, make healthy lifestyle choices and develop as engaged citizens. These are the principles of who we are.
The Club opened in a temporary space and then launched a $2 million capital campaign in 2004. The George W. Neilson Foundation contributed more than million to the campaign and the community contributed the remainder, mostly gifts from individuals and business supporters.
The Bemidji School District sold one of its gymnasium buildings to the Club for a dollar and the Club renovated the space, complete with a 13,000-square-foot addition for offices and classrooms. The current 22,000-square-foot facility includes a gymnasium, commercial kitchen and community room, teen center, middle school room, game areas, library and tutoring room and technology center.
In 2007, the Club surpassed 500 annual members. Then in 2009, the Club opened its Teen Center, a canteen, lounge and computer room dedicated for high school members. In 2014, an anonymous donor funded the purchase of a 12-person van, which together with services from Paul Bunyan Transit, reduces transportation barriers and provides opportunities for more youth to join the Club.
Club membership profile
- 613 members
- Members by age group:
- 47% – 6-9 years old
- 36% – 10-12 years old
- 14% – 13-15 years old
- 3% – 16-18 years old
- Members by ethnicity (self identified):
- 46.8% – White
- 30.8% – American Indian
- 10.6% – Other
- 5.7% – Multicultural
- 4.4% – Black
- 1.1% – Hispanic
- 0.5% – Asian
- Annual household income profiles for members
- 40% from single parent households
- 51% from families living below the poverty level
- 20% from families making less than $16,000 annually
- 32% from families making $16,000-$35,000 annually
- 48% from families making $35,000+ annually
Community youth profile
- 24% of Beltrami County children live below the federal poverty level, twice the state average and nearly the highest in the state.
- The dropout rate for schools in Beltrami County is more than twice the state average.
- The teen pregnancy rate in Beltrami County is 2.5 times higher than the state average.
Leonore B. Potter, founding executive director
Leonore B. Potter is the founding executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area. She served in that capacity from 2003 to 2012, guiding the Club through its formative years, including the acquisition of the current Club property at 1600 Minnesota Avenue NW and a subsequent $2 million capital campaign.
Among her accomplishments, she successfully recruited an effective and engaged board of directors, wrote grants and built community partnerships to support an annual $400,000 operating budget and shaped youth programming. Under her leadership, the Club surpassed 500 members in 2007 and added a teen center in 2009. She also served on key committees at the national level, including the Training and Professional Development Association of the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Always passionate about youth, Leonore fostered a positive Club culture and built community enthusiasm for youth programming. Upon her retirement, she established the Leonore B. Potter Endowment for Health and Life Skills, which she later rolled into a general Club endowment to help future Club members grow into healthy, responsible and caring young adults.
To learn more about contributing to the Club endowment, contact Andrea Ohnstad, executive director, 218-444-4171.
What we do
Learn more about what we do. Then meet our staff and board.