Boys & Girls Clubs funding creates day care options

Michele Williams, director of Smart Start Centers for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Nevada, plays with Asher Lenzora, 4, during the first Smart Start preschool’s grand opening in January 2024.

Michele Williams, director of Smart Start Centers for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Nevada, plays with Asher Lenzora, 4, during the first Smart Start preschool’s grand opening in January 2024.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF

A new statewide initiative is helping to double the number of Boys & Girls Clubs centers to meet the needs for families seeking day care or early learning options.

Gov. Joe Lombardo and the Nevada Legislature have approved $16.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars to expand BGC early learning centers and child care access. By accepting the funding, Boys & Girls Clubs are agreeing to obligate funding through the purchase, lease and construction agreements by the end of 2024 and use the appropriation by Dec. 31, 2026. Projects chosen were to be shovel-ready, and eight of the 14 selected are expected to be done by Dec. 31 this year. The rest are expected to be complete by early 2026.

For Northern Nevada’s rural communities, the funding is a vital boost to opening more child care seats. Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada (BGCWN) CEO Brett Zunino said the support provides solutions to families of kids in different age groups.

“This does quite a few things: Boys & Girls Clubs are very well established, and we have a brand recognition equal to that of Nike and Google because of our excellent programming,” he said.

The initiative is a collaboration of the Nevada Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, Lombardo and the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee. Seven independent BGC organizations will accomplish projects with their board of directors and community partners. They’ll service 1,000 additional children with day care programming and mental health needs, with a focus on children from 6 weeks to 5 years of age, considered the critical early learning groups.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Mason Valley (BGCMV) CEO Travis Crowder and director of development Nick Beaton, representing local clubhouses that serve families in Lyon County, said there is a tremendous need for the younger populations in its region’s eight communities, including Yerington, Silver Springs, Fernley and now with its ARPA funding, Dayton.

“I always tell people the BGC had a rap for being the place where bad kids needed a place to go,” Beaton said. “Last year, it became the place where kids needed to go regardless of what their home life was like.”

Locations for the new centers targeted state populations most in need of child care options according to industrial development and growth. Projects will support capital projects in Carson City, Dayton, Elko, Ely, Eureka, Incline Village, Las Vegas, Laughlin, Minden, Reno, Spring Creek and Winnemucca.

Carson City’s BGCWN celebrated the grand opening of its first Smart Start preschool in January at 1870 Russell Way and now is almost at full capacity, Zunino said.

After Russell Way, the BGCWN will begin work on its Mountain Street Smart Start, which will create more than 100 new child care seats and serve infants through children 5 years of age. 

“This was an attractive property,” Zunino said.

The new space will offer a commercial kitchen to prepare food on site rather than purchasing vended food, and it allows the BGCWN to continue fundraising efforts to supplement the remodel. The total project costs more than $4 million. Zunino said a campaign is underway to seek donors willing to contribute to the Mountain Street location. Escrow on the building closes in June, and the ARPA funding will help buy the building and allow the BGCWN to focus on other needs.

Concurrently, there’s a focus on the organization’s Thompson Street Smart Start center behind Bordewich Bray Elementary School meant to help teachers and support professionals seeking care for their own kids. The Carson City School District was the first to sign up for the use of Thompson, Zunino said. The Board of Trustees authorized Superintendent Andrew Feuling in February to finalize a joint use agreement with the BGCWN, a move that Feuling called a “win-win-win” for staff members with children of their own who wished to remain employed with the district.

“CCSD is very excited to partner with Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Nevada to increase the community capacity for child care in a state where capacity continues to fall,” Feuling told the Appeal in response to the initiative. “Working with BGCWN to offer this service on site to all CCSD employees becomes an important tool for retention and recruitment of staff to assure we can continue a high level of educational service to our students and community.”

Thompson will open 60 new seats for children and cost about $200,000. It will launch Aug. 14 for CCSD staff, before the Aug. 19 school start date.

Another BGCWN project named the “Wray Family Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada” will be available in Minden, Zunino said. The site, named in honor of local donor Lois Wray who provided the building at 990 Ironwood Drive, will be the area’s first Smart Start center. Wray decided to provide the building, appraised at $3.7 million and donated it at a value of $3.1 million, and with some remodeling, it could be converted into a day care space. The ARPA funds, at a cost of $800,000, will cover remaining costs for the project, Zunino said.

BGCWN has existed in Carson Valley in two sites at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School, with a capacity of 125, and Minden Elementary School, serving 65, and the new building allows both to merge into one, Zunino said. The ability to streamline its day care is a new model and provides efficiency while reducing transportation costs, he said.

“Lois Wray is a pillar in the Carson Valley community,” he said. “She’s a huge supporter of the clubs.”

BGCWN’s final project is the purchase of an existing daycare, the partners of which remain private for now, Zunino said. They approached BGCWN and asked if it would be interested in purchasing their space, and Zunino said brought the proposal to his board to determine its level of interest.

The partners later offered another site, which opens 50 more seats in day care, after BGCWN had submitted its total request for ARPA, but Zunino said another partner offered to assist with costs on the second site, so there will be separate funding apart from the BGC’s ARPA as part of this project, Zunino said.

In Lyon County, the BGCMV also received a portion of the ARPA funding. Crowder and Beaton reported its clubs in local communities generally are at peak enrollment, including its Hawthorne location and only has had to work to reverse a slight decline in Silver Springs.

“We are bulging at the seams,” Crowder said.

The BGCMV received $3.5 million for its early learning center to be added on to its property at 244 River Boat Road in Dayton. The center is expected to be finished by the second quarter of 2026 and serve 54 children. The Dayton clubhouse continues to see positive changes with a commercial kitchen that opened this spring and held a soft launch with breakfast and lunch service to go full-time this summer.

For the early learning center, they will bring on general contractor Bill Miles and are in active talks about the engineering and permitting process, they said, and are optimistic about the timeline.

“It can’t go unsaid how appreciative all the Boys & Girls Clubs are getting the support,” he said. “It’s unheard of. We want to give a shout-out to our local representative Assemblywoman Robin Titus, but also getting it passed unanimously by the entire committee, along with the governor to pitch it.”

There are only three licensed child care centers, including one in-home center, and three elementary schools in Dayton, Crowder said.

“All three (licensed facilities) are thrilled a fourth one’s coming,” he said. “We’re not going to solve the problem, but hopefully we can make a dent.”

Overall, Boys and Girls Clubs serve approximately 26,000 youth in 30 communities in Nevada. The Nevada Alliance of Boys & Girls Club coordinates 78 community-based Clubhouses, school-based programs and early learning centers.

For information, visit


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment