Latimer leaves Boys & Girls Club

Outgoing executive director reflects on her decade-long tenure at the helm

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
After a decade as executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Santiam, Kris Latimer has stepped down as of Tuesday, Jan. 4.
She will remain as a consultant with the nonprofit until a new director is found. Operations Director Madison Yock will serve in her former capacity in the interim.
Latimer’s leaving to become director of the new Knife River Training Center in Albany, where she’ll be responsible for partnering and management. This new role, she said, will allow her to pursue her passion: economic and workforce development.
She joined the Boys & Girls Club in 2012, following nine years in various capacities, including CEO, with the Oregon Consortium & Oregon Workforce Alliance, where she administered rural workforce and economic development programs. The job allowed her to work not only throughout 24 counties in the state, but also on a national level in Washington, D.C.
“It was an incredible opportunity,” Latimer said of the experience.
But the Boys & Girls Club position became available at a time when Latimer felt her government gig no longer aligned with what she wanted. This would allow her to be more locally centered.
“I could just be really focused on my Boys & Girls Club, my organization, my people,” she said.
According to Latimer, she helped grow it from athletics and one small early-learning program (Kid’s Club) to a community-based organization. Today, it serves as many as 200 children with the Kid’s Club, Punkin Seed and three free preschools. It also expanded its after-school offerings to include more athletics and enrichment programs, including STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math), and 21st Century Community Learning Centers with the Lebanon and Sweet Home school districts. Furthermore, nonprofits use club space when it’s vacant.
These are what make Greater Santiam stand apart from other affiliated clubs nationwide. It builds its programs locally, rather than using ones offered through the Boys & Girls Club of America that don’t match the community, Latimer said.
“We’re pretty unique, partly because of our focus on early learning, but we’re also pretty aggressive about increasing the quality of our programs,” she said. “There aren’t any other clubs that look like ours.”
More recent successes include the installation of solar panels and the launch of an endowment fund, which also triggered a donation from ENTEK to pay off the club building’s mortgage.
When COVID-19 shut down many businesses, schools and daycare facilities, the Lebanon club was the first organization in the state to reopen.
“We opened before they even authorized anyone to open because the healthcare system here needed it and our emergency care responders needed it,” Latimer said.
She’d just issued layoff notices to her staff when she began getting calls from Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home administrator and CEO Kelly J. Odegaard, Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital CEO Marty Cahill, and Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker, all asking for help. Healthcare and emergency workers needed childcare so they could continue working.
“This place was built by the community to serve the community, and the community needs us,” Latimer said.
After figuring out how to operate under state mandates, the staff found a way to provide free services for four months to healthcare and emergency service employees, and opened the club so students could attend classes virtually when their physical schools closed.
It’s been a long couple of years and a grind for her crew, she said, but government money and new donors helped keep the club functioning. But now the government money is gone.
“Moving forward, it’s going to be super-important that the community get back on board and start supporting the club,” Latimer said. “My parting plea to the community is: This team that’s here was willing to step into the fray and has worked so hard to serve the kids in our community and do it the right way and make an impact, and we really need the community to step up and support the club now.”
She sees opportunity for more growth, a need for a second building and gym, and more options for behavioral and mental health for kids.
“I absolutely loved my 10 years here,” Latimer said. “I feel like we are absolutely in a more stable place than the organization’s been in 32 years, so I feel like it’s my time to move on and hand it off to the next group of people who have new energy and new ideas, and I’ll go do something different.
“It’s been fun, but now it’s time to refill the tanks and have a little bigger focus again.”