Five years ago, Markeese Rieux, Site Director at Spiritwood Manor, moved from L.A. to Washington in hopes of meeting his dad for the first time. With lack of connections in Bellevue, he did what most do when searching for a job in a new place, CRAIGSLIST. Markeese hadn’t planned on making a long term commitment to the club, but it wasn’t until after applying for a position at Spiritwood Manor that his mind truly changed. He hasn’t turned back since.
Markeese is ecstatic about the newly renovated Spiritwood Manor and has felt a surge of inspiration since the site re-opened. Markeese makes an all-star Site Director. He feels that the kids trust him. A specific case was mentioned during our interview where Markeese felt like he was truly making a long term impact. A “Club Kid” of an immigrant family was abandoned by his father, leaving the boy and his single mother to make a life for themselves in the United States. Lacking a fatherly figure, Markeese noticed that the boy “craved attention and the attention he craved was a male role model,” which is just what Markeese gave to him. As a child of a single parent himself, he can relate to the kids on another level. He mentioned that he doesn’t see himself as a facilitator, but as a mentor.
With a community in such need (85% of their kids on free and reduced lunch), Spiritwood residents still try to give back whenever possible. Take for example a local grandmother of the area who would often send over enchiladas or sandwiches for the staff, showing appreciation for all of their hard work. With such recognition from the community, staff members like Markeese make sure that the quality of programs is set to the highest standard, especially when it concerns health and nutrition. Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue have recently connected with Food Lifeline, the largest hunger relief organization in Washington State. Every week Markeese drives to Food Lifeline to pick up donated snacks from their Kids Cafe. Monday’s snack consisted of 6 oz. of yogurt, 1 oz. of sunflower seeds, 4 oz. of orange slices, 2 oz. of celery .9 oz. of graham crackers and 8 oz. of milk, with a side of ranch dressing. “Everything is catered to us, and it’s easy because our menu is set!” Markeese exclaims.
Rebecca Van Maren, our go-to-gal at Food Lifeline, spearheaded our first partnership event last week. Markeese said “all she did was ask for a photo release, time, and number of kids and she made it happen.” The event was centered around Chef Tse, Cooking Ambassador at Regence Bluecross Bluesheild. Chef Tse traveled all the way from Portland to host a volunteer cooking class for our kids at Spiritwood. The event included an open discussion on sweet and healthy alternatives to candy; they made fruit Kabobs with yogurt dressing, and even took home recipe cards to share with family members. “The kids went back for thirds and we even had extra fruit to make smoothies the next day!” Markeese said excitedly.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue focuses heavily on the importance of health and nutrition, not only with informative cooking classes but with our comprehensive health and wellness program as well. Triple Play focuses on stimulating the mind, body, and soul in daily programming. This week, dodge-ball was the “body” focus, as the kids were instructed on the importance of exercise, stretching, and drinking water. Catherine Cruz, program staff at Spiritwood, played Scattegories, engaging the kids in social interaction and stimulating the “mind,” which was then followed by low structure, free time in the games room, where the kids were given space to be creative, thus focusing on the “soul.”
Through supporting Triple Play and passionately strengthening our cooking programs, Markeese has what it takes to be a mentor to the “Club Kids” of Bellevue. “It’s driving me to know that we are impacting people in a positive way. That’s why I wake up in the morning. I don’t hate my job at all, I’m excited for the next day, I’m mad that I don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything!” His main goals for the year are to bring in more resources and, most importantly, ensure that his kids are learning and having FUN!